Nate Devine couldn't hide his disappointment.
The Merced College baseball coach holds his program to elevated standards and the pitching coach in him holds his staff to even higher ones.
The Blue Devils entered Saturday's rubber game with Fresno City on the heels of an extra-inning win on Thursday night and with a chance to cut the Rams' Central Valley Conference lead to one.
MC didn't quite seize the opportunity, failing to execute with the precision that the program prides itself on.
The Blue Devil staff was wild, issuing eight walks and hitting two batters, while MC's offense couldn't produce the big hit and left 10 on base in a 6-4 loss to the Rams.
"You can't give anybody 10 extra runners in a game, much less good teams," Devine said. "We kept setting them up for good innings with the walks and then playing catch up all day.
"This was a big opportunity. I expected more from our pitchers."
Things started out well enough with MC starting pitcher Brent Backlund cruising through the first two innings.
He began running into trouble in the third when he plunked the Rams' No. 9 hitter with one out.
Jackson Glines (3 for 4, two runs and an RBI) followed with a single and Anthony Hawkins doubled both home to take a 2-0 lead.
Ricky McColloch singled in a run to get the Blue Devils (15-12, 9-6 CVC) on the board in the fourth inning. MC had a chance to tie, but stranded the runner on third.
Fresno (18-9, 12-3 CVC) made the Blue Devils pay, pushing across three runs in the next half inning. The last two came via bases-loaded walks.
It was a theme in the game that anytime the Blue Devils built momentum, the Rams answered.
"The effort was there, we just couldn't ever seem to get it going," McColloch said. "Whether it was the big hit or an out to limit the damage, we just couldn't seem to come up with it today."
On a day where nothing seemed to go quite right, the Blue Devils still fought to the final out.
Down 6-2 in the eighth inning, MC scored a couple runs on just one hit. Nick Mello was robbed of a hit with a nice play up the middle, but still picked up an RBI with a fielder's choice. Robbie Dallas followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-4.
A two-out walk and single got the winning run to the plate in the ninth, but the rally ended there.
"The one thing I can say, is that as many things as we did wrong, we were still just one swing away at the end," Devine said. "Hopefully our young team can gain some confidence in that and know that when we get in other tight games that we're never out of it."
FRESNO CITY 6,
MERCED COLLEGE 4
At Blue Devil Field
Jake Martinez, Hector Larranga (8), Andrew Astone (8) and Jeff Brown. Brent Backlund, Mike Nelson (5), DJ Jantz (8) and Phil Parga. WP -- Martinez 2-0. LP -- Backlund 2-1. S -- Astone (2).
FRESNO -- Jackson Glines 3-4 (2 R, RBI), Anthony Hawkins 2B (2 RBI), Anders Nelson 2B, Christian Parra 2B.
MERCED COLLEGE-- Garrett Boothe RBI, Ricky McColloch RBI, Robbie Dallas RBI.
Records: Fresno City 18-9, 12-3 CVC; Merced College 15-12, 9-6 CVC.