ORANGE, CA - Other than starting 17 minutes late due to the early game running long, and then facing another delay due to the lights shutting off promptly at 10:00 PM and requiring several minutes to warm back up to full illumination, the Sunset Baseball League's Best of the West Division's inaugural playoff series commenced Friday as the top talent showcase that was to be expected.
All the "summer ball" pitching guidelines and unwritten rules were out the window, left behind, nowhere to be seen at Hart Park. This was a championship baseball game, the opening contest of a best-of-three series, and neither team approached it lightly.
In an extreme rarity in Ventura County Pirates history, starting pitcher Aren Alvarez threw a complete game. Hurling 125 pitches in his eight innings of work, he earned a quality start, allowing just two runs on five hits while striking out eleven Inland Valley Pirates batters. Unfortunately he was charged with a tough loss as the Ventura County offense could only muster a single run in the game.
After Alvarez struck out the side in both the second and third innings, Inland Valley opened up the scoring as Dominic Martinez singled, made it to second on a wild pitch, reached third on a ground out, and then came home via Rylan Charles's RBI single. Charles was then caught stealing to end the inning.
Ventura County quickly responded in the top of the fifth with Ian McIntyre hitting a leadoff double, running to third on a wild pitch, and then scoring on a Jacob Ortega sacrifice fly to center field. However, in the bottom of the inning, Inland Valley scored again as Bret Bowers reached on a fielder's choice, made it to second on AJ Moreno's walk, and then to third on Kenneth Wang's critical fielder's choice, whose speed just barely beat out the double play, allowing the inning to continue. Julian DeLeon capitalized with an RBI single, and that would end up being the final run scored in the ballgame.
After Alvarez recorded his last four strikeouts in the scoreless sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, David Reyna led off for Ventura in the top of the ninth, looking at the first pitch for a ball before the field lights all turned off. After a dimly-lit discussion at home plate, frantic phone calls to attempt to get the lights turned back on, and some amusingly apt song selections by the game DJ and PA announcer, play resumed and the Pirates were unable to get past first base despite a clutch single by Bradley Chesterton, with Johnny Pacheco subbed in to pinch run. Reyna, Grant Schoen, and Jason Ajamian were the other Ventura County batters recording hits in the game.
Ventura County will face off at least once more against the Inland Valley Pirates, with Game 2 scheduled again for 7:30 PM at Hart Park in Orange.