After losing four of their last five games, the Lancers ended their preseason with a home win over Victor Valley College on Tuesday.
The Lancers got on the board early when outfielder John Bicos was hit by a pitch in the first inning and was able to score by capitalizing on Victor Valley’s defensive miscues.
Starting pitcher Jesse Hanckel and reliever Matthew McElligott had solid performances on the mound for Pasadena. The duo went hitless through the first six innings.
The offense was able to build a 5-0 lead by drawing walks and using aggressive base running to manufacture runs.“Our coaches constantly stress the importance of being aggressive on the bases,” said second baseman Andres Kim. “Our goal is to make the defense, and most importantly the pitcher, very uncomfortable.”
Then in the blink of an eye, the game was tied 5-5 at the top of the eighth inning caused by a key throwing error on Kim followed by six consecutive base hits by the Ram’s hitters.
Relief pitcher Nick Esparza was able to get himself out of the jam without further damage but momentum seemed to have swung in Victor Valley’s favor.
With the game tied at the bottom of the eighth, Kim redeemed himself with a clutch single driving in third baseman Jose Jimenez who scored from second base to break the tie 6-5.
Coming up big again was Kim who stole third and scored on a ball hit right at the shortstop, extending the lead to 7-5.
“Well we almost gave that away,” said head coach Pat McGee. “Credit to Andres Kim who had a poor top half of the inning then rebounded and had a great at bat. He’s [Kim] disruptive and borderline out of control out there but that’s what we want out of him because he makes things happen for us.”
In the top of the ninth inning with the lead, Lancers turned to closer John Mendoza for the save.
After giving up a single and a walk to start the inning, Mendoza got into a grove and struck out the next two batters and got the final out on a line drive to the second baseman Kim to secure the victory.
“I tried to keep things simple,” said Mendoza. “If a pitch wasn’t working I’d go to a secondary pitch and trust the defense behind me.”
The win gives the Lancers its eighth victory of the season. Compared to last year’s squad, which was (6-6) at this point of the season, 2017 already looks like coach McGee’s reign at the helm is bringing life back to the program.
“I’m definitely excited, we’re making progress but we can’t focus solely on our recent success because we play an outstanding conference opponent [El Camino College] this week,” said McGee. “Against a team like them, you can’t shoot yourself in the foot like we have been doing.”
Thus far the team has found a way to win games by using its speed and ability to move guys into scoring position. With Lancers sitting at eight wins this early in the season, increasing the win total of thirteen from last season is within reach.
“We’ve been in every game so far,” added Kim. “Conference is coming up and our goal is to be aggressive on the base paths because that’s what’s been working for us and we’ll see how far it takes us.”
The Lancers begin SCC conference play as they host El Camino College Thursday at Brookside Park starting at 2 p.m.