By Vanessa Cortez
The Dons welcomed April with a three-game losing skid culminating in a mistake-filled 10-3 road beating from the Saddleback Gauchos.
After the game, frustrated first baseman Daniel Martinez made a bold prediction.
“I think this is our last loss,” Martinez said.
He called it.
Santa Ana College won eight consecutive games heading into the playoffs, defeating conference rivals Irvine Valley, Golden West and Cypress Colleges six times, while outscoring opponents 69-33.
By squashing Long Beach City College in two games from May 2 to May 3, the Dons moved into the second round a season after missing the postseason for the first time in nearly three decades under former Head Coach Don Sneddon.
Under co-coaches Bryan Harris and John Bryant, the Dons finished with a 27-11 record, and tied for first place with a 14-7 conference record.
The Dons offense erupted against the visiting Vikings Friday, scoring 17 runs to win Game 1 in the opening round of the CCCAA Southern Regional Playoffs.
“A lot of teams that come in have always struggled against our staff,” Harris said.
In Game 2, the Dons relied on seven innings of one-run ball from freshman starter Evvane Wilkes, leading to a 7-1 Saturday win that extended Santa Ana’s winning streak to 10.
Vikings starter Manny Barragan was chased out of the third inning with five runs on five hits and four walks.
“We’re just going to keep working hard to get better and try achieve the last goal that we’ve set in front of us, which is the State Championship,” Bryant said.
The Dons’ rebirth started off on shoddy footing after long-time coach Sneddon left a season after the team finished second to last in conference, with an 8-13 record, the worst in Sneddon’s tenure.
While the pitching has not been as good as in years past — the staff was slightly better in 2013 — the Dons started raking.
Last year the pitchers had a 3.76 ERA, 274 strikeouts and 131 runs. This season the Dons compiled a 3.72 ERA, 209 strikeouts and 142 runs allowed. But batters helped the pitchers’ cause, recording a 7.05 opponent ERA, about a two-run improvement.