Until Thursday afternoon, Scott Pickler, Cypress College's first-year coach, had been making all the right moves.
When he made a change in his starting lineup, went to the bullpen or decided to use a pinch-hitter, the player Pickler called on usually came through, helping Cypress to win games and its coach win praise for his skillful use of the roster.
But Thursday against Golden West, Pickler made a personnel move that backfired. He inserted Guillermo Roses into the lineup in hope of getting some extra runs, but the right fielder ended up giving away runs.
Roses, better known for his offensive skills, misplayed two balls that led to a 3-0 South Coast Conference loss to the Rustlers at Cypress.
Roses dropped a fly ball with two outs in the first inning that allowed the first two Golden West runs to score, and then he got a late jump on Todd Nash's triple in the seventh, allowing the Rustlers' final run to score.
Three runs usually isn't enough to win in this offensive-minded conference, but with John Martin and Gary Buckels pitching, three runs was plenty for Golden West. The two right-handers combined on a seven-hit shutout, Martin going seven to improve his record to 5-1 and relief ace Buckels pitching the final two to earn his sixth save.
Wasted was an equally impressive performance by Cypress left-hander Jim Bennett (5-3), who struck out nine with his tricky assortment of finesse pitches and allowed only one earned run in taking a hard-luck defeat.
"Jim Bennett deserved a lot better today," said Pickler, whose team is now 7-5 in conference and 17-9 overall. "He threw well, as well as he has this year. It's really too bad he get a loss for a game like that."
Golden West (9-4, 18-5-2), which remained two and a half games behind first-place Cerritos, was ahead, 2-0, before Cypress ever came to bat. Todd Nash led off the game with his first of three hits, an infield single. One out later, Shawn Gilbert walked and one out after that, Scott Rath lofted an easy fly to right.
Roses got under the ball and was in position to make the catch but simply dropped it. As Roses scrambled to get the ball in, Nash and Gilbert scored.
It remained 2-0 until the seventh when Golden West got its final run. With one out, Ken DeMarco drew a walk from Bennett and an out later, scored when Roses couldn't make a diving catch on Nash's long drive.
Martin, who had elbow problems in the winter, had no problems with the Chargers until the seventh, when he allowed two hits and needed Gilbert and Andy Mota to turn the Rustlers' third double play of the game to get him out of the inning.
To start the eighth, Golden West Coach Fred Hoover brought in Buckles, who was making his 21st appearance in the Rustlers' 25 games. Buckles, although he gave up two hits, was overpowering. He struck out five, including the side in the ninth.
For Hoover, it was a surprising win. His team was routed by Orange Coast Tuesday, 10-3, and he said that Golden West's practice Wednesday was one of its worst of the year.
"I didn't know what to expect today," he said. "We didn't play an emotional game, but we played well."
Meanwhile, third-place Cypress hit the low point of its season. After leaving 15 runners on base Tuesday in a 12-6 loss to Saddleback, Bennett expected his teammates to come back strongly against Golden West.
"We're all down right now," he said. "We were really pumped up before the game and felt like we were going to win. Losing this one is a big disappointment."
In other South Coast action:
Orange Coast 7, Santa Ana 6 (10 innings)--The Pirates won the game with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning when Paul Ellison singled home Fred Tuttle, who had tripled, with the winning run at Orange Coast.
Steve Kraiss led the Orange Coast attack with a three-run homer in the eighth inning. Orlando Guerra, relieving in the ninth inning, picked up the win for the Pirates. Guerra is now 3-0.
Gary Thomason led Santa Ana with two home runs, but it was not enough to overcome Orange Coast.
Orange Coast (5-8 and 9-14) is at Compton Saturday.
Fullerton 4, Saddleback 3--Rod Clark had two hits to lead the Hornets to the one-run win at Fullerton.
Starter Pat Simms, who was relieved in the eighth inning, picked up the win for Fullerton. Todd Inglehart was 3 for 5 with one RBI for Saddleback.
Saddleback (5-8 and 12-12) hosts Golden West on Tuesday.