Michael Watkins/Courier The PCC Lancers come together for a pre-game talk before taking the field during their away game against Cerritos College on March 14.
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Lancers baseball bested Long Beach City College (LBCC) for the first time since 2014 in a thrilling 3-2 grudge match last Thursday afternoon at Brookside Park.

In a game between two evenly matched teams, the difference was Pasadena’s well-oiled defense and stellar pitching.

Lancers’ starting pitcher Race Gardner pitched an impressive 7.1 innings and allowed only 3 runs on 7 hits, lowering his earned run average to 3.94 for the season.

“Race really got us going today,” head coach Pat McGee said. “With the help of the defense, our pitching got the job done against a very tough opponent.”

Hot-hitting first baseman Jeremy Conant, who leads the conference with a .471 batting average, continued his production at the plate with a 2 RBI sacrifice fly that gave the Lancers a 2-1 advantage in the bottom of the 3rd inning.

Gardner dominated the Vikings for most of the game, at one point retiring seven consecutive hitters.

However, things got interesting in the top of the 8th inning when the Vikings had a runner on third and Vincent Byrd hit a hard single to right field that just barely got by a diving catch attempt by Conant to tie the game 2-2.

With the score tied late in the game, the Lancers turned to relief pitcher Sergio Valenzuela who was able to get the next two Viking hitters out on back to back flies to center field.

The Lancers struck back in the bottom half of the inning. With bases loaded, second baseman Andres Kim hit a sacrifice fly ball to deep center field that brought in catcher Jesse Garcia, giving the Lancers a 3-2 lead.

“I went to plate with a plan,” Kim said. “Once I got behind in the count, I extended my strike zone. Knowing how well the pitcher controlled the outer half of the plate, I looked for a pitch I could drive and fortunately, I was able to bring in Jesse.”

The Vikings were on the verge of striking again in the ninth inning when Valenzuela gave up a double to the leadoff batter on the first pitch of the inning.

On the very next pitch, Garcia made a diving catch on a low hit foul ball for the first out. With a runner still in scoring position, the pressure was on, but Valenzuela didn’t flinch, striking out the next hitter swinging on a curveball.

Then, with two outs, Vikings’ batter Mickey Miladinovich hit a ground ball to Kim who routinely threw him out at first, ending the game in the Lancers’ favor.

“When I came in [to relieve Gardner], coach told me to get out of the inning,” said Valenzuela. “I was able to make the pitches I needed to make, and with the defense we have I felt pretty good out there.”

Valenzuela was credited with the win and improves his record to (2-1) in 8 appearances for Pasadena.

The Lancers now stand at (4-3) in conference play and are currently tied with East Los Angeles College for first place in the SCC Northern Division race. Pasadena looks to improve their record and complete the season sweep of the Vikings as the series shifts to Long Beach on Saturday at 12:00 p.m.

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