It was the ninth inning. The bases were loaded with the tying run at the plate and two out.
Lefty hitter Bryce Marcoullier put a charge into a fly ball to right, and Cuesta College’s baseball season — thus far a steep exchange of exhilarating rises and gut-wrenching drops — saw its g-force finally return to normal.
The ride was over.
Marcoullier’s fly was tracked down by Cypress College outfielder Jonathan Torres for the final out of a 13-9 Chargers victory, the clincher of a 2-0 Southern California Regional first-round series sweep.
“You dream about those moments, and you think about those when you’re in the cage and when you’re going to bed and everything like that,” Cougars third baseman Chris Lindmark said. “You want to be up there bases loaded, two outs.”
Waiting on deck during the final out, Lindmark didn’t get the chance to replicate the two-run home run he had hit the previous inning. He shared a feeling that permeated the entire Cuesta dugout when the finality hit: The Cougars were close Sunday but never close enough.
Looking to force a third game, Cuesta (23-15) took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Cypress (24-14) tied the score with one run in the bottom half then rallied for six more in the third.
Cuesta cut the score to 8-6 with a three-run rally in the fifth, but after errors credited to Lindmark and shortstop Josh Miller with one out in the bottom half, the Chargers scored three more and kept the Cougars at arm’s length until the final bases-loaded chance.
“It’s always tough when you feel like you’re chasing a never-ending trail,” Cougars second baseman Alex Detz said. “You get a couple and then they get a couple, but no one’s giving up. It’s tough, but I felt like we battled, and it just makes everyone want to compete more.”
The entire Cuesta team would like to compete when Cypress goes to next week’s Super Regional round. Detz, a former Mission Prep standout, will have to wait until he lands at Mississippi State next season.
When Detz signed with the Bulldogs two weeks ago, the Cougars were unsure whether they’d even make it into the playoffs.
After a four-game losing streak to start the season, Cuesta looked dominant while amassing a 9-1 Western State Conference-North record, part of a 17-game winning streak that followed the initial losses.
But from that point on, the Cougars dropped 10 of the last 15 games and only squeaked into the postseason with a 10-8 victory at Ventura in a regular-season finale that ended a three-game losing streak.
Overall, the season featured a range of emotions, but in the end, it’s one 10th-year head coach Bob Miller was happy with.
“I’m proud of the effort we put forth,” Miller said. “In that 17-game winning streak, we put forth a good effort, and we’ve put forth a good effort since then. Winning is not easy. We don’t take that for granted, and the consistency we’ve had in the program, we’re proud of that. That’s a lot of hard work for the players, and we’re proud of that.”
Detz was 3 for 5 with a run and an RBI. Lindmark was 1 for 3 with three runs and two RBI. Cody Lavalli and Marcoullier were each 2 for 5, and LaBronze Sanderson was 3 for 4 with two RBI.
The Cougars matched Cypress’s 14 hits, but the Chargers only struck out three times on the day, eight times in the series, and came through with runners in scoring position, racking up seven run-scoring singles.
“They were tough to get out,” Lindmark said. “Pitchers would get them 0-2, and they would foul pitches off and either get hits or walks. They did that better than us this weekend, and they played better defense than us.”
Said Detz: “It would have been fun to make a run, but I’ll probably remember the guys and the streak. That was really fun. I wish we could have kept that going and played better baseball at end of the season.”