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Vincent's ERA: 2.14 in 2013, 1.98 (MLB career)

SAN FRANCISCO (9-29-2013) -- Nick Vincent came on to get the San Diego Padres out of a seventh inning jam vs. the San Francisco Giants in the final game of the season on Sunday.

Even though the Padres eventually lost their final game 7-6, the Palomar and Long Beach State product concluded a spectacular second Major League season in typical fashion.

Vincent finished the year with a 2.14 ERA and a 6-3 win-loss record with 1 save. He appeared in 45 games, allowing only 33 hits in 46 1/3 innings while striking out 49 batters and walking 11. He wound up with eight no-hit, shutout relief appearances in his final eight games dating back to Sept. 11.

Vincent lowered his career ERA to 1.98. Over parts of his two Major League seasons, the right-hander has an 8-3 win-loss record with 1 save. He's appeared in 72 Major League games, allowing 52 hits in 72 2/3 innings, striking out 77 and walking 18.

Vincent relieved Tim Stauffer, who started the inning. He got Pablo Sandoval to ground out to first base to end the inning after the Giants had pushed across two runs that were both charged to Stauffer.

Nick Vincent Year-by-Year
Team IP W-L      Sv ERA SO
Ramona HS -- 2004 ------ 6-6          0 2.73 91
Palomar -- 2005-x 36 2/3 5-1          0 1.49 36
Palomar -- 2006 101 9-2          0 1.51 82
Palomar -- 2007 97 1/3 6-3          0 2.96 70
Long Beach St. -- 2008 30 2/3 4-0          2 1.75 33
Eugene (A) -- 2008 43 1/3 3-3          2 5.40 38
Portland (AAA) -- 2008 5 0-1          0 5.40  4 
Lake Elsinore (A) -- 2009 64 4-2          2 3.09 74
Lake Elsinore (A) -- 2010 81 4-0          0 1.89 76
San Antonio (AA) -- 2011 79 8-2          3 2.28 89
San Antonio (AA) -- 2012 9 2/3 1-0          0 1.86 15
Tucson (AAA) -- 2012 21 2/3 1-1          2 5.82 19
Padres (MLB) -- 2012 26 1/3 2-0          0 1.71 28
Tucson (AAA) -- 2013 24 4-3          0 3.55 24
Padres (MLB) -- 2013
MAJOR LEAGUE TOTALS
46 1/3
72 2/3
6-3          1
8-3          1
2.14
1.98
49
7
7
x -- Vincent received an injury redshirt in 2005 following an early-season injury

Vincent strikes out side, fans Puig vs. Dodgers

SAN DIEGO (9-22-2013) -- Palomar alum Nick Vincent continued his storybook run in his second Major League season on Sunday.

Vincent came in to begin the top of the eighth inning in a 1-0 loss to the National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park.

He struck out Tim Federowicz swinging, Nick Punto looking and Yasiel Puig swinging.

Vincent remains 5-3 with 1 save on the season, lowering his ERA to 2.34. He's appeared in 41 games, allowing 30 hits in 42 1/3 innings while striking out 43 and walking 10.

Vincent's Major League career numbers: 7 wins, 3 losses, 1 save. He owns a 2.10 career ERA. He's appeared in 68 games, giving up 49 hits in 68 2/3 innings while striking out 71 and walking 17 batters.

19 former Comets are playing professionally

SAN MARCOS (8-20-2013) / 8-24-2013 -- As of Aug. 24, Nick Vincent has made 11 straight scoreless Major Leaguer relief appearances for the San Diego Padres.

But there is plenty of proof beyond Vincent that there is life on the baseball diamond after Palomar. Lot's of life. Vincent is one of 19 former Palomar baseball players currently in pro ball.

Top minor league pitching numbers for the ex-Comets include James Hoyt's 2.48 ERA (1.29 for his last 10 appearances) for the Mississippi Braves, an Atlanta Braves affiliate in the Class AA Southern League; and Trevor Bayless' 1.10 ERA and 1-0 record for the Vermont Lake Monsters in the Class A short-season New York-Penn League.

