Five strong innings from freshman southpaw Drew D'Ambra set the tone for the Tigers in an Orange Empire Conference (OEC) showdown against the Saddleback College Gauchos on Thursday night. However, the outing was nearly spoiled by a four spot etched by the Gauchos in the sixth inning. Nevertheless, Riverside's formidable offense remained in attack mode down the stretch leading to an 8-6 victory.
D'Ambra, who earned his first-career start for the Tigers, climbed the bump and settled in immediately. He began his outing by punching out the side in order leading to retiring the first eight batters in a row. He allowed a mere run in the bottom of the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly, but that was all the damage he allowed. He received some help from his defense in his final frame with freshman catcher Steve Ramirez gunning down a base runner at second base on an attempted steal.
Offensively, Riverside rung early with a two spot in the second and third innings. In the top of the second inning, the Tigers strung together a two-out rally beginning with freshman second baseman Alex Moreno cracking a two-out RBI-double to right field, plating sophomore left fielder Joseph Hodapp. Freshman third baseman Matthew Ivancich singled to right center, scoring Moreno.
Freshman right fielder Ulises Caballero continued the scoring trend in the top of the fourth inning by blasting his second round-tripper of the season. Hodapp followed several batters later with a sacrifice fly out to right field, scoring Ramirez, for a 4-0 advantage.
The wheels fell off for Riverside in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings with Saddleback scoring a combined five runs, bringing the score to six-all entering into the final frame. However, a Riverside two spot in the top of the ninth due in part to multiple Gaucho miscues lead the Tigers to an 8-6 triumph.
D'Ambra earned the no decision after a strong performance on the bump. He fanned eight batters and allowed just one run off two hits. Freshman reliever Marquise Johnson threw the final 3.1 innings and shoved by allowing just one hit and striking out four. He earned his first-career win.
Ivancich continued his hot hitting by going 3-for-5 with two RBI on the day. In this series, he is a combined 5-for-7 with four RBI. Sophomore shortstop Matthew Happ went 2-for-4 with a run scored, while Moreno clocked in a 2-for-5 day with an RBI and two runs scored.
Riverside (20-5, 7-1 OEC) will look to sweep the series against Saddleback at home on Friday, March 22 at 2 p.m. Follow live stats at www.rccathletics.com.