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GCC takes championship

Baseball: Conference crown is Vaqueros first since 2002.

April 29, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com

GLENDALE — With control of its own destiny and championship proposition, Glendale Community College's baseball team rose to its opportunity in every imaginable facet of the game.

Supplemented by flawless defense, the Vaqueros were privy to yet another stellar pitching performance, while their offense was ignited by Sean Spear before visiting Bakersfield's hopes were doused by Sako Chapjian.

It all concluded with every member of the GCC ballclub celebrating upon the Stengel Field infield after a resounding 8-2 win over Bakersfield on Thursday afternoon bestowed the Vaqueros with their first Western State Conference South Division title since 2002.

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"It's huge. I just really wanted to win it," said Chapjian, who blasted a seventh-inning grand slam over the left-field fence that brought the Vaqueros' lead from a precarious one-run advantage to a 7-2 benefit. "We knew we had the capability. It's just huge for the team."

While Chapjian's home run put the Vaqueros ahead for good, it was the dramatics of Spear that turned the game for GCC in the sixth when the sophomore tripled home a run for a 2-1 lead before scoring on a brilliant squeeze play from former Burroughs High standout John Schwer to score what would stand as the game-winning run.

"It just takes one for that momentum to change — I think that's what happened in that inning," said Spear, who had two of his team's nine hits. "The squeeze itself was such a momentum builder."

Not long after the Vaqueros' triumph clinched them a share of the division title, Citrus defeated L.A. Pierce, 12-2, giving Glendale the outright championship as it heads into next week's regional postseason, with pairings set to be released on Sunday.

"I couldn't be happier for our kids," said Vaqueros Coach Chris Cicuto, whose team improved to 23-13 overall and 13-8 in conference, while Bakersfield fell to 20-16, 11-10. "They've dealt with a lot of adversity, injuries, players leaving, players coming back. … It's a true testament to the character of this team."

All season long, a true testament to the Vaqueros' surge into the role of conference contender and eventual champion has been its pitching staff. On the heels of a shutout performance from Ryan Sherriff in a crucial Tuesday win over Bakersfield, starter Nick Woodward, John La and Michael Noteware combined to hold the Renegades to just two runs and five hits.

"Our pitching staff is one of the top, I think, around," Cicuto said. "We're real confident with our bullpen."

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