Vaqueros Sweep L.A. Mission
Tyler Gilbert tossed a five-hitter for seven innings and Brandon Evans and Jimmy Hill drove in two runs apiece on Saturday as the Vaqueros downed L.A. Mission 8-1 to sweep the best-of-3 Super Regional 2-0.
The Vaqueros (27-13) won their fourth straight playoff game and completed one of the best home campaigns in school history with a 19-3 mark. Evans and Hill both went 2-4 in Saturday’s win at Pershing Park that vaulted the fourth-seeded Vaqueros into the Sectionals (the Southern Cal Final 4) for the first time ever.
Santa Barbara will play at either No. 1 Orange Coast or No. 2 Oxnard, starting Friday at 2 p.m. If No. 3 Santa Ana wins on Sunday, the Vaqueros will travel to Costa Mesa to take on Orange Coast. If Southwestern beats Santa Ana, SBCC will play a best-of-3 at WSC rival Oxnard.
The two Sectional winners will advance to the State Final 4 at Fresno City College on May 24-26.
Gilbert, a sophomore left-hander, was sharp, allowing no runs on five hits and just six baserunners over seven innings. He recorded all seven strikeouts in the first four innings and didn’t walk a batter.
“I felt great, pretty much the best I’ve felt all season,” said Gilbert. “My command was the best I’ve ever had. My splitter was working really well and my fastball was also a big key.
“I’m so happy about going to Sectionals, it’s unreal. Crazy vibes right now.”
Mission starter Aaron Hamilton was chased after eight batters, allowing four runs (two earned) on two hits. The Eagles (25-16) used seven pitchers and they gave up nine hits and five walks to the Vaqueros, who were designated as the visitors for Game 2 of the series.
Noeh Martinez went 2-4 and he batted .571 in the series (4-7). Catcher Paddy O’Brien was also 2-4.
The Vaqueros loaded the bases in the top of the second on two walks and an error. Matt Gimenez delivered a two-run double to left and Spencer Erdman followed with a sacrifice fly. Evans’ sacrifice fly to left scored Gimenez and made it 4-0.
Hill, the designated hitter, drove in a run in the third and doubled in the sixth, scoring Jimmy Brakka all the way from first. Nine Vaqueros batted in the sixth and three scored, boosting the lead to 8-0. Mission scored its only run of the series off Lucas Benenati in the ninth, on a single by Erick Luna and a double from Tanner Marcoe.
“It’s an amazing feeling, going to Sectionals,” said Hill, a freshman from Monterey. “Our team deserves it. No team is working harder than us and no team is more prepared than us. That’s a testament to our coaches and the plan they put forth every week.”
Hill got into a rundown between third and home with one out in the sixth. After forcing three throws (which allowed Spencer Erdman to sprint to third base), he knocked the ball out of the pitcher’s glove to score the seventh run.
“All I know is to play one brand of baseball and that’s 110 percent,” Hill added. “I try to play to the best of my abilities. I just to play hard-nosed baseball and let the baseball gods take care of the rest.”
SBCC held L.A. Mission, the fifth-highest scoring team in the state, to one run in 18 innings.
“Outstanding effort by Tyler Gilbert, he won the strike-throwing contest, which set the tone early on,” said SBCC coach Jeff Walker. “Holding them to one run speaks volumes about our pitching and defense. They’re one of the top-hitting teams in the state. Our pitchers were very impressive.”
Walker has guided the Vaqueros into the Southern Cal Final 4 in just his third season.
“It’s exciting, another survive-and-advance to the next weekend,” he said. “We played well this weekend. Pitching and defense is what separates teams at this time of the season.”
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