A day after one of its biggest wins of the season, Irvine Valley's baseball team couldn't get untracked at Saddleback in another important Orange Empire Conference contest.
Irvine Valley defeated Saddleback on Thursday, 2-1, behind another strong effort by sophomore pitcher Justin Zielinski, who went the distance.
The win lifted Irvine Valley into a tie for fifth place with Riverside and Saddleback in the conference standings.
But Irvine Valley fell a game behind Saddleback, Riverside and now Fullerton with a 12-2 loss at Saddleback on Friday.
The Lasers' record slipped to 18-16 overall and 8-11 in conference.
Saddleback, Riverside and Fullerton all sit at 9-10 and tied for fourth place.
The playoff race will come down to the final week of the regular season this week.
Irvine Valley finishes off the regular season this week with key conference games against Santa Ana. The Lasers host the Dons on Tuesday and then are at Santa Ana on Thursday.
Saddleback led Irvine Valley, 3-0, after four innings on Friday and then scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth to take control.
The Gauchos added a single run in the bottom of the sixth and then scored four more runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to lead, 12-0.
Irvine Valley pushed across its two runs in the top of the eighth inning.
The Lasers were able to manage just one hit on the day.
That came from sophomore third baseman Zach Vittetow.
A double by Vittetow in the top of the eighth inning scored sophomore Ben DePerry, who had walked.
Vittetow then scored on a Saddleback error.
Saddleback finished with 14 hits on the afternoon and were led by Brett Barker, who went 3 for 3 with two RBI and Dan James who was 2 for 4 with four RBI.
Freshman Michael Torres took the loss on the mound for Irvine Valley. He gave up seven runs (six earned) on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 4.2 innings.
Freshman Andrew Jimenez pitched a scoreless 1.2 innings to close out the game for IVC.