Also, Patrick Smith's 3.58 ERA (1.23 for his last 10 appearances) for the Hillsboro Hops, an Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate in the Class-A short-season Northern League; Jeff Ibarra's 3-0 record for the San Antonio Missions, the Padres' affiliate in the Class AA Texas League; and Bobby Shore's 5-3 record for the High Desert Mavericks, a Seattle Mariners affiliate in the Advanced-A California League.

Marcus Hatley, meanwhile, has struck out 39 batters in 35 2/3 innings while going 2-1 for the Iowa Cubs, the Chicago Cubs' affiliate in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. Ibarra has 47 strikeouts in 46 innings. And Austin Muehring has struck out 21 batters in 18 1/3 innings for the Rookie classification Billings Mustangs in the Pioneer League.

Top hitter as of Aug. 20 for ex-Comets in pro ball: Danny Bethea, who is batting .302 with 12 RBIs in 18 games for the Lowell Spinners in the New York-Penn League since being drafted by the Boston Red Sox in June.

Vincent and two members of the Hawaii Hilo Stars of the independent Pacific Association, outfielder Reece Alnas and pitcher Ronnie Loeffler, all play for other former Comets. Darren Balsley is in his 10th season as the Padres' pitching coach. Garry Templeton II is the manager of the Hawaii Hilo Stars.

The Pacific Association is made up of teams from Hawaii, California and Japan.

Pictured above: James Hoyt (left) and Danny Bethea (right)

PALOMAR ALUMS PLAYING PRO BASEBALL AS OF AUG. 20, 2013

Player (4-Year College) Pos. Organization (Team)
MAJOR LEAGUES
Nick Vincent (Long Beach St.) RHP San Diego Padres
CLASS AAA
Marcus Hatley (none) RHP Chicago Cubs (Iowa Cubs)
CLASS AA    
Tyler Saladino (Oral Roberts) SS Chicago White Sox (Birmingham Barons)
Jeff Ibarra (Lee University) LHP San Diego Padres (San Antonio Missions)
James Hoyt (Centenary) RHP Atlanta Braves (Mississippi Braves)
CLASS A Advanced    
Bobby Shore (Oklahoma) RHP Seattle Mariners (High Desert Mavericks)
Brenden Webb (none) OF Baltimore Orioles (Frederick Keys)
Zane Chavez (Indiana State) C Baltimore Orioles (Frederick Keys)
Class A    
Ty Afenir (Washington) SS New York Yankees (Charleston RiverDogs)
Class A Short-Season    
Patrick Smith (Cal Baptist) RHP Arizona Diamondbacks (Hillsboro Hops)
Trevor Bayless (USD) RHP Oakland A's (Vermont Lake Monsters)
Danny Bethea (St. John's) C Boston Red Sox (Lowell Spinners)
Nick Carmichael (none) RHP Detroit Tigers (Connecticut Tigers)
River Stevens -- Injured/Surgery 2B/SS San Diego Padres (Eugene Emeralds)
Advanced Rookie    
B.K. Santy (Washington) C Minnesota Twins (Elizabethton Twins)
Rookie    
Austin Muehring (none) RHP Cincinnati Reds (Billings Mustangs)
Independent    
Reece Alnas (Oklahoma Baptist) OF (Hawaii Hilo Stars)
Ronnie Loeffler (Hawaii-Hilo) RHP (Hawaii Hilo Stars)
International    
Jeff Tezak (Nebraska) INF (Brisbane)

Two-time All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference selection Nico Garbella will play for Cal State Northridge. -- Photo by Hugh Cox.

Garbella 8th to commit, to Cal State Northridge

IRVINE (7-11-2013) -- Outfielder Nico Garbella has become the ninth Palomar baseball player, and the 30th PC athlete, to commit to the four-year college level.

