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COC baseball: Cougars carry it on

COC wins third straight game, keeps playoff hopes alive

Posted: April 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Home base umpire Larry Davis, center, calls College of the Canyons baserunner Kasey Toven (9) safe at home after colliding with Citrus College catcher Nicholas Bergara (12) in the fifth inning at COC on Saturday. The Cougars won 3-2.

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The College of the Canyons baseball team picked a good time to start stringing wins together.

In the midst of a tightly contested Western State Conference, South Division race, the Cougars entered the week on a three-game slide, but have now won three in a row.

Cougars pitchers Steven Messner and Andy Arriaga combined to throw a two-hitter, and Kasey Toven drove in the game-winner in the seventh inning to give COC a 3-2 victory over Citrus College on Saturday at COC.

The win drew the Cougars even in the conference standings with the Owls, who entered the day tied for third with Bakersfield College.

COC will close out the season with a pair of non-conference games against Allan Hancock before opening a two-game series with Los Angeles Valley College on April 26.

"We have to play every game like it's a playoff game now," said Cougars head coach Chris Cota, who credited his team's 13-inning 8-5 win over first-place Pierce College on Tuesday as a turning point.

COC (18-15, 10-9) kept that momentum going Tuesday with an 8-1 win at Citrus (15-17, 10-9).

Messner started for the Cougars on Saturday and pitched 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts, two hits and six walks. Arriaga took over with the bases loaded in the seventh and promptly forced a pair of fly-ball outs to escape the inning unscathed.

"The bullpen has really been stepping up and playing well," Messner said. "When the game is down to the late innings, I have full confidence they will go in and get those last outs."

The sophomore allowed two unearned runs in the third inning when Nicholas Bergara scored on a balk, and Alex Mancillas' RBI single to center field plated Shane Fraijo to spot the Owls a 2-0 lead. Neither run gave Citrus head coach Steve Gomez confidence, and his mentality remained simple.

"Got to score more runs," Gomez said.

They didn't, but the Cougars did.

With two outs and two on in the fifth inning, COC shortstop Juan Perez doubled to right-center field to score Jake Jelmini and Toven in a close play at the plate.

Two innings later, Toven hit a double to right field that drove home Jelmini from second base. The run held up for what proved to be the game-winner.

"I was just looking for something to hit hard," Toven said.

Both Toven and Jelmini finished 2-for-3, while Perez and designated hitter Michael Browne each hit 1-for-3.

Arriaga was lights-out to earn the win, striking out three in a perfect final 2 2/3 innings.

Richard Perry took the loss for the Owls in a complete-game effort. Perry struck out five and allowed three earned runs on six hits and one walk.

Mancillas and shortstop Charles Bell recorded Citrus' only two hits.

With the season winding down, it is important for COC to stay in its current groove, Messner said.

"If we keep rolling, we should keep our momentum and roll into the playoffs," he said.



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