Keathley guides Cougars to 4-0 shutout victory in first game

Freshman right-hander Braden Keathley pitched six strong innings and Taft College got its first shutout of the season last Thursday with a 4-0 victory over West Hills College in Coalinga.

That win gave the 19th ranked Cougars the first two games of a three-game Central Valley Conference series, but the Falcons bounced back Saturday to keep from being swept, winning the finale 8-6 in Taft.

Head coach Vince Maiocco was disappointed.

“It’s one of those losses we will look back on at the end of the season and say, ‘gee, if only we could have won that one,’” he said.  “It’s probably bigger now because we had them primed for a sweep.”

Mistakes cost his team what would have been a big bounce heading into this week’s crucial series with No. 20 College of the Sequoias, which is tied for second spot in the CVC with a 7-2 record.  The Cougars are 7-5.

“We definitely took a step backward,” Maiocco said.  “But, we’ll still be motivated for our series with Sequoias.”

The series opener is being played today on the Cougars’ lot.  Game two will be Thursday in Visalia and the finale in Taft Saturday at 1 p.m.

Keathley allowed just three hits over the first six innings of Thursday’s game, striking out six and walking one.

“He normally is our Saturday starter, so he was working with a short rest,” Maiocco said.  “He threw very well, and the bullpen did a great job.”

Jose Colon, Devin Thomas and Jesus Del Rosario preserved the shutout, allowing the Falcons just two more hits over the final three innings.

Timely hitting backed up the shutout.

Darby Ventura led off the second inning with a double and rode home on Austin Christiansen’s single to give the Cougars all the offense they needed.

Ventura, Josh Dickey and Christiansen had two hits apiece to account for six of the Cougars’ eight hits.

In Saturday’s game, West Hills jumped on starter Garret Jensen early, building a 3-0 lead in the first three innings.

Dickey’s solo homerun to lead off the fourth ignited a five-run Cougar uprising.

Ventura followed with a single, moved up on a passed ball and scored on Perry Rogan’s single to the base of the fence in left center.

Three consecutive walks forced in a run, Anthony Rodriguez, who had three hits in the game, drove in a run with a single and Stefan Norman gave the Cougars the lead with a sacrifice fly.
West Hills came right back to tie it in the fifth and go ahead with two runs in the sixth.

TC couldn’t respond, leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and eighth.

Maiocco said mistakes hurt his team.

“Every time we made a mistake defensively, it killed us,” he said, citing a missed double play, missed tag on a steal, and the inability to field a ground ball cleanly and head off a potential run.
“We definitely didn’t help ourselves,” he said.