City College wrapped up a three-game series with a 9-4 victory over American River College Saturday to move to 10-5 in the Big 8 Conference.
After losing two one-run games to the Beavers (11-21, 6-12 Big 8) in the first two meetings, including a deflating 12-inning defeat April 5, head coach Derek Sullivan said he was happy to salvage at least one win in the series.
“We lost a series that, on paper, we probably should’ve won,” said Sullivan. “We just didn’t play well enough to win. We didn’t plummet in the standings. It’s just another check-in that we have to learn to not to just expect to win.”
Kevin Saenz, Creed Smith and Brodie Garner all delivered RBI singles during a five-run seventh inning that ensured the Panthers’ victory. Kody Gardner tripled a run home, Daniel Walsh drove in a pair, and Jordan Woods went 3-for-4 with a double. Daylon Matthews picked up the win, tossing 2 1/3 relief innings.
City took two of three from Modesto Junior College to finish the month of March with some positive momentum heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.
City remains in fourth place in the Big 8 standings behind San Joaquin Delta (11-4), Sierra College (11-4) and Santa Rosa (10-4). The Panthers are ranked No. 6 in California, according to the California Community College Sports Information Association’s April 2 poll.
The Panthers’ lineup has been without its top hitter in first baseman Jake Guenther, who has missed the last four games with a pinched nerve in his knee. Guenther, who leads the team in most of the major offensive categories, should return to action sometime this week against Sierra, according to Sullivan.
“That’s good for our lineup,” said Sullivan.
The rest of the lineup has stepped up in Guenther’s absence. Jaylund Johnson, who has patrolled first base over the past four games, leads the Panthers with 14 RBIs during conference play. Shortstop Joe McNamara is hitting .450 (9-for-20) with five runs scored over his last five games, and Walsh hit .462 (6-for-13) in his three starts against American River.
The pitching staff continues to be one of the top units in California. Only Ohlone College sports a better earned run average than the Panthers. City’s ability to keep opposing hitters in the yard has been a major contributor to its success. The Panther bullpen has allowed only one home run over its last 23 games.
City will try to continue its hot hitting and consistent pitching with just nine games remaining in the regular season—three each with Sierra, Santa Rosa and Folsom Lake College.
The looming three-game sets with Sierra and Santa Rosa will prove to be tests for the Panthers, Sullivan said. Ranked fourth in the state as of Sunday, the Wolverines rattled off 14 consecutive wins from Feb. 15–March 24 before struggling through just three wins in their last seven contests. Santa Rosa is also a Top 10 team in California.
“We’ll get a little bit of postseason type of experience,” said Sullivan. “It’s the point of the season where there’s stuff on the line every week. The league is still up for grabs. We’re looking for the ability to host (a playoff series) in the first round.”
City bookends Tuesday and Friday home games around a trip to Sierra Thursday at 2:30 p.m.
For more info on SCC baseball, visit www.sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/bsb.