Garbella will play at Cal State Northridge of the Big West Conference.

The  6-foot-1, 180-pound sophomore played on the high school level for Cathedral Catholic High School. He was the Comets' starting right fielder for two seasons and was a two-time All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference selection for teams that won Palomar's 14th and 15th conference championships in 2012 and 2013.

This year's Comets went 29-14, won the PCAC championship by four games over runner-up Grossmont with a 21-4 record and advanced to the finals of the Fullerton Super Regional, missing a trip to the CCCAA State Final Four by one game.

Garbella batted .317 with 11 doubles, one triple, one home run and 31 RBIs as a sophomore during the recent season. He made only one error all season on 96 chances and threw out nine runners at the plate.

Garbella led the Comets in hitting in conference games with a .368 average.

He batted .307 as a freshman in 2012.

Palomar players headed to the four-year college level, to date:

BASEBALL COMMITS (8) -- CF Chris Sanders (Murrieta Valley) -- Eastern New Mexico / LHP Anthony McIver (Rancho Buena Vista) -- University of San Diego) / OF Nico Garbella (Cathedral Catholic) -- Cal State Northridge / C Becker Sankey (Rancho Bernardo) -- Liberty University / LHP Kyle Montiel (Carlsbad) -- Cal State San Marcos / LHP Rusty Edwards (El Camino) -- Eastern New Mexico / OF-C Justin Hargrove (Fallbrook) -- West Texas A&M / 1B Denny Vigo (Simi Valley) -- Cal State San Marcos

Palomar pitcher Kyle Montiel, the PCAC Player of the Year who is shown in a game vs. San Diego City College, pulled the plug on D-I recruiting  and committed to Cal State San Marcos. -- Photo by Deb Hellman

Montiel, Sankey, Vigo move on; list reaches 7

SAN MARCOS (6-22-2013) / (7-03-2013) -- In the midst of being recruited by Michigan State University of the Big 10, Palomar sophomore left-handed pitcher Kyle Montiel, the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year, called off the process on June 22 and committed to Cal State San Marcos.

Montiel took a recruiting trip to Kansas, which later withdrew from the recruiting process, was recruited by UC Davis and drew brief recruiting interest from 2012 College World Series champion Arizona.

Catcher Becker Sankey, meanwhile committed to Liberty University. Then, on July 3, first baseman Denny Vigo commited to San Marcos.

That brings the list of PC baseball players taking scholarships to four-year colleges and universities to seven, and the list of Palomar athletes moving on to play in all sports to 38.

Smith has early 1.69 ERA in second pro season

HILLSBORO, Oregon (6-28-2013) -- Right-handed pitcher Patrick Smith, one of 23 former Palomar players currently in pro baseball, has a 1.69 earned run average for the Hillsboro Hops, the Arizona Diamondbacks Class A Short-Season affiliate, 12 days into the Northwest League schedule.

Smith, a 6-foot, 170-pounder in his second season in the Diamondbacks organization, has appeared in relief in four of 14 games played by the Hops. He's allowed four hits, striking out four and walking two, in 5 1/3 innings.

Smith pitched for Palomar in 2009 and 2010, then two seasoms for Cal Baptist University.

The Paloma Valley High School (Menifee) product helped Palomar to the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference championship in his freshman season of 2009, when the Comets set a school record for victories with a 36-13-1 record and reached the finals of the Palomar Super Regional.

Smith compiled a 2.00 ERA for that team, which was ranked No. 6 in the nation at the end of the regular season and was ranked No. 11 following the post-season. He also helped Palomar reach the Super Regional round in his sophomore season of 2010.

Smith then compiled a 16-2 record with seven saves for Cal Baptist during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

As a Cal Baptist junior in 2011, Smith defeated Cal State San Marcos 4-2 with a complete game, allowing one earned run and striking out nine batters in nine innings, to put the Lancers into the championship game of the NAIA National Tournament's Riverside bracket against Concordia the following day. Without Smith on the mound, eventual national champion Concordia downed Cal Baptist 4-2 to punch its ticket to the NAIA World Series.

