Jackson Hickert saved his best for last. The Ventura College sophomore pitched a masterpiece in Game 2 of the Pirates CCCAA Southern California Regional against Long Beach, throwing an eight-hit complete game shutout over the Vikings to propel Ventura (26-17) into a third and decisive game in the series. Unfortunately, the Pirates broke down at the end of Game 3, giving up seven runs over the final two innings to drop a 12-3 decision, sending the Vikings into the next round of the playoffs.
VC faced a must-win situation in the first game of the twin bill, looking to extend the series the distance. Hickert was exceptional, scattering eight hits in the complete game victory. He twice worked out of a two-on, one-out jam, and also retired the side in the eighth inning facing two-on with two outs. He had seven strikeouts on the day.
The Pirates, who were playing as the "visiting" team in Game 2, took the lead in the top of the second. Baylor Tovar led off with a single, then went to second on Ethan Balolong's sacrifice bunt. Riley Langerman followed with an RBI single and Ventura led 1-0.
The game stayed that way until Ventura broke things open in the seventh. Hunter Klingelhoffer and TJ Foreman led off the frame with singles, then Gabe Baldovino walked to load the bases. After a pitching change, AJ Medrano hit a single then moved forward two bases on a LBCC error, Three runs scored on the play. Chittenden followed with a sacrifice fly to score Medrano and the Pirates led 5-0.
That was all the margin Ventura needed to close out the Vikings 5-0, forcing a decisive Game 3.
Foreman le dthe way with three hits and a run scored while Medrano totaled a pair of hits with a run scored and an RBI.
In the winner-take-all Game 3, Ventura gave up a run in the first inning to fall behind early. Zane Chittenden settled in on the mound until the top of the fourth when the Vikings scored four more runs to make it a 5-0 game. The Pirates, who stranded baserunners all afternoon, finally broke through with three runs in the bottom of the fifth.
VC left two runners n base in the sixth inning, but Jacob Martinez, who came on in relief, kept the game close by shutting down the Vikings.
The score remained 5-3 until the top of the eighth, when the Vikings plated another two runs to open up some breathing room. VC seemed to run out of gas down the stretch as they yielded another five runs in the top of the ninth to set the final 12-3 margin.
With the loss in Game 3, the Pirates saw their season come to a close. VC ended the year with a 26-17 record overall. They shared the Western State Conference title, winning the crown for the first time since 2006. VC also made the post-season for the first time in a decade, and they hosted their first ever regional playoff series at Pirate Park. Despite Saturday's loss, it was a solid season for the Pirates as they made great strides under second-year head coach Jimmy Walker, looking forward to more progress in 2020.