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WSC baseball: COC’s road gets rockier

Cougars’ pursuit of third straight conference title takes hit

Posted: April 17, 2010 10:09 p.m.
Updated: April 18, 2010 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons second baseman Nico Moreno (8) is greeted at home by the his teammates after hitting a grand slam in the sixth inning against West Los Angeles College on Saturday at COC. Moreno finished the day 1-for-4 with four RBIs.

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Tied for first place in the Western State Conference, South Division, the College of the Canyons baseball team knows there is little room for error.

But surrendering seven early runs to West Los Angeles College made the Cougars' push toward a third straight WSC title that much tougher.

COC second baseman Nico Moreno hit a grand slam in the sixth inning, but early struggles on the mound were exacerbated by a Wildcats grand slam, and the Cougars fell 11-6 on Saturday at COC.

With only five games left in the regular season, the Cougars were trying to keep pace with fellow No. 1 Los Angeles Valley College.

A loss to the seventh-ranked team in the eight-school conference left COC head coach Chris Cota stressing the importance of every contest.

"They are all big right now. Every one is important," Cota said. "The team that plays well now to the end will end up on top."

Jason Kane got the start for the Cougars (16-14, 10-6) and pitched two innings with one strikeout and five runs off five hits before leaving with soreness in his shoulder.

Travis McBride relieved Kane, throwing four innings and giving up three runs off seven hits, before being replaced by Sean Mercurio, who gave up three runs over the game's final three frames.

Moreno finished 1-for-4, while teammate Cal Vogelsang was 2-for-5 with an RBI. Sean Sweeney batted 2-for-4.

The first three batters of the game reached for West L.A. (10-18, 6-10), before left fielder Tucker MacArrin homered to give the Wildcats a 4-0 lead.

The Cougars responded with Vogelsang's RBI single in the bottom of the frame to cut the lead to 4-1.

But one run in the second and two more in the third saw West L.A. expand its lead to 7-1.

Meanwhile, Wildcats starter Colter Johnson was in control.

The right-hander pitched five innings with four strikeouts and three runs off five hits.

"(COC) is an outstanding ball club. It tells us, ‘Hey we are getting there,'" said West L.A. head coach Bob Grant. "I hope it shows what we can do against a classy ball club."

COC cut the lead to 7-2 in the bottom of the third when Hugo Hernandez scored on an error in right field.

After Wildcat Erik Scott's homer pushed the lead back to six runs in the sixth, Moreno brought the game to within two runs with his grand slam over the left-field fence.
Joe Perez, Kirk Corrales and Tyler Pugmire all scored on the play.

"We've got to see the pitches and go deep in the count," Moreno said. "It's all about getting your pitch, not what the pitcher wants."

Moreno said the hit gave his team momentum, which was then curtailed by multiple delays in the top of the seventh, as the umpires debated whether Mercurio's foot was coming off the rubber too soon.

The Wildcats posted three insurance runs in the top of the ninth to prevent a Cougar comeback.

West L.A. was led at the plate by MacArrin, who finished 2-for-5 with four RBIs and center fielder Vince Lawrence, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Scott batted 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs.


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