Rain postponed Sunday's community college baseball state tournament final between Cerritos College and College of the Canyons, but it was still something of a defeat for the Falcons.
While Cerritos had John Rodriguez (7-1) and Dave Serrano (12-1) ready to pitch Sunday at Fresno's John Euless Park, Canyons had exhausted its pitching staff in order to advance to the final of the double-elimination tournament via the losers' bracket.
Three days off have given the Canyons' staff plenty of time to rest for the rescheduled game at noon today at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Field.
George Horton, Cerritos' first-year coach, knew that any delay would help Canyons more than Cerritos. After officials announced the rainout, Horton was only half kidding when he suggested that his team should be awarded the state title because it was undefeated in the tournament.
"There is no doubt the rainout was to Canyons' advantage," Horton said. "We were all ready to play Sunday, and it was a letdown for us not to play. "We had a bad, lackluster practice (Monday), but you really couldn't blame the kids. I'm supposed to motivate them, and I wasn't motivated myself."
Said Canyons Coach Mike Gillespie: "Obviously, it is a big break for us to let our pitchers recover. I think it's going to make for better baseball."
Still, Cerritos (38-5) will be favored to win its seventh state championship. Since the South Coast Conference champion Falcons did not lose at Fresno, they will need to beat Canyons only once to win the tournament.
The Mountain Valley Conference champion Cougars (31-14) lost to Cerritos, 5-4, Friday, and will have to beat Cerritos twice today to win their third state title in five years. If Canyons wins the noon game, a second game would be played 30 minutes after the final out.
Including Friday's come-from-behind win, Cerritos has defeated Canyons three straight times this season to gain a 3-1 edge in the season series.
"They're going to have to beat our aces, and if they do, they deserve the state championship," Horton said.
"But if we play well, and get out of our pitchers what we normally do, then we should win."
Horton plans to start left-hander Rodriguez, who had some control problems over the last month of the regular season. Right-hander Serrano, who has all Cerritos' wins over the exclusively right-hand hitting Cougars, will most likely remain on-call in he bullpen.
Left-hander Al Osuna (11-1), who beat Laney, 4-0, on four hits in a semifinal game Saturday, will be available to start the second game for Cerritos since the rainout has given him time to rest.
Gillespie will start right-hander Frank Halcovich (8-4), who allowed three runs to Cerritos in 7 innings Friday. Halcovich was the winning pitcher in Canyons' only victory over Cerritos, 14-7 decision in March.
Left-handers Chris Pollack (8-2) and Mark Titchener (6-2) and right-hander Greg Mayer (4-1) will be available for relief or to start a second game, if necessary.
Gillespie is also pleased with the way his team has fought adversity in the postseason. Canyons lost the first game of its regional playoff series against Long Beach City, but rallied to win.
Then, after blowing a late 4-1 lead to Cerritos, Canyons eliminated Sacramento City, 11-3, Saturday afternoon and then eliminated Laney, 7-3, Saturday night in loser's bracket games.
Rocco Buffolino, who hadn't pitched since March, was the winner against Sacramento City and Mayer, who hadn't pitched longer than six innings all year, went nine innings to beat Laney.
Cerritos had problems hitting at Fresno, especially Ron Ewart and Scott Wilkinson, who are a combined 1 for 23 in the tournament. Canyons' top hitters have been more impressive. Halcovich is 9 for 17 with two home runs and 12 RBIs, and Bill Bluhm, Don Erickson and Chris Hernandez each have eight hits.