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VU rolls to open season

Five Lions pitchers blank La Sierra on two hits, while hosts display offensive balance in win.

January 25, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — Coming off a 34-20 season in which the Vanguard University baseball team was at various times, 15-1, 19-2 and 25-5, the bar has been raised for Coach Ralph Grajeda's Lions.

But it took all of one game to equal the biggest margin of victory achieved by the 2010 unit, as Vanguard trounced visiting La Sierra, 15-0, in the nonconference season opener Tuesday.

Only once did last year's Lions produce a 15-run win, in a Feb. 20 shutout at home against Bethany College.

This time, Vanguard, which made its first NAIA Tournament appearance since 1985 last spring, banged out 13 hits while its five pitchers limited the Golden Eagles to two hits.

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La Sierra, which went 4-15 in a limited schedule last season and has no seniors, just three juniors and 14 freshmen on a 20-player roster heading into this season's 25-game slate, had only one runner get past second base.

Senior center fielder Brandon Young went three for four to pace the Lions hitters. He was one of five Vanguard batsmen to drive in at least two runs.

First baseman Kyle Hardman, a senior transfer from Northern Colorado playing his first game for Vanguard, was two for four with three runs batted in for the winners.

Sophomore third baseman Bryce Arroyo went two for four with two RBIs and sparkled defensively for Vanguard, for which Jeremiah Mejia, a senior transfer from Oral Roberts, went two for five with two RBIs in his Vanguard debut.

Junior starter Gabe Garcia recorded four of the Lions' 11 strikeouts in three hitless innings to earn the win in his Vanguard debut. The transfer from Cypress Community College worked out of the only real jam created by La Sierra, which included the only Lions' error.

After a walk and an errant throw on a sacrifice bunt attempt, a successful sacrifice put runners on second and third with one out in the La Sierra second. But Garcia struck out the next hitter and ended the inning on a groundout.

Senior Corey Kohnke struck out five in three innings, allowing one hit, and earning praise from Grajeda.

"Pitching coach Jerry Spradlin [a former major leaguer in his first season at Vanguard] has fixed his arm slot and has him throwing downhill," Grajeda said. "[Kohnke] scuffled for us last year, but I was really impressed with him today."

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