Bolstered by a late inning rally, Santa Ana came from behind to win 5-4 on Thursday against Irvine Valley College.
Scoreboard action started in the second, when Irvine Valley committed a series of defensive blunders. Two straight bobbles by IVC infielders allowed sophomore Mario Tostado and freshman Mikey Rocha to reach base safely. Both runners then advanced on a fielder’s choice to first base.
The Dons took advantage of the Lasers’ defensive woes. Outfielder Jared Anderson hit a ground ball to third; the ball was then fielded cleanly by the third baseman, but thrown wide to first, which allowed Anderson to reach safely. Rocha scored from third off this error. Michael Dobson then singled into right center field to bring in Tostado.
IVC struck back in the following inning, after the Dons had defensive ailments of their own. The Lasers loaded the bases after one batter reached on an error and two more walked.
A well-struck single to left-center scored two runs, before an errant relay throw allowed the runner from third to score. Irvine Valley took the lead, 3-2.
Starting pitcher Hauze Fragoso came back strong following the third. He allowed just one hit and one walk with one strikeout in his next two innings of work.
“I felt that the third inning was a couple of unlucky plays, so I knew that I still had my stuff and I just needed to keep pounding the zone,” said Fragoso.
The Santa Ana scorecard was quiet following their second inning outburst. They only had two hits in the following three innings.The Dons were hitting the ball hard, however, they were often hit straight to the IVC defense.
Freshman right-hander James Showalter came into the game to relieve Fragoso with one out in the sixth and a runner on second. Showalter forced a ground out from the first batter he faced.
A single brought the runner on second home, which built IVC’s lead to 4-2. Showalter ended the inning following the single with a strikeout looking.
Catcher Mario Tostado brought the Dons offense back to life with a sky-high home run over the left field fence in the bottom of the sixth.
“I was getting pounded off speed all game, first pitch changeup in that at-bat,” said Tostado. “Usually, he was going slider, so I was sitting slider. I got my pitch and put a good swing on it.”
Tostado’s swing put the Dons within one run at the end of the sixth.
Showalter dealt through the next two innings, keeping the Lasers scoreless while striking out two. Showalter finished the day with three strikeouts in 3.1 innings.
The Dons came into the bottom of the eighth inning looking for some late-game magic.
Troy Kent, representing the tying run, led off the inning with a walk before being pinch run for by speedy freshman Omar Fernandez.
Tostado hit a rocket straight to third base. The ball skipped off the glove of the third baseman and rolled far into foul territory near the Laser’s dugout. Fernandez and Tostado advanced to second and third respectively.
Fernandez broke for home after a fielder’s choice to first base. The throw home flew past the catcher and rolled to the backstop. Tostado took advantage of the wild throw and raced home to give the Dons their first lead since the second inning at 5-4.
“I saw the ball skip away and I was already rounding third ready to go,” said Tostado. “It put us in a good spot in the ninth to give us the lead.”
Sophomore Matt Schavone relieved Showalter of duty in the ninth. The hard throwing right-hander looked to close the game with two outs and runners at first and second.
Schavone hit the first batter he faced, which loaded the bases. Despite the setback, Schavone maintained his fortitude on the mound.
“I like to pitch with a lot of confidence,” said Schavone. ”That’s what I expect from myself and that’s what I expect out of the team to win games.”
Irvine Valley’s designated hitter Kevin James, the team’s leader in home runs and slugging percentage, came to the plate with the tying run on third.
James worked the count full. On the payoff pitch Schavone blew a fast ball past the swinging slugger to strike him out and win the game for the Dons in dramatic fashion. Schavone exploded with energy and, as he described, relief.
Schavone’s confidence is clearly noticed by his teammates.
“That’s what we expect him to do. I think everybody knows that once Matt goes in, the other team isn’t scoring. We really trust him in that spot, he’s our dude,” said Tostado.
The Dons also won the series finale at IVC, improving their record to 18-10 overall and 8-4 in the conference. Looking ahead, the Dons begin a non-conference series at home against Long Beach on Tuesday, April 4.