Dons rally together to pull off win against Irvine Valley

DONS vs IVC 03:12:24
Ryker Billingsley celebrating scoring off of Thomas Williams single in the 8th inning. Photo by KaliRaahVisuals / el Don

In the first of a three-game series, SAC pulled out a tight win against Irvine Valley 7-6 at home on Tuesday. The Dons came back in the bottom of the eighth, after trailing four runs throughout the game.

Defensively, SAC uncharacteristically struggled, committing three errors and allowing seven runs.

“We were terrible in every facet,” stated head coach Tom Nilles. “We didn’t make plays we usually make in the field and we weren’t sharp on the mound.”

Along with the defensive struggle, the Dons could not muster any kind of offense together through the first six innings. 

Head coach Tom Nilles talking about the game plan with an assistant coach. Photo by KaliRaahVisuals / el Don

“After the sixth, I called them over and I told them they look like scared puppy dogs,” said Coach Nilles. “They looked like they wanted to roll over and not show any sort of life. That’s not what this group does.”

The talk from Coach Nilles ignited a fire within the team—designated hitter Robert Linares blasted a homerun over the left field wall to kickstart the dormant Dons bench.

Dons on their feet in the 8th-inning rally. Photo by KaliRaahVisuals / el Don

“We didn’t come out ready to go,” said shortstop Christian Altimiarano. “But we had good resiliency and came out right in the seventh ready to fight.”

After Linares’ homerun, the momentum swung to the Dons for the first time in the game. Carson Case drove in Mathew Dobson with a single to center field, bringing the score to 2-4 but still trailing heading into the eighth. 

In a clutch eighth inning, Dons pitcher CJ Brown shut out the Lasers in the top half, only giving up one hit and leaving two runners on base.

On offense, the Dons put together a massive rally together to gain the lead back. Michael Rocha and Carson Case both drove in runs; Christian Altimirano scored on a wild pitch, and Thomas Williams drove in two off a single down the right-field line to jump ahead 7-4.

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Heading into the ninth, now up three runs, the Dons only needed three outs to secure the win. Lasers hitters Aaron Serrato and Shane Stafford both hit solo home runs off of Brown leaving the Dons only up one run, 7-6. 

With two outs, Lasers first baseman Jackson Snitko flared a line drive into the left-center gap. Left fielder Jake Long hustled to track it down, laid out, and snagged the final game-sealing out inches off the grass.

The team secured the conference win, but the victory was bittersweet.

“That game did not go well for us,” said second baseman Thomas Williams. “Next game we need to come out with intensity right away. Once we get ahead, these guys won’t be able to keep up with us.”

Michael Rocha catches the second out of a double play. Photo by KaliRaahVisuals / el Don

The next two games of the series will take place on Thursday at IVC and back home at SAC on Saturday.

Orange Coast currently sits atop the conference at 4-0. With a record of 3-1, the Dons are tied for second in the Orange Empire Conference with Golden West. 

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