Four Bulldogs collected multiple hits, including three from Chad Jones, but the Allan Hancock College baseball team dropped a 12-4 Western State Conference game at Cuesta College on Tuesday afternoon. The Bulldogs, who had a chance this week to win the program's first conference title since 2001, fell to 10-9 in conference and 21-18 overall. The Cougars improved to 9-10 in league and 20-17 on the year.
With one game remaining, Hancock entered a three-way tie for third place with Santa Barbara City College and Ventura College. Ventura defeated SBCC 9-7 on Thursday. Moorpark clinched the outright conference championship, the program's first since 2012, with a 7-0 victory against Oxnard to improve to 12-7 in league.
The Bulldogs struck first at Cuesta in the third inning. Daniel Curiel and Jake Shusterich delivered RBI-singles against Cuesta ace Johnny Wiltfang. The Cougars answered in the bottom of the fourth with two home runs that accounted for three runs against Hancock starting pitcher Zach Torra. The Cougars added another run in the fifth to build a 4-2 advantage.
Hancock evened the score at 4-4 by scoring twice with two outs in the sixth inning. Cordell Bowie, who had led off with a double, scored on a wild pitch. Jones singled home Brendan Gomez, who walked earlier in the inning.
Cuesta went to work against the Hancock bullpen the rest of the way, scoring twice in the sixth, and three times in both the seventh and eighth innings.
Hancock finished with 11 hits. Dylan Maiden, Curiel and Shusterich had two hits apiece. Jones finished 3-for-4 with one RBI. All four stole one base.
The Bulldogs made four errors in the field, three of them contributed to Cuesta runs.
Torra earned a no-decision after allowing eight hits, four runs, while walking one and striking out two in five innings. Phillip Martin took the loss after allowing five runs, three of them earned, and two hits over one-plus inning of relief. Phil Almanza was charged with one run in one-third of an inning, while Maiden allowed two runs in 2/3 of an inning.
Cuesta finished with 14 hits. Left fielder Alec Smith went 4-for-5 with an RBI. Nik Pagan, Tyson Delkener and Zack Berohn homered for the Cougars. Delkener and Pagan finished with 3 RBI apiece.
The Western State Conference's North Division is guaranteed two spots in the regional playoffs. Additional teams could make the postseason as at-large berths. The muddled playoff picture will clear up on Thursday when the Bulldogs host Cuesta at 2:30 p.m. That same day, Ventura plays at Santa Barbara City College. Moorpark, the outright conference champion, has secured the No. 1 slot. The second one will be decided on the final day of the regular season. The Bulldogs must beat the Cougars to secure a tie for second with either Ventura or SBCC. Hancock holds the edge with Ventura and SBCC for the conference's No. 2 slot for the postseason. The Bulldogs went 4-0 against the Pirates this season to win the tiebreak if the two teams tie for second. Hancock and SBCC split their four games, but the Bulldogs own the higher Rating Percentage Index (RPI), which takes into account a team's wins, losses and strength of schedule.
The regional playoff brackets will be released on Sunday, April 29.