Things were looking bleak for the Tigers as they were staring down the barrel of a four-run deficit with just three innings remaining in the opening game of the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championships against the host and north's second-seeded Folsom Lake College Falcons. However, a shift in momentum in the bottom half of the eighth inning put Riverside back in the driver's seat.
The eighth inning tells the tale for the Tigers as they etched six unanswered runs leading to an 11-9 come-from-behind victory.
It was arguably the most exciting and thrilling game of the season, but not in the eyes of Head Coach Rudy Arguelles.
"Exciting for who?" said Arguelles with a slight exhale and a small smirk on his face. "At this point and time in the year it doesn't matter how you win. You just have to find ways to win and that's what happened tonight. The kids showed their grit and they competed to the last out."
It was a true back and forth affair from the jump with Folsom Lake taking the first lead of the game at 2-0. Riverside quickly captured the lead back at 4-2 in the second inning, but a three run fifth inning from the Falcons put Riverside in the rear view for a handful of frames.
After sophomore reliever Ryan Dominguez entered in the top of the eighth inning and kept the red hot Falcons at bay, the Tigers' offense got to work in the bottom half. Freshman right fielder Matthew Bardowell, who was hitless up until this point of the game, led the inning off by drawing a free pass. He later came around to score on an error from the Folsom Lake shortstop.
Freshman first baseman Daniel Garcia remained hot and kept the inning chugging with a single to left field, backed by pinch hitter Jordan Ruiz wearing a pitch off of his dome to load the bases with nobody out. Freshman catcher Maxwell Shor, who entered the game two innings prior, came through with an infield single to second base, plating freshman designated hitter Bret Bowers.
Freshman third baseman Ignacio Alvarez stepped up with the bases juiced and was hit by a pitch to record an RBI and send Ruiz home. Bardowell followed with his second at bat of the inning and barreled his first knock of the game in dramatic fashion, sending home freshman shortstop Sebastian Flores and Shor leading to an 11-9 advantage and eventually the victory.
"There were some uncharacteristic things that were happening and I felt like the moment got too big for us at times. The message was to not stop competing and to find a way and that's what they did tonight."
Dominguez slammed the door in the ninth despite giving up a one out triple. He recorded two strikeouts and forced a game ending groundball to himself. He earned the win on the bump.
"You do this for a long period of time and you want guys like that to come at you and be assertive in that nature. This is what we expected Ryan Dominguez to be and he got the ball. He's is going to get it again."
The back and forth affair started early on with the Tigers facing an early two-run deficit, but a four-run second inning highlighted by a two-run, two out RBI double from Flores put them on top 4-2. Freshman center fielder Julian Alvarez connected for an RBI knock the previous at bat as well.
The offense went cold for three straight innings after the crooked second-inning number until Bowers launched a towering solo jack over the left field wall to rejuvenate the squad. This boded well leading into the eighth inning melee.
J. Alvarez went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, while Flores went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run scored.
Riverside advances in the winner's bracket and will face off against the North's top-seeded Ohlone College Renegades (45-4) tomorrow at 2 p.m. Live stream, live stats and ticket information is available at the CCCAA website and posted on www.rccathletics.com