It seemed fitting that Oscar Rojas would take care of the last out Friday.
The Lompoc senior right-hander fielded a comebacker hit toward the pitcher's mound, ran toward first base then flipped the ball to Braves first baseman Dylan Bailey for the final out, completing both a 5-1 win for Lompoc over Lompoc Valley rival Cabrillo in both teams' Channel League opener at Lompoc and a gem of a game for Rojas.
Rojas threw a three-hitter and struck out 11. He helped himself by tripling home an unearned run in Lompoc's three-run sixth.
The Braves moved to 2-4, 1-0. The Conquistadores are 0-4, 0-1. Rojas sparkled in his second pitching appearance of the season.
Along with everything else he did, Rojas scored the winning run. He sprinted home from third with Lompoc's second run in the first, on a two-out throwing error, as the Braves to a 2-1 lead.
On the mound, "I was able to keep the ball down and away in the strike zone," Rojas, who will head to Yale after he finishes his senior year at Lompoc, said.
"I threw mainly fastballs, with some off-speed pitches mixed in."
Cabrillo lead-off hitter Hunter Barthel whacked the second pitch of the game into left field for a double. Conqs pitcher Luke Kovach, with another well-struck double to left, drove Barthel in.
Alfredo Cruz singled to right with two outs in the second. That was it for the Cabrillo hits against Rojas and nearly it as far as Cabrillo baserunners for the game.
The Conquistadores got two batters on base against Rojas the rest of the way, on a passed ball on a strikeout in the third inning and a hit batsman in the seventh.
"Sometimes it takes Oscar a second to settle down," said Lompoc coach Jason Carlson.
"He's such a competitor that sometimes he tries to do too much early. Once he settles into the steady pitcher he is, he starts groovin'." That is what happened Friday.
The Braves couldn't do much against Kovach themselves until the sixth. The Cabrillo junior lefty kept Lompoc to a total of two hits from the second inning through the fifth, and the Braves had three hits total going into the bottom of the sixth.
Kovach seemed to tire a bit then. Bailey led off with a triple and Gunnar Thomas singled him home. Stephen Espinosa reached base on the second straight Cabrillo error — the Conqustadores had two in the first for a total of four for the game — and Rojas tripled him home.
Kovach got out of the inning when he got a grounder to second for the third out.
The only player from either side with more than one hit was, you guessed it, Rojas. He singled in the fifth inning then tripled in the sixth. Cabrillo center fielder AJ Simmons robbed Rojas of at least one RBI in the third when, with with runners on second and third, he charged and snared a Rojas liner to short center for the third out.
The Braves backed Rojas with solid defense. Lompoc made one harmless error, in the second.
"When we play good defense behind Oscar, we're hard to beat," said Carlson. "It's something we're working in practice every day to get better at. We still have a ways to go."
The teams will resume their respective league campaigns next week. Lompoc will play at Santa Ynez at 2 p.m. Monday. Cabrillo will play at San Marcos on Monday at 2 p.m.
St. Joseph 2, Bakersfield South 1
Lita Mahoney had her first walk-off of the year, singling home Briana Munoz from second with the wining run and the Knights (3-4) edged the Rebels (4-3-1) in a non-league game at St. Louis de Montfort.
Skylar Johnson struck out 11 and the Knights played error-free defense behind her. "Dylan Prandini played fantastic at shortstop," St. Joseph coach John Welch said.
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