In his senior season of 2012, when Smith went 10-2, Cal Baptist was in transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II and thus was ineligible for NCAA post-season play despite winning the Pacific West Athletic Conferece championship with a 31-9 conference record.

So Smith and the Lancers instead played in the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament at Mason, Ohio. Smith went 2-0 in the tournament and was the winning pitcher in the national title game, pitching three shutout relief innings to beat Oklahoma Wesleyan 8-3. Cal Baptist finished the season 43-13 and Smith was named Most Valuable Player in the national tournament.

He signed with the Diamondbacks after the season.and went 2-1 with 47 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings for Missoula in the Advanced Rookie Classification Pioneer League in his first pro season.

Draft picks Bayless, Bethea, Afenir all sign

Danny Bethea was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 34th round (1,013th overall).SAN MARCOS (6-19-2013) -- The three former Palomar players who were selected in baseball's 2013 draft all have signed.

Senior right-handed pitcher Trevor Bayless of the University of San Diego signed with the Oakland A's. Bayless was drafted in the 22nd round.

Senior catcher Danny Bethea (right, courtesy photo) of St. John's University, who one year ago was starred in the Super Regional round as a junior, signed with the Boston Red Sox. Bethea was selected in the 34th round

And senior shortstop Ty Afenir from the University of Washington signed with the New York Yankees. The Yanks selected Afenir in the 39th round.

Wilkins becomes third Comet to pitch in CWS

OMAHA, Nebraska (6-20-2013) -- North Carolina State senior right-hander Ryan Wilkins (left) became the third Palomar product to pitch in the College World Series on Thursday night, appearing in the eighth inning against national No. 1 seed North Carolina.

The Tarheels eliminated the Wolfpack, ending their first-ever 50-win season 7-0. North Carolina State had beaten North Carolina 8-1 to begin the College World Series on Sunday.

The last Palomar product to pitch in the College World Series had been Bobby Shore, an Oceanside High alum who is now in the Seattle Mariners organization.

Shore, then a junior at Oklahoma, started for the Sooners vs. Clemson in a CWS winners' bracket game on June 22, 2010. Shore had been the MVP of the Norman Regional. He'd pitched eight shutout innings in the championship game of the Charlottesville Super Regional to beat Virginia, which came in ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America, 11-0.

Steve Kovensky, threw a shutout inning for Florida State against eventual champion Miami on June 6, 1986.

Wilkins is the older brother of Zach Wilkins, who broke Palomar's saves record with 12 during the 2013 season as a freshman.

Wilkins, Wolfpack make College World Series

RALEIGH, NC (6-09-2013) -- North Carolina State, with former Palomar pitcher Ryan Wilkins, advanced to the College World Series on Sunday.

Wilkins came on to pitch earlier in the game in relief but was long gone by the time the Wolfpack downed Rice 5-4 in the 17th inning to sweep the Owls 2 games to 0 in the Raleigh Super Regional. He was the sixth of nine NC State pitchers in the game.

It was the longest Super Regional game in NCAA Division I history, lasting 5 hours, 10 minutes including a 77-minute rain delay in the 12th inning. The win puts the Wolfpack in the College World Series, which begins Saturday in Omaha, for the first time since 1968.

Wilkins is a senior right-hander who prepped at Cathedral Catholic High School. His brother Zach Wilkins broke Palomar's saves record during the 2013 season as a freshman.

The last Palomar product to pitch in the College World Series was Bobby Shore, an Oceanside High alum who is now in the Seattle Mariners organization.

Shore, then a junior at Oklahoma, started for the Sooners vs. Clemson in a CWS winners' bracket game on June 22, 2010. Shore had been the MVP of the Norman Regional. He'd pitched eight shutout innings in the championship game of the Charlottesville Super Regional to beat Virginia, which came in ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America, 11-0.

