Freshman shortstop Cedrick Perez hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday, leading the Dons to an 8-7 victory over Saddleback College (9-12, 5-8) in the first of a four-game series.
The Dons (10-10-1, 8-5) fell behind early, but they showed tenacity, coming back from a 6-0 Gaucho lead.
“This win is huge for us, especially after last week,” said Perez. “We had to come in fighting. Hopefully, we can bring this momentum into the rest of the week.”
It was a rough start for Dons’ freshman pitcher Shane Carey as Saddleback jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a base hit, a hit batsman, a walk, and a wild pitch.
Carey settled down, holding Saddleback scoreless for the next three innings, but in the fourth inning, a pair of fielding errors by the Dons and a critical double by Saddleback freshman infielder Danilo Tiotuico brought the score to 6-0.
Momentum began to favor the Dons in the fifth inning when sophomore infielder James Williams singled down the right-field line. He advanced to second base on a ground out from sophomore outfielder Marcus Johnson.
After a walk by sophomore infielder Garret Crenshaw put two men on, freshman catcher Luke Davis reached base on a defensive error by Saddleback, allowing Williams and Crenshaw to score the first two runs for the Dons.
“I have a lot of confidence in my teammates,” said Perez. “We have a bunch of dogs out there,” Perez said.
Next, freshman infielder, Nick Lopez doubled through the left side, scoring Davis from second.
Sophomore outfielder Griffin Selby singled through the left side, scoring Lopez from second, making it 6-4.
In the seventh inning, Santa Ana scored two more on two hits by Lopez and Selby, tying the game 7-7 going into the eighth inning.
Things got interesting in the bottom of the eighth inning as Perez singled up the middle putting the winning run in scoring position.
“I found the pitch I wanted early, and I hit it into the gap,” Perez said.
Before his at-bat, Perez told Williams, “Just bat me in,” and that’s what he did; doubling to center field, allowing Perez to score the go-ahead run going into the ninth inning.
“I trust all my teammates but especially the guy behind me,” said Perez. “We’ve been together for three years, and we know what we can do together.”
In the top of the ninth, Saddleback tied the game on three hits allowed by Santa Ana’s freshman pitcher Shane Hennessey.
But it was the hot bat of Perez who singled up the middle and brought home the winning run, capping the comeback for the Dons 8-7.
“I tried to stay middle short, not try to do too much, just tried to put the ball in play and bring in the winning run,” Perez said.
Santa Ana hosts Saddleback College on Thursday at 2 p.m. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, no spectators are allowed to attend.