MISSION VIEJO -- Defensive problems played a big role in Bakersfield College's struggles at the end of its baseball regular season.
The Renegades' defensive woes continued Friday afternoon with four errors leading to six unearned runs in a 7-2 loss at Saddleback College in the opening game of the Southern California playoffs.
No. 14-seed BC (24-13) must win twice today to continue its season. Third-seeded Saddleback (26-11) needs only one victory to win the best 2-of-3 series. BC has lost five straight games.
"That was the difference in the game," BC coach Tim Painton said. "They played clean defense throughout the ballgame. We didn't. With two outs, they came up with big hits. We didn't."
Saddleback's only earned run came in the first when Jeff Butler led off with a single and he scored from first on cleanup batter Noah Graham's two-out double into the left-field corner.
The Gauchos scored three unearned runs in the second. After two one-out singles, BC shortstop Rolando Martinez bobbled Trevor Sealey's ground ball for an error that loaded the bases.
Butler's groundout scored the first run. Josh Fuentes added a two-run double on a slow ground ball up the first-base line that bounced off the glove of diving first baseman Blayne Ontiveros and trickled down the right-field line.
A three-run fifth gave Saddleback a 7-0 lead. Graham, who singled, scored from first when BC third baseman Nick Sakowski threw away a two-out grounder.
Given the extra out, Saddleback added an RBI double by Brian Romero and an RBI single by Slate Miller.
The Renegades' offense had a tough chore, facing sophomore left-hander Evan Manarino, who came into the game ranked among the state leaders in wins and ERA. He had a 1-0 win over the Renegades in Bakersfield on March 28, BC’s only shutout loss this season. Manarino improved to 10-1 and has a 1.53 ERA. He allowed both BC runs and eight hits in 72⁄3 innings with no walks and six strikeouts.
Manarino wasn’t overpowering but kept the BC hitters off-balance with a sharp curveball and cut fastball that had a lot of movement.
“His curveball is pretty sharp,” said BC right fielder Jordan Turner, who ended Manarino’s shutout bid with a solo home run over the right-center field fence with two outs in the seventh.
“It would start up and you’d think it was a fastball and it would break at the last moment,” Turner said. “He spotted it real good.”
BC chased Manarino in the eighth when Kyle Nixon hit a two-out triple to the base of the right-center-field fence and Erik Williams blooped an RBI single over shortstop.
“He’s a good pitcher,” said Nixon, who also led off the game with a single. “He spots everything and he has a lot of pitches. It’s hard to hit a pitcher when he spots it to wherever he wants to.”
Turner’s homer was the first allowed by Manarino this season and only the third allowed by the Gauchos’ staff. Saddleback entered the game with a 2.53 team ERA, the fourth-lowest in the state.
“Our pitching has been huge this year,” said Saddleback coach Sommer McCartney. “We told them in the fall the wins and losses were on their shoulders. Teams with success have good pitching.”
Notes: McCartney said Manarino is being recruited by several schools, including Cal State Bakersfield. The Roadrunners have a Saddleback alum on their team, outfielder-pitcher Dylan Christensen.
“I called coach (Bill) Kernen and said we’ve got a good pitcher,” McCartney said. “He says, ‘We’re aware of him.’ I’ve talked to Dylan and he has really enjoyed his time there.” ...
The pitching matchup today is BC sophomore Darion Nunn (4-2, 3.45 ERA) against Saddleback freshman Tyler Brashears (7-2, 1.67). Brad Lindsley (5-3, 2.89) would get the start for BC in today’s second game if the Renegades can win the morning game to keep their season alive.
“Darion Nunn has been our go-to guy and he’s on the mound in Game 1. We feel good about that,” Painton said. ... Painton noted that the 2008 Renegades lost their playoff opener to Cerritos and won the next two games to advance.