The Merced Volunteers had their six-game winning streak snapped with a 7-3 loss to the Valley Bears on Wednesday night at Merced College.
The Bears, a team made up of college players, scored two runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings to open a four-run lead. The Volunteers left the bases loaded in the seventh and eighth innings.
“We didn’t get good pitches to hit,” said Merced coach Rollo Adams, whose team fell to 23-12 after splitting a two-game series against the Bears this week. “We went out of the zone and when their guy threw it over the plate we took the pitch.”
The Volunteers came into Wednesday’s game after scoring 65 runs in their previous six games, including an 8-5 win over the Bears on Tuesday.
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The Volunteers cranked out 15 hits in that win. Lawrence Anderson and Brent Brewer had three hits apiece. Christian Witt, Josh May and Clayton Hall each had two hits.
However, Bears starter Benny Apolinar and reliever Chase Campolindo limited Merced to just three runs on six hits in the second game.
May gave the Volunteers an early lead in Wednesday’s game with a solo home run over the right-field fence in the first inning.
The Bears answered with an unearned run in the second inning when Gabe Corona scored on an errant throw by Jacob Alarcon, who was trying to complete a double play.
The Volunteers got six quality innings from right-hander Efrain Del Rio. The two-time Sun-Star Player of the Year while at Dos Palos High struck out seven and allowed four hits and three walks. He left with the Volunteers trailing 3-2, but two of the runs were unearned.
“That’s his second consecutive start where he’s pitched well,” Adams said. “His conditioning is a little better. He’s gone right around the 90-pitch count in both games and said he’s felt good.”
Christian Witt continues his hot hitting. The soon-to-be senior at Buhach Colony led off the fourth inning with a triple to right-center field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Josh Penrod. Witt has 17 hits in his last 27 at-bats.
The Bears broke the game open as Levi Zosky hit a two-run single off of Austin Hickman in the seventh inning to extend the lead to 5-2.
After the Volunteers cut the lead to 5-3 when Kobe Nguyen drew a bases loaded walk in the eighth, the Bears answered with two more runs in the ninth as Zosky drove in a run with a double and Corona followed with an RBI single.
“This will definitely prep us for the postseason,” May said. “That last guy was throwing pretty dang hard. We need this to get ready for Yountville. I like where we’re at. ... It would be nice to be on another winning streak going into Yountville.”
The Volunteers will play one more game on Sunday, facing the Atwater Aviators at Memorial Ballpark at 7 p.m., before beginning a three-game series against the Stockton Mets at San Joaquin Delta College next weekend for the Area 3 championship and a berth in the American Legion State Tournament in Yountville.
“I feel good about our club,” Adams said. “There are a few things we need to tighten up defensively. Coming out of this stretch of playing a lot of games these past few weeks, some of our kids are tired. They need to learn to grind their way through it. They’ll get some time off this next week and we’ll be ready to start the area playoffs.”