Steve Kovensky, the last Comet to pitch in the College World Series prior to Shore, threw a shutout inning for Florida State against eventual champion Miami on June 6, 1986.

Palomar alum Jon Davis, who starts in right field, and Kansas State can join Wilkins and North Carolina State in Omaha by defeating Oregon State on Monday in the rubber game of the Corvallis Super Regional. Davis had a sacrifice fly for the Wildcats on Sunday but the Beavers bounced back from a loss Saturday to even the series at a game apiece, winning 12-4.

Davis had driven in the go-ahead run with a single in the top of the 10th inning on Saturday as Kansas State won the first game of the series 6-2.

PC alums Bayless, Bethea, Afenir go in draft

Danny Bethea was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 34th round (1,013th overall).SAN MARCOS (6-08-2013) -- Three former Palomar players were selected in baseball's 2013 draft that concluded on Saturday.

Senior right-handed pitcher Trevor Bayless of the University of San Diego, who concluded his college career last week in the Los Angeles Regional at UCLA, was taken in the 22nd round by the Oakland A's.

Senior catcher Danny Bethea (right, courtesy photo) of St. John's University, who one year ago was starring in the Super Regional round as a junior, was drafted in the 34th round by the Boston Red Sox.

And senior shortstop Ty Afenir from the University of Washington was selected in the 39th round by the New York Yankees.

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Davis drives in go-ahead run as K-State wins in Super Regionals

Jon DavisCORVALLIS, Oregon --  (6-08-2013) -- Senior outfielder and Palomar alumnus Jon Davis' RBI single in the 10th inning scored the go-ahead run as Kansas State came from behind to knock off Oregon State to begin the Corvallis Super Regional on Saturday.

Davis (left), a Vista High School product, finished with two RBIs in the game. Hedrew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning to five the Wildcats, who trailed 2-0 at the time, their first run of the afternoon.

Kansas State leads the best two-of-three series 1 game to 0.

Meanwhile, North Carolina State defeated Rice 4-3 to open the Raleigh Super Regional at Raleigh, North Carolina.

Former Comet Ryan Wilkins pitches out of the bullpen for the Wolfpack. Game 2 will be played on Sunday.

Four Palomar sophomores commit to next level

SAN MARCOS (6-04-2013) -- After a season when sophomores were few and far between on the Palomar baseball roster, four Comets have accepted scholarships to four-year colleges.

All-State center fielder Chris Sanders (right, photo by Hugh Cox), a sophomore from Murrieta Valley High School and one of the best defensive outfielders ever to play for the Comets, accepted a scholarship to Eastern New Mexico University.

Sanders led the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference champion and Super Regional finalist Comets with a .352 batting average and fielded 1.000 by playing errorless defense for 93 chances. He was recruited late by Jamestown College, which narrowly missed a trip to its third NAIA World Series after knocking off nationally No. 2-ranked Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma City to cap a 17-game win streak.

Sanders shook off a late-season batting slump to bang out nine hits in the Fullerton Super Regional as Palomar came within one run of advancing to the CCCAA State Championship Final Four for the second time.

Left-handed pitcher Anthony McIver (5-0, 2.19 ERA) signed during the early signing period with the University of San Diego. McIver, a Rancho Buena Vista High School product, transferred to Palomar after pitching for the University of Notre Dame. USD was ranked No. 25 in the nation to begin the post-season and advanced to the championship game of the Los Angeles Regional before being eliminated by UCLA. Tyler Kincaid, the Comets' former pitching coach, is the USD pitching coach.

Outfielder / catcher Justin Hargrove (Fallbrook High), who hit .294 for the Comets with nine doubles, a triple and 22 RBIs, accepted a scholarship from West Texas A&M University. Left-handed pitcher Rusty Edwards (El Camino High)  took a scholarship to Eastern New Mexico.

