By Jaime Cárdenas
CHULA VISTA Jack Spradlin did not have his best game during Southwestern College opening game of the California Community College State baseball playoff tournament, “but being the competitor Jack is, he found a way to win,” said Jaguars Assistant Coach Jaime Paredes.
Bothered by a chest cold through out the week, Spradlin (8-1, 0.55 ERA), the state’s best pitcher during the regular season, went up to the coaches at bottom of the sixth inning and told them he couldn’t go any further.
After throwing 88 pitches (56 for strikes), Spradlin was experiencing the effects of his illness.
“When I was in the sixth inning I was short of breath when I would try to throw a fastball… I would try to give anything I had but I was short of breath,” Spradlin said. “I didn’t want to sacrifice the team and have any runs scored on me.”
In relief came Mike Crook, a left-handed freshman from Monte Vista High School, who shutdown Mt. San Antonio College (22-15) for three innings to record his first save of the season as the Jaguars (26-11) won 8-2 to advance in the playoffs, last Saturday.
“Even though he was sick I knew he was going to get us through,” said Jaguars catcher Jerry Palacios. “He threw his games, he threw a perfect game and he kept us in. It was all him.”
Spradlin, the Pacific Coast Conference Player of the Year, allowed two hits and struck out 10 in six innings pitched. Combined, Spradlin and Crook held the Mounties bats to only four hits.
“They were very effective against our lefties,” said Mounties Manager Stacey Parker. “Mike Weston, our top hitter, was never a factor. You have to tip your hats to them.”
Weston, tied for eight in the state with nine home runs, went 0-3 with one strike out.
“I knew Mt. San Antonio had a lot of lefty batters and I feel very confident facing left-handed batter very, very confident,” said Spradlin, a left-handed sophomore from Eastlake High School. “It worked out the way I wanted it, the way I thought it would work out.”
The Jaguars offense got started early when Carlos Ibarra opened up the game with a leadoff double and scored two batters later on Scott Deen’s single to give the Jags’ a 1-0 lead.
SWC scored two more runs in the third, but Mounties starting pitcher Tahylor Law quieted the Jaguar bats until the bottom of the eight inning. With the Jaguars nursing a one run lead at 3-2, the team exploded for five runs to put the game out of reach.
David Lievanos started the rally with a one-out double. The next batter, Jorge Bravo, drove in Lievanos to give the Jaguars an insurance run. The RBI was Bravo’s second of the game. Three batters latter, with Bravo and Chris Denhart in scoring position, second baseman Bobby Armstrong brought them both home with a two-out single to make it 6-2.
Armstrong then stole second and Palacios and Ibarra drew walks to load the bases. Macos Villezcas’ line-drive up the middle scored Armstrong and Palacios to make it 8-2. Crook then pitch the ninth and got the final three outs to send the Jaguars into the next round.
“With the pitching they have Southwestern College has the opportunity to go deep in the tournament,” said Parker.
In the second round, the remaining higher seeded teams in playoffs will face the lower seeded teams next Saturday, according to the California Community College Commission On Athletics, the state’s athletic governing body.
Last year the Jaguars had the best ERA in the state, as they do again this year with 1.74, but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. “It gave them a lousy taste, said Paredes, “and it made them not want to loose in the first round.”
With this year’s single-game elimination format, the Jaguars were able to use both of their All-Conference pitchers in one game and still have them available for the next game.
“It fits right into our plan (the single-game elimination format),” said Paredes. “It gives the opportunity to use our two best guys and it gives our staff a week’s of rest.”
The sixth seeded Jaguars will travel to Golden West College to play number nine seeded Los Angeles Mission College (21-13) on Saturday, May 22 at 1 p.m. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Golden West College-Chaffey game the next day for the right to go to the state finals. GWC (29-6) is ranked number one in the So. Cal. bracket will play Chaffey (24-13) who is fresh of its upset of number two seeded East Los Angeles (30-6).
The State Tournaments Finals will be in Fresno on May 30 and 31.