Philip George / Roundup
Riding the golden arm and scorching bat of Nick Rodarte, the Brahmas extended their winning streak to a season-long three games and dealt Valley College its first home loss of the season as they stole Saturday’s game in come-from-behind fashion, 7-4.
Rodarte took the mound for Pierce College and turned in a masterful seven and two-thirds innings, allowing three runs (one earned) and striking out four. On offense, freshman phenom amassed four hits and two RBI.
“[Rodarte] was phenomenal,” said head coach Joe Arnold. “We knew, coming in, he was a talented kid. We knew he was going to pitch well and we knew he was a hitter in high school, but we didn’t know what it was going to be at this level or how we were going to be able to get his bat in the lineup and pitch.
“I asked him last week how he handles pitching and hitting and his response was ‘When I do both, I do both better.'”
Rodarte kicked off the scoring for the Brahmas, cashing in James Wharton with an RBI single in the first inning, but ran into trouble in the second as third baseman Cole McCune’s failure to turn a double play in the second resulted in two unearned runs, pitting the Brahmas in a 2-1 hole.
“I never try and put anything on my defense,” said Rodarte, shaking off his teammate’s miscue. “I try and let them know that I’m behind them as much as they’re behind me. I knew we were going to score some more runs so it didn’t bother me that much.”
Down, 3-1, in the top of the sixth inning, Pierce broke through behind center-fielder Jason Barmasse.
“RBI double. Count it. Mark it down,” the outspoken sophomore remembered calling his shot prior to his at-bat. “It was coming no matter what.”
Given a chance to deliver on his promise, Barmasse stepped to the plate with Rodarte and Josh Reece aboard and chased both of them home with a double.
“I needed a big hit,” said Barmasse. “I hadn’t gotten one in a couple of games. It’s a confidence booster. We were down, 3-1, all the way through the sixth and we needed some runs. It wasn’t so much for me as it was a big pick-up for the team.”
Shortstop David Whetstone helped to preserve the tie in the home half of the frame with a sparkling play at shortstop. With runners at the corners and two away, Valley’s Francisco Herrera laced a sharp ground ball up the middle. Whetstone snared the ball on a dive and shoveled to second baseman Matt Faigh for the third out of the inning.
“Right before the play, I was actually thinking it was going to be a play up the middle,” recalled Whetstone. “[It was] instinct. The dude who was hitting had hit it up the middle the time before. Before the play happened, I took two or three deep breaths, laid out and got the dude at second.”
Pierce capitalized on Whetstone’s heroics in the seventh. Still locked in a 3-3 tie, Arnold elected to replace struggling catcher Ryan Gasporra (0-3 on the day) with pinch-hitter Will Myrick to face lefty reliever Joey Gerig with two men on.
“I looked at the stats last week and saw that [Myrick] was hitting over .300 against left-handed pitching,” said Arnold. “To me, it was a good matchup. Gasporra had been struggling, they brought the lefty in but my debate was whether I put [Sean] Spear in to bunt or do I let Will take his hacks and try to drive the gap.”
The Brahmas RBI leader a season ago did not let Arnold down, singling to right center to bring in Faigh with the go-ahead run.
“I was just trying to wait for a fastball and not chase anything down or low and basically just try to take a line drive to the right side and get both the runs home,” said Myrick. “Only one of them scored but that was good enough for the lead.”
The rest of the offense picked up where Myrick left off, scoring two more runs in the frame to lead by a comfortable margin, 6-3. Rodarte capped his breakout day with an RBI double in the ninth.
Saturday’s win coupled with Bakersfield College t1:placetype>’s loss to West Los Angeles College give the Brahmas a share of first place with Bakersfield and Citrus College. Each have a record of 5-3 in conference play, but Citrus holds the overall record tiebreaker with an 11-5 mark. Pierce’s record stands at 8-8 and Bakersfield’s at 7-10.
The Brahmas host West LA Tuesday at 2 p.m.