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Padres promote former Comet pitcher Ibarra to Triple-A Tucson

TUCSON, Arizona --  (6-05-2013) -- Former Palomar picher Jeff Ibarra, a 6-foot-6 left-hander who followed two seasons with the Comets with a successful stint at NAIA national power Lee University in Tennessee, has been promoted by the San Diego Padres to the Tucson Padres of the Class AA Pacific Coast League.

Ibarra came to the Comets from Vista Murrieta High School.

He originally signed with the University of Kansas out of Palomar.

He was 1-0 this season for the San Antonio Missions of the Class AA Texas League, appearing in 24 games withy 22 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched.

Ibarra is now pitching under his full name, "Jeffrey Ibarra".

He was selected by the Padres out of Lee University in the 23rd round of the 2009 draft.

Davis and Wilkins on way to Super Regionals

MANHATTAN, KS / RALEIGH, NC / LOS ANGELES (6-03-2013) -- Two of the three ex-Palomar players in the Regional round are advancing with their teams to this weekend's Best 2-of-3 NCAA Division I Super Regionals.

Starting right fielder Jon Davis and Big 12 champion Kansas State wrapped up the Manhattan, KS Regional by beating Arkansas 4-3 on Sunday and will visit Oregon State, which eliminated Texas A&M to win the Corvallis, OR Regional.

Davis, who had four RBIs in a 20-11 win over Wichita State to begin the regional, contributed a single and run scored vs. the Razorbacks.

In the Raleigh, NC Regional, right-hander Ryan Wilkins pitched two innings in relief as North Carolina State defeated William & Mary 9-2 on Sunday. The Wolfpack will visit Rice, which defeated Oregon to win the Eugene, OR Regional.

The third ex-Comet, right-hander Trevor Bayless, pitched 2/3 of an inning without allowing a run as the University of San Diego defeated Cal Poly 8-5 to stay alive in the Los Angeles Regional on Sunday. But UCLA then blanked the Toreros 6-0 on Sunday night to win the regional and move on to the Super Regional round.

Pads' Vincent: 3 IP, 0 R; K-State's Davis 4 RBIs

Jon DavisSAN DIEGO / MANHATTAN, KS / RALEIGH, NC / LOS ANGELES (5-31-2013) -- Palomar alumnus Nick Vincent (left) turned in another outstanding performance for the San Diego Padres in their 4-2, 17-inning victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night at Petco Park.

Vincent, who made his 2013 debut coming off a sore forearm with a 1-2-3 inning vs. Seattle on Thursday, stopped the Blue Jays in Friday's game by pitching three shutout innings. He faced the minimum nine batters over the 13th, 14th and 15th innings. Vincent allowed two hits but in both cases coaxed double-play ground balls. He had three strikeouts.

Coming off his first MLB season of 2012 when he went 2-0 for the Padres with a 1.71 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings, the Ramona High School alum has an ERA of 0.00 for two 2013 appearances, pitching four shutout innings, allowing two hits, striking out three and walking none.

Three other ex-Comets are playing in NCAA Division I Regionals this weekend:

JON DAVIS -- The senior starting right fielder for Big 12 champion Kansas State, Davis came up big on Friday as the Wildcats outslugged Wichita State 20-11 to begin the Manhattan, KS Regional. Davis went 2-for-3 with a double, three runs scored and four RBIs. He also reached base on a walk and as a hit batter. The Vista High School alum is batting .325 for the season wtih 15 doubles, 4 triples, 5 home runs and 33 RBIs. K-State plays Bryant, a 4-1 winner over Arkansas, on Saturday.

RYAN WILKINS -- After pitching North Carolina State into the Super Regional round last season with a big regional performance, the senior right-hander is back with the Wolfpack in the Raleigh, NC Regional. The Cathedral Catholic High product, who was 6-2 in the regular season, will pitch Saturday and/or later in the tournament after NC State defeated Binghamton 4-1 on Friday. The Wolfpack faces Bryant, a 4-1 winner over Arkansas, on Saturday.

