To finally put an end to their four-game misery, the Braves decided to go with a freshman on the mound in Oscar Rojas at Dan Bordary Field.
Rojas went on to respond with seven strikeouts and just four hits allowed, lifting Lompoc to its 5-0 shutout win over Nipomo in a crucial Los Padres League baseball game on Friday.
The victory not only ended a losing skid, but keeps the Braves (13-15, 10-9 in the LPL) alive and well in the last minute CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoff race, with the regular season coming to an end on Wednesday.
The win was also nice retribution for a Braves team that was stunned by these same Titans (6-17, 5-14 LPL) on Tuesday at NHS 9-5. Braves head coach Jim Allen said he liked the way his team approached this home game.
“Our guys know it’s a mus-win situation from this point on,” Allen said. “We came out and had a good first inning by scoring a couple there. It took some pressure off of us quite a bit, so it was nice to get on the board early.”
After giving up just one hit in the top of the first inning, Lompoc came out swinging right away with Zeke Chavez getting the Braves on the board. The senior – who faced a count of three balls, two strikes and two outs – powered a single to right field that drove in two of his teammates for the early 2-0 lead.
From there, Rojas controlled the tempo on the mound as he only allowed one hit in the top of the second and third innings. Lompoc also got an infield double play during the top of the second.
“We threw strikes and we didn’t make any defensive mistakes,” Allen said. “If you throw strikes like the way Oscar did, you can control the opposing offense pretty well and score enough runs to win.”
The soft-spoken Rojas said he fired an array of curveballs, fastballs and some change-ups toward the Titans.
“We came in, threw strikes and got them to ground out. We just made more plays,” Rojas said.
Allen said he wasn’t surprised by how well his young pitcher performed, especially in a high-magnitude game.
“He’s been great for us all year,” Allen said. “For a freshman to step up the way he did in a big game like that knowing that he had to win, he’s pitched that way all year long. We’ve got confidence in him every time he’s on the mound.”
The bottom of the third inning saw the Braves pull away with three runs scored. Justin Allen got the inning started with his double toward center field. Jesse Gasca came next to land on first base after his bunt. Fabian Concholla got beamed on the back with a baseball and took the walk to first – loading the bases up for senior Ruben Cortez.
And the football and baseball star ripped a sacrifice fly to right field, getting Allen to cross home plate and then watched Gasca score on a tag out error at home plate, making it 4-0. Connor Hayes then added his RBI to help end the inning. Vincent Grossini closed out the game by striking out one batter and surrendering zero hits.
Rojas said there’s been lots of playoff talk among the Brave baseball players on West College Ave.
“We talk about it quite a bit, especially since we were close to not making it,” Rojas said. “We’ve been working pretty hard.”
Lompoc takes on city rival Cabrillo on the road Tuesday at 4 p.m. The Titans will face Santa Maria at home on Tuesday in another 4 p.m. contest.