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Lions remain on roll

Men's Basketball

Three unearned runs help Vanguard open GSAC play with a win to go 5-0 this season.

January 31, 2014

The Vanguard University baseball team is off to a 5-0 start and second-year coach Rob Pegg said the Lions' willingness to play for each other is one big reason why.

But the Lions' fifth victory, a 3-2 triumph over Arizona Christian in Vanguard's Golden State Athletic Conference opener on Friday, was due in large part to the visiting Firestorm's willingness to also play for the Lions.

Arizona Christian (1-3 overall and in conference) committed three costly errors that led to three unearned runs to give Vanguard pitchers Eddie Rivera and Marshall McKinnon just enough to keep the Lions unbeaten.

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Rivera, a senior transfer from Saint Catherine College in Kentucky, by way of Fullerton Community College, did most of the heavy lifting for the hosts. He allowed seven hits in 7 2/3 innings, striking out six and walking two to earn his first win as a Lion.

Rivera showed toughness by leaving a leadoff triple stranded in the second inning and escaping unscathed in the fourth, when the Firestorm had two on with one out. Rivera surrendered a solo home run in the fifth and may have been tiring in the seventh when Arizona Christian used three singles to score its final run and chase the 6-foot, 180-pound right-hander from the game.

McKinnon, who has not allowed a run in nine relief innings this season, got the final four outs for his first save.

"That's two great back-to-back outings for us to set the tone for the weekend," Pegg said of Rivera, who allowed two earned runs in seven innings of the Lions' 3-2 win in 13 innings on Jan. 24. "He is a competitor, a guy you love to give the ball to because he wants it and he gets excited every time he's been out there."

Rivera said he is excited to be back in Orange County after going 7-2 with a 1.69 earned-run average and striking out 76 in 69 1/3 innings for the Kentucky-based NAIA program last season.

"I love it here," Rivera said after pocketing his first victory in 2014. "The people are awesome and we're playing well, so I love it."

Vanguard backed Rivera with strong defense, particularly by shortstop Nick Rodda, a senior transfer from Division II Valdosta State, and opportunistic offense.

The Lions, who averaged 11.3 runs in their first four games and entered Friday batting .335 as a team, managed just three hits, all singles, against Arizona Christian starter Ismael Castro. And only one of those hits figured in the scoring for the hosts.

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