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Growing pains continue for Yuba College baseball
49ers lose 10-4 to first-place Laney
The last time Yuba College's baseball team faced Laney, the 49ers pulled off their biggest win of the season.
Colusa High grad Benji Gil had everything working in that game back on March 15 in Oakland, throwing a complete-game six-hitter to lead the 49ers to a 4-2 victory over an Eagles squad that was ranked No. 5 in Northern California at the time.
The Niners could have used that win as momentum to carry them through the rest of the season — instead, they've been heading the opposite direction.
Since that win, the 49ers have dropped eight of their last 11 games, including a 10-4 loss to Laney at Gary Engelken Field in Linda on Tuesday.
Once again, a rough start doomed the 49ers as the Eagles scored four runs in the first inning and built up a 9-1 lead in the seventh inning before Yuba finally got the bats going late.
The loss was just the latest in a difficult stretch for Yuba, which has struggled with consistency all year while falling to 9-20 overall and 5-12 in the Bay Valley Conference.
"It's been frustrating. We get down early and the guys hang their heads and float through the rest of the game," said first-year 49ers coach Erick Burns. "It's not sudden death. You have to play hard every out, so mostly it's about getting the guys to fight at all times, to keep competing and to not give up."
First-place Laney (22-6, 14-3) took control of the game from the get-go by recording five straight hits in the first to knock Yuba starter Chris Stocker out of the game after one inning.
Yuba got a run back in the bottom of the first on an RBI single by Ethan McGill, but the 49ers were then held hitless over the next five innings against Laney starting pitcher Jim Ploeger and reliever Matt Greene.
"We've done a lot of losing on this field, so it was important for us to come out and play well early," said Laney coach Francisco Zapata, whose club had lost its previous three at Yuba. "I congratulated them on the win, but we can always do better. There's always room for improvement."
River Valley High product Alex Pino was solid in long relief for the 49ers, allowing five runs on seven hits over 52⁄3 innings. However, Yuba's offense didn't provide him with any run support until late in the contest.
The Niners finally came to life in the seventh when Jordan Henry bunted for an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error. East Nicolaus alum Andrew Rubalcava came through with a sacrifice fly to score one run and McGill added an RBI single to make the score 9-3.
Henry and Chris Harms both doubled in the ninth to complete the scoring for Yuba, which collected eight hits in the game.
McGill led the way by going 3 for 5 with a pair of RBIs. Henry finished 2 for 4 with a double and scored twice and Gault went 1 for 2 and scored two runs while getting hit by a pitch three times.
With the playoffs out of the picture for the 49ers, Burns wants his team come out and finish the season strong. Yuba has seven games remaining, including Thursday's contest back at Laney.
"Whether we're in a race or not, they need to play hard and work hard or I have no use for them," Burns said. "For me, it's about playing for the team and playing for the win daily.
"We all have individual goals, but we want to realize those through the success of the team."