by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Freshman Osvaldo Mendez was toughest when he needed it most Saturday, pitching Kansas City Kansas Community College to a 3-2 win in a pivotal Jayhawk Conference game at Johnson County.
The win kept the Blue Devils right in the thick of the conference race despite an 8-1 loss in the second game of the doubleheader and set up a huge four-game series with first place Cowley College starting Thursday at KCKCC.
JCCC (16-4) fell two games back of Cowley (18-2) while the Blue Devils are very much in contention at 19-5 with eight games to go. Cowley and JCCC, meanwhile, have 12 games remaining including four games against each other.
The Blue Devils (32-10) step out of conference play Monday, playing at Rockhurst JV in a makeup game at 5 p.m.
A southpaw, Mendez allowed seven hits but no more than one an inning except the seventh. Cavaliers reached base in every inning but Mendez left seven stranded including the tying run on third and the winning run on first in the seventh.
Trailing 3-1 in the seventh, JCCC scored one run on a walk and a pair of two-out singles before Mendez struck out Garrett Wood to end it. It was Mendez’ ninth strikeout along with four walks. JCCC’s only other run came on an Anthony Amicanglo home run in the first.
“Mendez was outstanding,” KCKCC coach Matt Goldbeck said. “The home run in the first was a good pitch; the kid is just a good hitter. They made a run at us in the last inning but OJ was outstanding. He just refused to lose.”
The Blue Devils combined small ball and alert base-running for their three runs. Only three Blue Devils reached base the first five innings before Eric Hinostroza led off the sixth with a bunt single, moved up to second on a ground ball and escaped a rundown to score the tying run on a Jose Sosa single off the glove of third baseman Blake Shannon.
Kemper Bednar ignited KCKCC’s game-winning two-run uprising in the seventh with a leadoff double. Bednar took third on a ground ball and scored the go-ahead run on a throwing error.
“A real alert job of base-running,” Goldbeck said.
The Blue Devils then loaded the bases on singles by Eduardo Acosta and Hinostroza and scored what proved to be the winning run when Kevin Santiago was hit by a pitch.
JCCC broke open a dandy pitching duel in the 8-1 nightcap, scoring five runs in the seventh inning and two in the eighth. Victor Gotay allowed only four hits and one run through six innings before the Cavaliers scored five runs on just two hits, two walks, a hit batsman and a dropped fly ball that made three of the runs unearned.
“Victor pitched well and kept us in the game,” Goldbeck said. “Their first run (in the 3rd) came on a good hustle play with the runner scoring from first on a ball that didn’t get past our outfielders. Then in the 5-run inning after a triple and a hit batsman, we had a ball in the outfield that was in and out of the glove and things went downhill from there. And their pitcher was tough on us.”
Sloan Thomsen scattered six hits and struck out nine in seven innings for the win.
The Blue Devils matched the Cavaliers in hits with eight each but left nine men on base. Hinostroza doubled and singled and Tyler Henry singled twice for half of the hits. The Blue Devils’ lone run came in the ninth when Kaleb Harrison tripled and scored on an error.