Baseball Can't Finish Off Glendale, Lose Playoff Series, 2-1

Jose Jimenez was a two-year starting infielder for the Lancers and he makes the play here during Friday's playoff win at Glendale, photo by Richard Quinton.
Jose Jimenez was a two-year starting infielder for the Lancers and he makes the play here during Friday's playoff win at Glendale, photo by Richard Quinton.

Things were looking good for the #12 seed Pasadena City College baseball team. Right up to the eighth inning Saturday. After splitting the opening two games of a SoCal Regional First Round series at higher #5 seed Glendale, the Lancers took a 5-1 lead after six innings of their elimination third game. Even after the Vaqueros cut it to 6-5, PCC put up its second 5-run inning of the game in the top of the eighth to take a commanding 11-5 lead.

The Lancers were six outs away from moving on to the Super Regionals. And that's when the music died. Glendale proceeded to send 12 consecutive batters to the plate before the fifth PCC reliever of the inning could record an out. A nightmare inning saw the Vaqueros post 13 runs and bat around their lineup twice. PCC had no answer for the onslaught as the 2018 season came to a crushing end, 18-11. The Lancers bullpen gave up eight walks in the inning and PCC's six pitchers allowed 11 free passes overall.

Sophomore third baseman Nico Martinez batted 4-for-5 with two RBI, letterman shortstop Jose Jimenez went 3-for-4, reaching base five times including a walk and hit-by-pitch, and light-hitting freshman catcher Matt Orozco was 2-for-3 with two doubles. Both frosh first baseman Jason Ajamian and first-year designated hitter Tony Shue added two hits each in a season-high 15-hit PCC attack (done four other times). The 11 runs were a season high for PCC.

Second-year starting pitcher Race Gardner, who got a no decision, was mostly effective, going 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits, four runs (only two earned), walking three and striking out two. Gardner, who is headed to the University of Hawaii at Hilo as an early scholarship signee, had a stretch of 16 straight innings where he allowed just one run, including only a run through five innings v. Glendale. The hero of last year's playoffs when he threw a complete-game win over Riverside City College, Gardner closed his Lancers career with an 11-6 overall record (5-1, 3.80 ERA this year).

On Friday, PCC grabbed a 1-0 series lead behind the sterling pitching of redshirt transfer freshman Gordon Ingebritson, who hurled a complete-game, 7-hitter in a 3-2 Lancers victory. Ingebritson pitched his way out of several jams, including the in the ninth. After Ingebritson threw seven shutout innings between the second and eighth, Glendale cut the lead to one on a RBI single by Thad Wilson. A fielding error put runners on first and second, but Ingebritson struck out Jacob Gribbin to close the CG. Jimenez and Ajamian (double) each hit 2-for-4. In the third inning, sophomore centerfielder John Bicos doubled and freshman All-South Coast Conference second baseman Ryan Lewis hit a RBI single for a 3-1 lead for what proved to be the winning run.

In Saturday's game No. 2, Glendale opened up a giant 8-1 lead, but PCC rallied for three runs in the sixth to cut it to 8-4. However, the Vaqueros Chris Davidson hurled a complete-game, striking out eight Lancers for a 9-4 Glendale win that tied the series, 1-1. Jimenez was 2-for-5 with a double and RBI and Lewis hit 2-for-4 with a RBI. 

Jimenez was a playoff clutch hitter in his two seasons for the Lancers. He was 7-for-13 in the 3-game series and was 14-for-30 in seven total postseason games for a nifty .467 average. He finished with 63 hits this year, only the fourth time a Lancer has reached the 60-hit mark since 1990 (twice by Jeremy Conant in 2016 and 2017).

Coach Pat McGee, who has directed the Lancers to three playoff victories and two consecutive postseason appearances plus 49 wins in 2017-18, talked about the end of the season. 

"We battled and it felt like we were playing playoff games going back to the last few weeks of the conference season," McGee said. "We were in a can't lose situation in conference and then we had the luxury of a 1-game lead v. Glendale. We just couldn't throw strikes in that one inning and when we did, Glendale hit those too. We were not the best offensive team this year, but we put up 11 runs and that should have been enough. Overall, this was a tremendous season. We made the playoffs two years in a row and posted 23-plus wins in both. We're producing a winning attitude when there was none here for a long, long time. Recruits know we are going to compete and play hard v. the state's best teams."

PCC hadn't collected two 20-win seasons in a row since 1967-68.

An All-SCC First Team selection, Ingebritson finished as the team's pitching staff win leader. He was 7-4 with a team-leading 2.29 ERA in a team-high 90.1 innings. He struck out 68 and walked just 23. Leftfielder Edward Manzo led the hitters with a .350 average and 27 RBI. Jimenez batted .341 with nine doubles. Shue batted .306 with three home runs and 24 RBI while Ajamian batted .327 and led the team in on-base percentage at .426.

In 1-run games this season, the Lancers were a pefect 7-0.