Freshman outfielder Manuel Tapia slides into third headfirst for a triple during Tuesday's loss to Oxnard, February 3, 2015. Tapia would go on to score later in the inning. (Max Zeronian/Courier)
Freshman outfielder Manuel Tapia slides into third headfirst for a triple during Tuesday’s loss to Oxnard, February 3, 2015. Tapia would go on to score later in the inning. (Max Zeronian/Courier)

The men’s baseball team was unable to extract revenge in the return contest against Oxnard at Brookside Park’s Jackie Robinson Memorial Field, going down 4-3 in a riveting tussle that could have gone either way.

Coming off a comprehensive double-header win against Antelope Valley last weekend, the Lancers were intent on stretching their winning streak to three games to cap off a dream start to the season for new head coach Pat McGee. But the visitors held out a fast-finishing PCC over the last five innings.

The Condors picked up two quick runs at the top of the second due to some erratic pitching from sophomore and Arcadia-native Jonathan Hopkins and a lack of support in the field, as a Lancers outfielder crept in too far and misjudged a soaring fly ball that resulted in a double.

Oxnard’s pitcher rolled through the Lancers’ batting line-up in the first two innings with some suffocating heat. This took the pressure of the visitors’ batters, who stretched their lead to 4-0 at the top of the third because of some wayward pitching from relief pitcher and sophomore Jason Marquez, a bobble from third baseman David Dominguez and an error from Robert Mier that led to a run.

On January 27th in the season opener against Oxnard at the Condor’s home field, the Lancers got off to a terrible start and were down 7-0 at the end of the second inning and the scoring stopped there. PCC was a different and matured outfit Tuesday and didn’t let any such blowout occur, instead relying on their relief pitchers and the team’s unwavering tenacity that has grown in a newly fostered environment overseen by McGee.

“I think they’re starting to believe in each other and they believe in the process we’re building,” McGee said. “I thought the relief pitchers did a great job at keeping the score where it was. Marquez, Murfett, Esparza—they all did a really good job.”

Lead-off hitter Thomas Castro, a sophomore, connected on an important line-drive to left field in the bottom of the third that reaped a double, setting up freshman Eddy Santana’s sac fly.

Marquez atoned for his nervy pitching in the third by preventing any runs in the next two innings that included two strike-outs. This took some pressure off the batters, which reduced Oxnard’s lead to 4-2 by way of another run for Tapia in identical fashion to his first.

Tapia not only stood out with the bat, but also maintained a high standard in the outfield with five important catches.

“I think I did good, but I think I could have done more to get the W,” Tapia said.

McGee brought in sophomore Brandon Murlett to relieve Marquez at the top of the sixth, who unconvincingly closed things out despite some wayward pitches that walked three batters to loaded bases prior to the final out. First baseman and freshman Joe Quire pulled off the catch of the day by diving full-stretched to his right as he negated a powerfully struck line-drive.

McGee lamented PCC’s slow start and defensive errors, but was proud of his team for their performance and close result considering the drubbing Oxnard gave them in the season opener.

“We fell behind early and made some mistakes that you can’t afford to make at this level, but in the end that probably cost us. However, I was proud of how they stayed in the game,” McGee said. “In the opener things snowballed and today they prevented it from snowballing and then it got stuff going back in our direction, so from a coaching perspective that’s the positive I take out of it.”

Catcher and freshman Justin Cage chipped a key-hit over first base that led to sophomore John Sevilla scoring the Lancers’ third run and causing the home team’s dugout to produce electrifying cheers of support and passion signifying how much fight went into PCC reducing a four run lead to a single run after six innings.

In a tense finish to a competitive contest, the Condors held onto their narrow lead over a determined and confident Lancers, who fall to 2-2 and next face the West LA Wilcats on Saturday at noon in Culver City.

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