It's beginning to feel like a cruel version of "Groundhog Day" for Chris Pedretti and his Merced College baseball team.
At least when it plays Fresno City.
For the third time in four meetings this season, the Blue Devils held a lead late -- just to watch it slip away.
Thursday evening was probably the cruelest loss of them all.
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Bryan Abrey's run-scoring single staked MC to a 5-2 lead with three innings to go.
But the Blue Devils' staff self-destructed in the seventh.
Fresno City loaded the bases with three consecutive singles and then took the lead on four consecutive walks.
The Rams tacked on two more runs in the eighth for a 8-5 victory, all but eliminating MC (14-5 CVC, 27-9) from Central Valley Conference title contention.
Fresno City (17-2 CVC, 31-8) holds a three-game edge with five games remaining on both teams' schedules.
"We wanted to take one, knowing we can beat these guys," Abrey said. "Especially with all of the games being so close, we just haven't been able to close them out."
This time around the onus falls on the bullpen.
MC starter Brock Floro exited the game allowing two runs in five-plus innings, but Fresno opened the seventh with seven consecutive batters reaching base safely.
"We had a meltdown on the mound for the first time this year," Pedretti said. "We've been able to consistently throw strikes ...
"Just not today."