The state championship appearance drought has finally ended for the Riverside City College baseball team as they have reached the championship ballad for the first time since 2007 after defeating the Ohlone College Renegades, 14-8, on Sunday afternoon.
"At this time of year, it's about finding wins," said Head Coach Rudy Arguelles, who has reached his first-career championship game at the helm of the program. "We have to be a little bit better as far as being mentally engaged and staying focused."
Focus is key down the stretch and Arguelles and his staff have prepared their guys for this particular moment: Championship Monday.
"Hopefully they can understand that the ultimate goal is here and is to be a champion. If that is not enough incentive for you as a ball player, I don't know what is. It is right there in front of them."
Riverside came out swigging as they barreled a tournament-high 18 hits leading to 14 runs. Six players recorded multi-hit games highlighted by the top three in the order featuring freshman trio Julian Alvarez, Sebastian Flores and Ignacio Alvarez going a combined 8-for-12 with two RBI and six runs scored.
While the top three in the lineup mashed, it was freshman first baseman Daniel Garcia who flexed the strongest right from the get go in the top of the first inning.
Before the Renegades even stepped into the box, the Tigers landed the first blow and tagged them for five runs in the top of the first inning. S. Flores got things moving by barreling a one out double to place himself in scoring position. I. Alvarez followed by drawing a walk and freshman right fielder Matthew Bardowell was hit by pitch to load the bases.
Riverside remained ball magnets as freshman designated hitter Bret Bowers wore a pitch off of his elbow to send Flores home for the first run. Then, Garcia stepped in and pressed his thumb down on the detonator by launching a towering grand slam over the right field wall to hand the Tigers a 5-0 advantage.
Freshman starting pitcher Giancarlo Flores toed the slab and made quick work of the Renegades despite allowing a lead off hit. The lead baserunner was picked off by freshman catcher Daniel Briones on a back pick, while Flores capped his first frame with a strikeout and a lazy ground ball to himself.
"[G. Flores] has not had this type of work ever," explained Arguelles. He is battling, but you hope that he can dig down deep for one last outing. It has worked out both times [referring to freshman David Butler in game one as well]."
The Tigers continued to dominate at the dish by tossing up three more runs in the second inning. Bowers kept the run train fueled by dropping a RBI single into right field, plating J. Alvarez who led the inning off with a two bagger. S. Flores, who reached via walk, came home three pitches later on a passed ball. I. Alvarez followed suit and scored on a wild pitch after he reached via infield single. The Tigers led 8-0 at inning's end.
Ohlone fought to score three runs in the bottom of the third inning and later added two more in the bottom of the fifth inning, but six more runs from the Tigers offense was too much for the Renegades to handle.
I. Alvarez remained hot at the dish and drove in a Briones in the top of the fifth inning. Briones strapped his RBI hat on the following inning and squared up a single through the left side, plating Garcia. S. Flores capped the frame with a sacrifice fly to center field, pushing freshman left fielder Adrian Arechiga across the dish.
Riverside plated two more insurance runs in the top of the seventh compliments of a sacrifice fly from Arechiga, backed by a RBI single from freshman second baseman Darius Price. Two innings later, Briones came around to score on a throwing error from the Renegade catcher after Price swiped second, eventually leading to a 14-8 victory.
Sophomore southpaw Ryan Hernandez entered into the game in the sixth inning and earned a four-inning save despite allowing three runs. He fanned three.
Flores (4-0) pocketed the win after chucking five innings and allowing five runs; only two earned.
Garcia, who is a red hot 10-for-24 in the last five games, went 3-for-6 with a grand slam. Briones matched his 3-for-6 effort, while I. Alvarez went 4-for-4 after failing to record a hit in yesterday's contest.
"Usually at this part of the season, it's role reversal and your hitters are ahead of the pitcher. They have seen a ton of pitches and types of pitchers. They have a good feel of who they are and what they are trying to execute with each at bat."
Riverside (35-12) will enter into tomorrow's championship game against the winner of tonight's elimination game featuring Ohlone and Folsom Lake. They will player the winner at 11 a.m. for a chance to hoist the trophy.