Taft College suffered just its second Central Valley Conference series loss of the season after splitting the final two games against Merced College. Following their marathon 14-inning loss to the Blue Devils on Tuesday, the Cougars fell 9-6 on Thursday in Taft but salvaged a 12-10 victory on the road in the finale on Saturday.
The losses dropped Taft (11-4) two games back of first-place College of the Sequoias (13-2) in the CVC standings.
On Tuesday, Taft led early before Merced rallied for the win. With the scored tied 2-2 in the fourth, Buster Hardman came through with a RBI single and Jake Pearson delivered a two-run double to give the Cougars a 5-2 advantage.
That lead didn't last long as Merced put up three runs in the fifth to set the score even again at 5-5. In the bottom of the fifth, Jade Smoot smacked a solo home run to put the Cougars back out in front.
But the Blue Devils tied up the ball game with a run in the sixth and pulled ahead for good with another run in the seventh.
Cassius Sly pitched well despite some shaky Taft defense. Cougar errors led to three unearned runs for Sly. He went 4 2/3 innings, getting a no decision after allowing two earned runs and two hits.
Greyson Barrett took the loss after giving up a run and a hit over 1 1/3 innings.
Taft totaled nine hits in the contest with Pearson leading the way, going 3-for-4 with 2 RBI. James McCallum (1-for-4) also drove in two runs while Hardman, and Smoot also had RBI.
On Saturday, it was the Cougars that rallied late for the come-from-behind victory. Taft dug themselves in a 7-0 hole after three innings, but slowly began to chip away. Zach Jones hit a two-run single to get the Cougars on the board in the top of the fourth.
Trailing 7-2, the Cougars put up four runs in the sixth to get within one, and tied up the ball game thanks to a Keegan Vialpando RBI single in the seventh.
Taft completed its amazing comeback by rallying for five runs in the eighth. A bases-loaded walk to McCallum allowed Hardman to score the go-ahead run. A pair of errors allowed three more runs to come in and Tyler Gardner hit a sacrifice fly to score Wes Herbert with the Cougars final run.
Jones (2-for-5) delivered 4 RBI in the contest to lead the Cougars at the plate. Hardman, Andres Rolon, Pearson, McCallum, Herbert, Vialpando, Gardner, and Javier Ramirez all drove in runs for Taft.
Michael Barker lasted three innings in the start. He allowed seven runs (four earned) and 10 hits in the no decision. Cedric Corrales picked up the win in relief while Manny Guzman earned the save with a scoreless ninth.
Taft, now 18-12 overall, returns to action on Tuesday (Apr. 9) when it begins a three-game Central Valley Conference series at home against Porterville College. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.