Rancho Santiago College right-handers Mike Schwabe and Chris Shiflett won't be the only pitchers the Dons will count on this weekend in the state community college championship tournament at Long Beach.
Because Rancho Santiago will play at least four games, and as many as seven, in four days to win the four-day, double-elimination tournament, Schwabe (12-1 with a 1.70 earned-run average) and Shiflett (7-2 with a 3.42 ERA) are going to need some help.
Coach Don Sneddon is hoping that his second-line pitchers, right-handers Wayne Gilles and David Salcido and left-hander Mike Sanders, will make major contributions for the No. 4-seeded Dons, who open tournament play at 10 o'clock today against Central Valley champion Merced at Cal State Long Beach.
"We will really rely on the third, fourth and fifth pitchers," Sneddon said. "If we are to be successful then they (Gilles, Salcido and Sanders) will have to do a job for us."
Gilles, a sophomore who worked in 20 games, is 3-2 with three saves. He struggled most of the season but pitched well in last three appearances, including five shutout innings against Fullerton in the last week of the South Coast Conference season.
Salcido, a freshman from Esperanza High School, worked as the third starter for most season and was 4-2 with a save and a 4.12 ERA. Sanders worked as the third starter and in relief. He was 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA.
The Dons feature one the state's best hitters, sophomore first baseman Ruben Gonzalez, who is batting .457 with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs. Six other Don starters are hitting better than .300 including Dave Kirkpatrick (.353), Matt Beltran (.346) and Mitch Swalley (.345).
The Dons (31-8), who swept a two-game regional playoff series from San Bernardino Valley last weekend, are making their first state playoff appearance since 1952, when they were runner-up to Santa Rosa. Rancho Santiago finished second in the South Coast Conference to Orange Coast.
Merced is led by Central Valley Pitcher of the Year Blas Minor, who is 9-3 with three saves and 2.31 ERA.
Offensively, the Blue Devils (23-12) are paced by leadoff hitter Greg Banda, who batted .375 with 10 home runs and 13 stolen bases. Right fielder Mike Mooney led the team with 15 home runs and 38 RBIs.
In other opening-round games, No. 1-seeded San Mateo (30-7) plays San Diego Mesa (33-6) at Blair at 10 a.m., No. 2-seeded College of the Canyons (35-5) plays Butte (31-7) at 2 p.m. at Blair and No. 3-seeded Sacramento City (27-8-1) plays Long Beach City (23-12) at 7 p.m. at Blair.
The tournament continues through the weekend at Blair and Cal State Long Beach, with the championship game Monday at Blair.