The Saddleback baseball team has had a great season and may have clinched a playoff spot with a 9-1 win over Orange Coast College on Saturday at OCC. The Gauchos can finish no lower than fourth place in the Orange Empire Conference after the win, but still have a chance to finish second.
Saddleback had a tough schedule down the stretch as the final six games on the regular season schedule were against programs rated in the top-10 in Southern California. The Gauchos have responded nicely, winning three of the first four with two games remaining against Riverside College before the playoff pairings are announced next week.
Saddleback took a giant step forward on Saturday with a convincing win against the Pirates. The Gauchos erupted for five runs in the seventh inning to break open a close game and added two more in the ninth to add insult to injury. The big blow for Saddleback was a three-run home run to left field by Mitchell Holland (pictured), giving the Gauchos a 5-1 lead. Holland came off the bench and pinch hit for starter Noah Graham in the fifth inning and stayed in the game, providing the big blast in the seventh.
Meanwhile, the pitching was once again brilliant, as starter Tyler Brashears pitched a complete game, surrendering just four hits and one walk in nine innings of work. The freshman from El Toro improved his season record to 7-2, lowering his ERA to 1.67 for the year with 59 strikeouts in 75.2 innings.
With the win, Saddleback can finish no lower than fourth place in the Orange Empire Conference. The Gauchos are alone in third place and trail second place Riverside by one game. Cypress is one game back of Saddleback in fourth place while Orange Coast dropped to fifth place with the loss on Saturday.
Saddleback will begin a two-game series against Riverside at home on Tuesday. Game time is set for 6:00 PM. The Gauchos and Tigers will finish the regular season at Riverside on Thursday at 6:00 PM.
With one win in the final two games or a loss by Cypress, Saddleback will have its best finish in OEC play in quite some time. The last time the Gauchos finished in thid place was 2003, when they finished the season 34-17-1 overall and 14-10 in OEC play. If Saddleback can sweep Riverside, they would finish alone in second place. The last time the Gauchos finished in second place was 1999, when they finished 34-15, 15-9. The last time Saddleback won the Orange Empire conference was 1998, when they finished 39-12, 17-7.