Chaffey gets by SBVC 8-3

With the college baseball season coming to a close in less than two weeks and four teams fighting for first place in the Foothill Conference, it was understandable if things were a bit tense as Chaffey and San Bernardino Valley College squared off on Thursday.

The biggest explosion came in the first inning, but things settled down after that and the Panthers emerged with an 8-3 win over the Wolverines. The two teams meet again Saturday in a doubleheader at Chaffey starting at noon.

“This was big to win the first game,” Chaffey coach Jeff Harlow said. “It’s easier to lose two than win two, so the first game is huge, especially coming here and winning.”

The Panthers (26-11, 16-3) came out of the gates strong, scoring in the first frame when Gerry Hernandez singled home Chris Lemus. But then came the fireworks.

Hernandez rounded first after the hit and was tagged out by SBVC first baseman Chris Sautia. Umpire Bill Barnes originally ruled Hernandez safe, which upset SBVC coach

Bill Mierzwik, who came out to argue. After the umpires conferred, Hernandez was called out, which set off Harlow and led to a heated altercation between the coach and umpire.

Harlow admitted he was surprised he wasn’t tossed, but said the umpire bumped him first, and Mierzwik said he had planned to get tossed if the call wasn’t changed in his favor.

Chaffey broke the game open, going up 4-2 on a towering home run by Willie Holmes in the seventh inning off starter Kevin Ryan. SBVC (22-15, 13-6) crept back, though, with an unearned run in the seventh to make it 4-3, but the  Panthers put the game away with four runs in the eighth, aided by two Wolverine errors.

That was more than enough for Chaffey’s Colby Gurney (10-0), who scattered seven hits, struck out eight and gave up three runs before getting relief help in the ninth from Derrick Duran.

Catcher Nick Hartman had three of Chaffey’s 11 hits. Holmes and Christopher Haas had two each. SBVC got three hits and two RBIs from sophomore third baseman James Frederick, and Evan Erickson had two hits.

“We have won the games we’re supposed to win, but when it comes to playing the better teams, we haven’t put all three facets of the game together,” Mierzwik said. “We have to do that, because they’re a good team.”