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Loss Puts Rancho Santiago in Unfamiliar Spot


SANTA ANA — Rancho Santiago spent this season on top of the state rankings and in front for the entire Orange Empire Conference baseball race.

But the outlook changed dramatically for the host Dons Friday when they lost to Riverside, 10-6, in a Southern California playoff game.

Jaeme Leal hit two home runs and Riverside (37-10) also got home runs from Chet Savage and Jake Behney. Three of the homers came off Rancho Santiago ace Matt Ward (11-2), who lost to Riverside for the second time this season.

"You can't give up nine runs on four bombs and expect to win," Rancho Santiago Coach Don Sneddon said. "Ward just didn't have his good stuff."

Rancho Santiago, which has won three of the past four state titles, starts today one loss from elimination when it plays Los Angeles Harbor at 10 a.m. at Fullerton College.

The big blow for Riverside came in the fourth when the Tigers had runners on first and second and no one out. After a sacrifice moved the runners up, Ward got Behney to ground to short for the second out.

Ward got ahead of ninth-place hitter Savage a ball and two strikes but Savage then drove the next pitch over the left-field fence for a three-run homer that put the Tigers ahead, 7-3.

It was the fifth home run this season for Savage and the second he has hit against Ward.

Ward composed himself and held Riverside in check until the seventh, when he gave up a two-out single to Bobby Kielty, bringing up Leal, who already had a home run and a single.

Sneddon removed Ward in favor of David Fausto, who didn't do any better. Leal launched a home run, his 10th of the season, over the center-field fence to give Riverside a 9-4 lead.

Cody Trask pitched a complete game to improve to 11-2. It was the third time he has beaten Rancho Santiago this season but it was hardly a breeze. Rancho Santiago had 13 hits, including four from Joe Secoda and three from Charlie Marino.

Secoda, who hit his eighth home run in the ninth, scored two runs and drove in two. Josh Reding had two doubles, drove in two and also scored twice, for Rancho Santiago.

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