Rancho Santiago, which fell out of sight early in the Orange Empire Conference baseball race, has climbed back near the top.
The Dons were four games out after the first six, but now are within one of the lead after a 4-2 victory over first-place Cypress Saturday at Rancho Santiago.
Kirk Irvine, a sophomore right-hander, pitched a five-hitter for Rancho Santiago, which won its fifth consecutive game. Rancho Santiago also broke a five-game losing streak against Cypress, which included the State title game last June.
"We're playing a lot better than we were," Rancho Santiago Coach Don Sneddon said. "We were able to get through our negative momentum."
Rancho Santiago scored two runs in the third on an RBI single by Ryan Fullerton and an error to go ahead, 2-0. Cypress tied it in the fifth on a two-run single by Keith Ginter.
Rancho Santiago took the lead, 3-2, on Kyle Evans' run-scoring triple in the fifth. Fullerton added an RBI single to drive in David Mallas for the final run in the seventh. Mallas, the eighth-place hitter, reached on a walk and was hit by a pitch and scored both times.
Brian Carlson, the ninth batter, also scored two runs for Rancho Santiago, which won the State title in 1993.
Irvine, who pitched a no-hitter earlier this season, was in command much of the way. He retired the final seven, but also was helped out by his defense. Shortstop Tony Zuniga made a diving catch of a soft liner just on the outfield grass for the second out in the ninth.
Left fielder Chad Henderson made a diving catch of a sinking liner to start the seventh for Rancho Santiago.
Peter Lythgoe (2-4) gave up seven hits and four runs, two earned, but took the loss for Cypress (22-6, 9-4), which plays host to Rancho Santiago at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"It's an important game but not a must-win for us," Cypress Coach Scott Pickler said. "I still think the race is going to come down to the final two weeks. But the real key is just making the playoffs."