Vaquero baseball melts down in fifth

James Sinclair

In a fifth inning that pitchers experience only in nightmares, the visiting Ventura Pirates sent 12 men to the plate Saturday – and scored nine runs.

The Pirates beat the Vaqueros, 11-9, at Pershing Park. City College jumped to an early lead, only to have it come crashing down a few innings later.

“It’s always tough to recover after a team does something like that to you,” said third baseman Andrew Leighty.

Leighty got the Vaqueros on the board early, blasting a first-inning grand slam off of Pirates ace Garrett Rau, sending the fans and his teammates into a frenzy.

“I looked curveball and he threw a fastball inside and I got lucky, I just got my bat around and got my barrel on it,” Leighty said. “I didn’t know it was out right away, I was rounding first and looked up and saw the guy hit the fence and saw that I hit it over.”

Vaqs starting pitcher Chad Caraccioli entered the game with a miniscule 1.57 earned run average, but the freshman right-hander couldn’t escape the fifth inning.

Caraccioli allowed three hits and a walk in the inning before being replaced by relief pitcher Greg Pellici.

Pellici surrendered a trio of hits and a walk of his own before being replaced without earning an out.

Vaquero head coach Teddy Warrecker brought in Joe McGrew to face the right-handed hitting Derek Ring. The freshman second baseman, who made the first out of the inning, didn’t wait long to get his redemption, belting the second pitch he saw from McGrew over the fence for a three-run home run.

The Vaqueros started the season 10-1, but as of Monday have lost eight out of their last 10 games. Despite the recent slump, Leighty is confident that the team can return to its winning ways.

“Once our bats starting going again consistently we’ll pick it up,” Leighty said. “We just need more leadership out there, and we’ll be good.”

Warrecker echoed a similar sentiment.

“Within the last two weeks, in a lot of ways this was our best effort,” Warrecker said. “We swung the bats really well today, and we didn’t hurt ourselves defensively, we just couldn’t get the last our there in the fifth inning.”

All that was missing was pitching, Warrecker said.

“I think that the guys that we have on our staff are capable of doing some pretty special things, but we weren’t able to do it today,” Warrecker said.

The Vaqueros rallied in the ninth inning to make things interesting. With two outs, Zach Chavez had an RBI single and Aaron Bauman followed with his team-leading fourth home run of the year, a line shot that nearly shattered the windshield of a parked car on Castillo Street.

Warrecker praised the relief efforts of Ryan Gardner, who threw two and two thirds shutout innings to give the Vaqueros a chance to come back.

“Coming out of the bullpen you’ve got to attack the strike zone from the very beginning,” Gardner said. “And I did that today.”

The Vaqueros will look to right the ship on Thursday when they take on Hancock at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Pershing Park.