No. 9 Story of the Year - Baseball team pushes for the playoffs

No. 9 Story of the Year - Baseball team pushes for the playoffs

In leading up to the start of the 2017-18 athletics campaign at Irvine Valley, which starts on Aug. 23 with the women's volleyball team hosting Citrus, the Laser athletic department will count down the top 10 IVC sports stories from the 2016-17 school year.

The No. 9 story on the list was the Irvine Valley baseball team scrapping to make the playoffs. The Lasers earned a spot in the California Community College Athletics Association Baseball Championships with a win over the second-ranked team in the state, Orange Coast, in their final game of the regular season. IVC beat the Pirates, 5-3, in an Orange Empire Conference game at home on Apr. 25.

Sophomore pitcher John Stevens was on from the start on the mound for IVC.

He ended up going the distance, throwing his second complete game of the season. Stevens gave up three runs (two earned) on eight hits and he changed speeds well to get nine strikeouts.

Stevens ended the regular season with a 5-5 record with four saves. He pitched a team-high 92.0 innings, allowing just 81 hits and striking out 60. He had a 3.03 ERA, which was third best on the squad.

IVC handed OCC pitcher McKinley LeFore his first loss of the season. LeFore (8-1) went three innings and gave up four runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

Irvine Valley took the early lead, scoring a run in the first on a RBI single by sophomore right fielder Cole Joy. Joy ended up hitting a team-high .371 for the Lasers during the regular season.

IVC added two runs in the bottom of the second inning on a two-run double by freshman catcher Ryan Gaynor to go up, 3-0.

And in the bottom of the third inning, the Lasers extended their lead. Sophomore designated hitter Robbie Espinosa hit an RBI single through the left side of the infield to score Joy.

It was 5-0 Irvine Valley in the bottom of the fourth inning after IVC scored on an Orange Coast throwing error.

The Lasers closed out the game in the top of the ninth after a fine leaping catch by freshman second baseman Colin Conroy on a hard hit line drive with runners on.

Irvine Valley had eight hits on the day. Sophomore first baseman Tyler Wagner went 3 for 4 with a run scored and Joy was 2 for 3 with a run scored, a double and an RBI.

The Lasers weren't done however. They went into the playoffs as the No. 18 seed and won an elimination game, 11-2, over No. 15 Chaffey on the road.

IVC put up eight runs in the fourth inning, 14 hits for the game and got a standout performance on the mound from sophomore right-hander Austin Reynolds in the win over Chaffey, which finished in second place in the South Coast Conference-North Division.

Chaffey finished the season with a record of 24-17 overall.

Irvine Valley improved its record to 19-22 overall.

And Reynolds moved to 5-5 on the season after throwing seven innings and giving up just one run on seven hits and one walk. He had eight strikeouts.

Freshman Rafael Salas threw the final two innings and gave up a run on three hits.

The game was scoreless until the top of the fourth inning when IVC scored eight runs.

Wagner finished with five RBI in the contest. He went 3 for 5 with a double and two runs scored.

Gaynor was 3 for 4 with a double, a walk, a double, one run scored and one RBI.

Odekirk was 2 for 5 with a runs scored and one RBI, Joy went 2 for 4 with a walk and two runs scored and Conroy went 1 for 5 with a run scored and two RBI for the Lasers.

Irvine Valley fell in a regional to No. 2 Grossmont the following weekend, but the Lasers still had an end of the season to remember.

Joy, Stevens and Odekirk earned all-conference honors. Joy was named first team and Stevens and Odekirk were named second team. A number of players also signed with four-year schools, including Joy with NCAA Division 1 Long Beach State and Odekirk with Division 1 University of San Diego.

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