Story and photo by Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
The Cougars came storming back to tie the game twice in the final three innings, including a three-run ninth, but were unable to secure a victory in its game vs. Cypress College on Thursday, as the contest was eventually called due to darkness after nine back-and-forth innings of action.
Canyons (3-10-1) showed tremendous resilience after falling behind 7-0 in the early going to a Cypress (13-2-1) squad that entered the game as one of the region's more highly regarded clubs. The tie, which halted a five-game losing streak for COC, also represented a significant bounce-back effort after the Cougars, who fell by a 15-6 score at the Chargers' home field on Tuesday.
Corey Jones put Canyons on the board in the home-half of the second with an RBI double that plated Doyle Kane. Jones later scored on a fielder's choice initiated by Davis Cop and the Cougars were back in the ballgame 7-2.
In the third inning Blake Mann lifted off on a two-run homer to deep center field that put Canyons even closer at 7-4. The home run was Mann's fifth of the year which leads the club and the Western State Conference (WSC). He finished the game 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs.
COC reliefer Rane Pfiefer kept the Chargers scoreless through his three and 1/3 innings of work, which in turn allowed the Cougars to continue clawing back into the game.
In the sixth Jones clubbed his first home run of the season to put the game at 7-5. He finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs and two RBIs.
Meanwhile, Sam Stulman made his contribution with two scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one hit and walk to continue to stymie the Chargers.
Canyons would come all the way back to tie the game at 7-7 in the seventh when Will Chambers tagged a hard hit ball that found its way past the right fielder and rolled to the outfield wall, allowing Tyler Grodell and Davis Cop time to make in to home plate.
After a Cypress pitching change, pinch runner Andy Vierra, who had just been inserted for Chambers, came in to score when an errant pick-off attempt sailed past the Chargers' third baseman to give COC the 8-7 advantage.
Cougars' second baseman Brendon Vela was summoned to the mound to pitch the seventh and got into a bit of a jam, with Cypress able to push across a pair of runs on an RBI double from first baseman Hayden Winters. The damage was limited, however, on a textbook relay from Jones to shortstop Alex Ballesteros that gunned the trail runner at the plate, and kept the score at 9-8 in favor of the visitors.
Cypress tacked on two more in the top of the ninth when Ballesteros, who was taking his turn on the bump, allowed a double to Bobby Silvis that put the score at 11-8 heading into the Cougars' final at-bat.
After two quick outs, Mann was able to draw a walk that prolonged the inning. Kane then came up with a clutch two-out single to keep the Cougars' hopes alive. Jones was then hit by a pitch to load the bases for Ballesteros who deposited a ball into left field to bring home the first run of the inning.
Vela then took his turn with a two-run single that tied the game at 11-11 and brought the Cougars' faithful to their feet in excitement.
Canyons would get no closer, however, as the game was then called due to darkness after a ground out to end the inning.
COC used five pitchers in the contest compared to eight for Cypress. JP Caire started for the Cougars and pitched the first one and 2/3 innings with five earned runs coming on four hits and two walks.
None of the Chargers' pitchers threw more than two innings, with ninth-inning reliever Travis Lavendier allowing three runs in the final frame.
Canyons is back in action Saturday, Feb.29 with a road trip to take on Orange Coast College. First pitch is scheduled for noon.
The Cougars will then begin conference play on the road at L.A. Valley College on Tuesday, March 3.
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.