The Irvine Valley baseball team got a clutch hit from sophomore center fielder Ben McConnell late, several solid defensive plays along the way and strong efforts on the mound from freshman Brennen Farber and sophomores Chad Burchit and Noah Bradford in earning a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Riverside in an Orange Empire Conference game at home Tuesday.
The game was the first of a three-game set between the two teams.
Irvine Valley improved its record to 18-11-1 overall and 4-9 in conference, while Riverside went to 22-8 overall and 9-4 in conference. Riverside, who was ranked No. 2 in the state last week, went into Tuesday's action tied for first place in the conference standings with Orange Coast.
A week after pitching a complete game to beat Cypress, Farber was solid again on Tuesday.
He went seven innings, giving up one unearned run on five hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
That run came in the top of the seventh inning and tied the score at 1-1.
But Irvine Valley bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to take the lead for good.
Facing a two-strike count with runners on second and third, McConnell hit a hard grounder past a drawn in infield, down the right field line to bring in both sophomore catcher Ryan Santa Cruz, who singled earlier in the inning and freshman shortstop Robert Haw, who had doubled to put Irvine Valley ahead, 3-1.
Riverside scored a run in the top of the eighth and threatened for more, but Burchit got out of the jam.
Irvine Valley brought in Bradford, its closer for the top of the ninth inning.
Freshman third baseman Spencer Weston made a nifty play on a ball that was rocketed at him by RCC's Jonathan Ho to lead off the inning for the first out.
Joseph Hodapp reached on a single and moved to second base on a groundout. But Bradford got Junior Coleman to fly out to end the game.
Farber improved to 4-2 for the Lasers and dropped his ERA to 2.18 and Bradford picked up his fourth save.
Garrett Irvin (6-2) took the loss for the Tigers. He went seven innings and gave up three runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts.
Haw was 2 for 2 with two walks and two runs scored, McConnell was 1 for 2 with two RBI and freshman first baseman Pu'ukani De Sa was 1 for 4 with one RBI to pace the Lasers' offense.
The two teams meet again on Thursday at Riverside at 2 p.m.