After staging an amazing four-run rally in the top of the ninth inning to tie up the game, No. 13-seeded Taft College couldn't come away with the win and dropped Game 1 of its California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Northern California Regional Playoff series at No. 4 Sacramento City College by a final score of 12-11 on Friday.
The Cougars must win two games on Saturday to keep their postseason hopes alive. Sacramento City will look to close out the set with Game 2 scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch. A Taft victory would force a deciding third game to immediately follow at 4 p.m.
Taft trailed 7-5 after seven innings on Friday. In the eighth, Javier Ramirez slashed a RBI single to score Jacob Cruz and cut the Panthers' lead to one.
But Sacramento City responded with three runs in the bottom of the eighth to extend its lead to 10-6.
Despite the four-run deficit, the Cougars didn't quit. In the ninth, Taft's Jake Pearson, James McCallum, and Leo Fontanez all drew walks off Sacramento City pitcher TJ Smith to load the bases with one out. Smith followed that up by hitting Jacob Cruz with a pitch to force in a run. With two outs, Ramirez struck once again, smashing a clutch bases-clearing triple to right-center field to tie up the game.
In the bottom of the ninth, Sacramento City took advantage of a lead-off single, a hit batter, and two walks to pull out its win. Kevin Saenz' two-out, bases-loaded walk brought in Joey Daini with the game-winning run.
Ramirez had an outstanding day at the plate for the Cougars in the losing effort. He drove in six runs, going 4-for-6 with a triple. Tyler Gardner went 2-for-3 while Cruz scored four times.
Manny Guzman allowed six runs (three earned) and four hits over his four-inning start for Taft. Fontanez took the loss, allowing the game-ending run in the ninth.
Taft fell to 25-15 overall while Sacramento City improved to 29-11.