Baseball team's special season ends in playoff Super Regionals

Courtesy of Rob Espinosa
Courtesy of Rob Espinosa

A special 2015 season ended for the Irvine Valley baseball team on Sunday afternoon at Palomar.

Irvine Valley, seeded 17th, lost two straight games to top-seeded Palomar in a California Community College Athletic Association Super Regional series.

Palomar, ranked fifth in the nation, moved on to host a sectional series next weekend.

Irvine Valley finished its year with a record of 23-18 overall.

Irvine Valley had won three straight playoff games before losing two in a row to a tough Palomar squad.

"I am definitely proud of what these guys were able to do," Irvine Valley coach Kent Madole said.

It was the first time IVC had made a Super Regional since 2008.

The Lasers should have an opportunity to make another run to the postseason next year with a number of top players slated to be back, including starting pitcher Ryan Abady, outfielders Clint Jack, Dillon Millar and Trey Ryan, infielders Cory Mendoza and Jordan Gillerman, catcher Branden Williams and designated hitter Robbie Espinosa among others.

After having its scheduled opener rained out on Friday at Palomar, Irvine Valley lost to the Comets, 3-0, on Saturday and then, 11-1, on Sunday.

Taylor Turski and Rusty Huber combined to throw a four-hit shutout on Saturday for Palomar.

Turski pitched the first 7 1/3 innings Saturday, allowing four hits and striking out five batters, to go to 6-0 on the season. He trimmed his earned-run average to 0.71 for 63.1 innings. Huber pitched 1.2 innings of hitless, shutout relief ball, striking out two, for his fifth save of the season.

Palomar scored a run in the bottom of the third inning and then added two runs in the sixth.

Abady went the distance on the mound for Irvine Valley on Saturday. He gave up three runs on eight hits and one walk in eight innings. He pitched his fifth complete game of the season, but saw his record fall to 8-4 overall.

Palomar improved its record to 34-6 on Sunday with the 11-1 win behind the pitching performance of Jake Barnett.

Barnett pitched eight innings and gave up one run on six hits with six strikeouts to improve his record to 9-2.

Palomar, the visitor in game two on its own field, banged out 15 hits, including Francis Christy's 10th home run of the season.

Irvine Valley took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI single by sophomore third baseman Adam Vargas. Espinosa, who singled to lead off the inning, scored on the play.

But Palomar scored three runs in the third inning and added a run in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead.

The Comets put the game completely out of reach with a five-run outburst in the top of the ninth inning.

Travis Mitchell (3 for 5, two doubles, RBI), Joey Cooper (3 for 4, double) and Alec Salcedo (3 for 4, RBI, stolen base) had nine hits between them to lead Palomar's offense.

Christy went 2 for 5 and drove in two runs. Chris Stratton (2 for 3, sacrifice bunt, two RBIs, walk) also had a multiple-hit game for Palomar.

Vargas went 2 for 4 with a double and one RBI, and sophomore right fielder Brett Hamilton, Espinosa, Millar and Williams each had a hit for IVC.

IVC sophomore pitcher Justin Zielinski took the loss. He went seven innings and allowed six runs on 10 hits and two walks with two strikeouts.

Irvine Valley will say goodbye to key sophomores Zielinski, Hamilton, Vargas, infielder Zach Vittetow and catcher Ben DePerry, as well as freshman first baseman Lucas Tancas, who has already signed with Long Beach State.

Tancas led the team with a .340 batting average this year. Zielinski was named first team all-conference and finished with a record of 9-3 with a 1.52 ERA in 118.1 innings and Hamilton finished third on the team in batting average (.296) and led the club with 24 RBI.

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