With bases loaded and two outs, time stood still for the Roadrunners from College of the Desert. Down 5-4 in the 11th, an out would mean the abrupt ending to their season.
Then, a ground ball to second base sealed their fate.
A pair of their relief pitchers, who sat far enough down the bench to not entertain the thought of playing, chirped at the team’s inefficiency with runners in scoring position.
With a total of nine runners left on base, their assessments were true. For both teams, the opportunities missed far outweighed the key plays.
The Dons left eight runners on base.
Outfielder Christian Thompson led off the first with a solo home run to right field. Thompson roared at his dugout after pausing to watch the ball sail over the fence.
“I wanted to come out firing, especially leading off in our home stadium,” said Thompson. “As a leadoff, you want to have a good at bat to set the tone for the team…He hung it middle-in, I stayed tight, threw, and caught the barrel. Something like that’s never happened before. So of course I had to celebrate.”
Santa Ana followed up with two more singles and a walk later in the first, but stranded the bases loaded.
“We were just getting ourselves out. We were catching it late. Not being ready to handle curveballs when they left it in the zone,” said Thompson.
Starting pitcher Jaxton Andeel faced traffic early on in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Andeel hit one batter while another advanced on an error. Second baseman Marc Schavone bobbled a ground ball, allowing the hitter to reach safely at first and the lead runner to advance to third.
Catcher Mario Tostado ended the inning by throwing out the Roadrunner who tried to steal second. If the runner had stalled for a second longer, the score would be tied, as the runner on third broke for home but narrowly lost the race to home plate.
The Roadrunners threatened again in the bottom of the second. With two outs and runners at the corners again, they attempted another steal. Once again, they were thrown out.
The Dons tacked on one more run in the fourth after three straight singles. Third baseman Matthew Dobson drove in the RBI.
Dobson prevented a run in the bottom of the inning, as he snagged a chopper to third and threw out the runner at first. The Roadrunners once again stranded runners at the corners with two outs.
SAC manufactured a run in the top of the sixth. The first batter reached base on a walk, advancing to second courtesy of a sacrifice bunt. A wild pitch then moved the runner to third. Outfielder Jimmy De Anda brought the run home with an RBI groundout, making the score 3-0.
Andeel struggled in the sixth, as he gave up a single and began to lose his command. He left with one out, as the batter he was facing held a 3-1 count.
He finished with 5-⅓ innings, three strikeouts, three hits, two walks, and one earned run.
“I thought I did pretty good. I got a little tired at the end, [I’ve] gotta figure out how to keep going,” said Andeel. “[I] was pretty happy with my outing today. Happy to win.”
Pitcher CJ Brown was credited with the walk after throwing the next ball to the batter with the 3-1 count. He then gave up a single to left to load the bases.
The Roadrunners finally broke through on the scoreboard with a double that was lined down the left field line, clearing the bases and tying the game at three.
It took nearly two hours to hear the road crowd erupt, but they didn’t disappoint. The game may have been outdoors, but the noise echoed as if it were Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The scoreboard repeated zeros for the following four innings, as the game moved into extras.
In the top of the 11th, the tie was finally broken.
Schavone, who committed four errors this series, stepped up to the plate with redemption in mind. The lefty barreled a ball to right and watched anxiously as the ball traveled over the right field fence. Santa Ana took a 4-3 lead.
“I really haven’t been hitting the ball like I can all season,” said Schavone. “It was really nice to finally put a ball in play hard. I was just trying to get the next guy up [and] get the rally going. Not trying to be a hero there, I just put a good swing on it and it carried out.”
The Dons tacked on one more when Dobson smoked an opposite field homer to right center.
Dobson also came up big in game one, with a sacrifice fly and a few game-saving defensive plays at third.
Going into the bottom of the 11th, they held a 5-3 lead.
Pitcher Rocco Gurrola threw two scoreless innings in the ninth and 10th, yet gave up a home run to the Roadrunners in the 11th. He left with runners at first and second, as closer Joey Iglesias came in to shut the door for the second day in a row.
While Iglesias gave up a hit to load the bases, he finished off the game with no further damage, securing the Dons victory.
“They were a really scrappy team. They had a really good arm that went six or seven innings, [he] really shut us down,” said Schavone. “Their starters are pretty good too, they played good defense, they made the right plays.”
The Dons play at home on Thursday, May 11 for the super regionals. It will be a double elimination series against Cypress and Santa Barbara City.
A low scoring weekend was very uncharacteristic for the Dons, who are known for having an explosive offense.
“I know our bats are going to be hot next week,” said Andeel.