Jaguars scratching toward the playoffs

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ON A ROLL — Pitcher Juwan McCray throws heat in the second game of the double-header against Victor Valley College.
Photo by David McVicker/Staff

Baseball coach Jerry Bartow refuses to act his age and his 2013 Jaguars refuse to lose.
Strong defense and clutch hitting, two things that were missing last year, has the septuagenarian Bartow making like a 20-year-old and busting out his headfirst “victory” slide into home, much to the delight of the fans and horror of his older friends.
It is early in the season, but Southwestern (11-4), is already thinking playoffs. Bartow’s dirty uniform is proof of that.
SWC notched its 11th win of the season after an 18-3 conquest of San Diego City College. Catcher Cody Sos led the way offensively, driving in six RBI as the Jags moved to a 4-0 start in the division standings.
Sos has been key to the success, leading the team with three homeruns and 16 RBI this season. He said nothing begats winning like winning.
“It’s obviously a confidence booster, when we’re playing good, it makes us excited to keep on going out and winning games,” said Sos.
The Jags are riding a four game winning streak after victories over Palomar, San Diego Mesa and Imperial Valley. SWC crushed Imperial Valley, with eight Jags driving in runs in a 15-2 rout. They followed with an 8-0 victory against San Diego Mesa, but their rival Palomar would not go down without a fight.
In an emotionally charged game, Palomar stole the lead and momentum in the sixth inning, scoring five runs to make it 7-4. The Jags roared right back with five runs of their own in the bottom of the inning to regain the lead for good.
Outfielder Justin DiStefano drove in a run to take an 8-7 lead, and then Sos capped off the comeback with an insurance run as the Jags held on for an exciting 9-8 win. Kiki Medina got the win on the mound, but it was the bats that carried the day. DiStefano and third baseman Hector Montes combined for five RBI for a Jags offense that has averaged an impressive seven runs a game so far this season.
Pitching ruled when the Jags defeated Cerro Coso twice, 2-0 and 11-3. Agustin Lopez threw eight scoreless innings and allowed just four hits in a dominant game one performance. He had nine strikeouts and holds a 4-1 record in 6 starts this season.
In the second game, Cerro Coso’s pitchers lost their control. They threw six wild pitches and walked two batters as the Jags scored nine runs in one inning to take an 11-1 lead.
They rolled off six wins in a row before suffering their first loss to Chaffey College in extra innings, 6-4. SWC rallied from a 4-1 deficit to tie it up, but Chaffey scored two runs in the 10th to end the game.
The Jags followed with their first home loss of the season against East Los Angeles, 6-2. Ample scoring opportunities were missed, leaving five runners on base and not scoring until the final inning. Despite the losses, Montes remained upbeat.
“There’s a lot of things we need to work on, but we’re off to a good start,” he said.
Victor Valley gave SWC a handful as well, but this time Montes refused to let his team lose. Locked in a 3-3 struggle in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and a runner on third, Montes smacked the ball past the defense for the game-winning run and a 4-3 victory. Montes rounded for home only to be mobbed by his teammates as they celebrated the big win.
Montes said he loves to hit when the game is on the line.
“Ever since I was little I loved being under pressure,” he said. “Things slow down for me. I was just waiting for a fastball.”
The Jags found themselves down in their second Victory Valley matchup, until outfielder Victor Serna tied it up 4-4 on a fielder’s choice. Later that inning, Sos broke the game open with a two-run single that made it 6-4. The defense did the rest as Lopez pitched six scoreless innings to close it out, 9-4.
When Lopez isn’t frustrating batters on the mound, he’s an everyday starter at first base that continues to find ways to help the team win.
The Jags overpowered Chaffey College after Lopez smacked a two-run homerun just over the left field wall to breakup a scoreless game.
“It was my favorite pitch, an inside fastball,” he said. “I had a feeling it was gone, but I didn’t know because the field is so far.”
SWC went on to a 5-0 victory thanks to great pitching by Kiki Medina, who was named Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Athlete of the Week for his complete game, four-hit shutout.
Only Sos, Medina and DiStefano returned from last season’s talented but turbulent team that won 21 games, but a great freshman class has the Jags clawing for a PCAC division title.

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