SAN MARCOS (5-04-2018) (5-05-2018) / MISSION VIEJO (5-11-2018) (5-12-2018) -- Palomar's Pacific Coast Athletic Conference baseball champions, trailing Saddleback 1 game to 0 on Saturday in the teams' best-of-3 CCCAA Southern California Super Regional series, battled back from behind once again on Saturday.
The home team on the Gauchos' Doug Fritz Field, the Comets entered the bottom of the fourth down 5-0 in the game and came roaring back to pull even with the Orange Empire Conference champions at 5 runs apiece before Saddleback got out of the inning.
But unlike last week's Round 1 series with College of the Canyons at The Ballpark at Palomar College when the Comets trailed 1 games to 0 and beat the Cougars in back-to-back games the second day 11-8 and 8-7, the latter on Conor McKenna's pinch-hit walk-off single, there was to be no miracle this time to advance to the following week's Regional round.
The Orange Empire Conference champions outscored coach Buck Taylor's club 3-1 the rest of the way in Saturday's game to win 8-6, moving on to next week's Sectional round, and abruptly ending Palomar's season. Saddleback had scored five unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to win the opener of the Super Regional series on Friday, and it will be the Gauchos and not the Comets to play a Sectional series next weekend with an opportunity to move on to the State Championship Final Four in Fresno.
In the last half of the fourth Saturday, Mitch Moralez led off with a double into the rightfield corner. Matt Ornelia singled to right field and Mike Galvan followed with an RBI single through the left side. Tristan King was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Eric Charles singled, driving in two runs, and moved up a base on a throwing error. With two outs, Nathan Soriano singled to center to drive in two more runs and tie the game.
Ornelia went 3-for-5 with the double and a run scored to lead a 10-hit attack for the Comets (28-17). Galvan went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Jake Thompson went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Braden Olthoff, the second Palomar pitcher of the day, allowed one earned run in5 2/3 innings, striking out 7 and walking none. Ryan Semon came on to retire the only two batters he faced, striking out one of them. And Ken LaPierre also pitched 2/3 innings of scoreless, shutout ball.
Saddleback, the No. 3 Southern California seed, will take a 32-12 record into its Sectional series.
Saddleback 9, Palomar 5
The Comets jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first on Friday, with Charles' two-run double down the rightfield line highlighting the inning. But the Gauchos battled back, cutting Palomar's lead into the game to 5-4 entering the bottom of the sixth, when an error kept the inning alive.
Charles came up big for the PCAC champions, who banged out 11 hits, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs. Jake Thompson went 2-for-5 with 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored. Ornelia went 2-for-5 and scored a run. And Marco Young also was 2-for-5.May 5th Games:
Palomar 11, College of the Canyons 8
Palomar 8, College of the Canyons 7
Palomar delivered a pair of late-inning clutch performances before a loud and appreciative home crowd at The Ballpark at Palomar College on Saturday to advance through the opening round.
The Comets were on the verge of an early exit from post-season play after a 5-2 loss in the previous day's Round 1 series opener. But, with their backs to the wall, they sent the Cougars packing for a long bus trip home to Santa Clarita with the 11-8 and 8-7 victories.
McKenna, who signed early with the University of Oklahoma, has missed much of the late season with an on-again, off-again recurring leg injury. The sophomore out of Carlsbad High School was called on to pinch hit with two on and one out in the bottom of the ninth with the series even at a game apiece and the score tied 7-7. He drove the first pitch into the leftfield corner, scoring Austin Salcedo from second base.
McKenna said he was sitting on an expected first-pitch breaking ball from Canyons reliever Devin Judge, which is exactly the pitch Judge delivered. Then McKenna delivered.
Galvan had singled for his fourth hit of the game and advanced to second on King's sacrifice bunt. After Canyons opted to walk Thompson intentionally, Taylor sent McKenna, making his first appearnce of the weekend, in to pinch hit, and McKenna responded with a walk-off hit into the leftfield corner.
LaPierre, Palomar's third pitcher of the game, recorded the win.
In Saturday's first game, playing as the visitors on their home field, Palomar jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning, fell behind 8-5, then scored four runs in the eighth inning and tacked on two insurance runs in the top of the ninth to record the 11-8 victory. Soriano went 4-for-4 and scored 4 runs for the Comets.
Palomar got a lights-out relief performance from Semon, the winning pitcher. The sophomore left-hander out of Valley Center High School, who signed early with the University of Kansas, came on to pitch the final four innings, allowing a lone unearned run and striking out 5 batters. With the win, Semon advanced to 3-1 on the season and to 12-1 for his two seasons at Palomar.
The Comets scored the four eighth-inning runs on an RBI single by Galvan, Thompson's two-run double and an RBI single by King. Marco Young, Mitch Moralez, Thompson and King each knocked out two hits.
Canyons had won Friday's series opener behind starter and winner Jacob Lopez, who ran his win-loss record to 9-2. Canyons took a 5-0 lead into the eighth inning, when the Comets battled back to score two runs on an error, a single by Galvan, King's RBI single and a passed ball. But Connor Dreyer came on for the Cougars to get the third out, then tacked on a scoreless ninth inning for his third save. Lopez threw 7 2/3 innings, striking out nine batters and walking one. For Palomar, Galvan and Thompson both went 2-for-4. King was 1-for-3 with his RBI and a walk. Ornelia singled and stole a base.