TREVOR BAYLESS -- Bayless, a senior right-handed pitcher out of Temecula Valley High, pitches out of the pen for the University of San Diego which is attempting to stave off elimination from the Los Angeles Regional on Saturday following Friday's 9-2 loss to Cal Poly. USD takes on San Diego State, which dropped its regional opener to host UCLA 5-3. Bayless is 2-3 for the Toreros with three saves, a 2.14 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings.

Vincent rejoins Padres, retires Mariners 1-2-3

SAN DIEGO (5-31-2013) -- Former Palomar pitching standout Nick Vincent has been recalled by the San Diego Padres from Tucson of the Pacific Coast League.

He rejoined the Major League club on Thursday and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning, striking out one, in a 7-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Petco Park.

Vincent sustained a forearm strain in spring training and had been sent to Tucson after his recovery to work his way back from the injury.

Vincent, a Ramona High School product who was drafted by the Padres in the 18th round out of Long Beach State in 2008, was outstanding for the Padres after being called up last season.

The right-hander had a 1.71 earned run average in 27 appearances for the big-league club in 2012, stirking out 28 batters in 26 1/3 innings.

Before being notified he was being called up, Vincent had a 1.80 ERA in the pacific Coast League in his last 10 appearances.

With the Major League Club, Vincent again is reunited with another former Comet, pitching coach Darren Balsley. Balsley has been the club's pitching coach since May 17, 2003.

Palomar alum Julian Esquibel and his Faulkner University teammates celebrate their NAIA World Series championship Thursday night at Lewiston, ID. -- Courtesy photo

Esquibel helps lead Faulkner to NAIA title

LEWISTON, Idaho (5-31-2013) -- Former Palomar pitcher Julian Esquibel helped lead Faulkner University of Montgomery, Alabama to the championship of the NAIA World Series that concluded Thursday night.

Esquibel, one of three brothers who have come out of Vista High School to pitch for the Comets, was selected to the All-Tournament team.

The 6-foot, 230-pound right-hander threw a complete-game four-hitter, striking out eight and walking none, as the Eagles defeated tournament host Lee University of Cleveland, Tennessee 8-4 on Wednesday evening to advance to Friday's championship game.

In the finals, Faulkner defeated tournament host Lewis-Clarke State 11-4 to claim their first national title. The once-beaten Warriors would have had to beat the Eagles, who swept unbeaten through the 10-team, double-elimination World Series, twice.

Esquibel finished the season with an 11-2 win-loss record and a 2.71 earned run average.

DIVISION I REGIONALS -- In NCAA Division I, ex-Comets Ryan Wilkins (North Carolina State) and Jon Davis (Kansas State) both are playing at home in first-round regional action this weekend.

Wilkins, a senior right-hander who pitched the Wolfpack into the Super Regional round last season, and his NC State team opens in the Raleigh Regional against Binghamton. The other teams in the regional are Mississippi and William & Mary. Wilkins, who came to Palomar out of Cathedral Catholic High School, is 6-2 on the season with two saves.

Davis, Kansas State's senior right fielder who is batting .314 with 3 doubles, 14 triples, 5 home runs and 35 RBIs, and the Wildcats, begin the Manhatten, KS Regional vs. Wichita State. Arkansas and Bryant are the other teams in the Regional. Davis is out of Vista High School.

 
LEFT TO RIGHT: Zach Wilkins, Kyle Montiel, Chris Sanders

Wilkins, Montiel All-American; Sanders all-state

FRESNO (5-17-2013) -- Palomar pitchers Zach Wilkins and Kyle Montiel were named to the All-State first team by the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association on Friday morning, an honor that carries automatic Community College All-American recognition.

Center fielder Chris Sanders was selected to the All-State second team and was All-Southern California.

Montiel was automatically selected to the state first team as the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

Balloting was conducted at the state coaches meeting, held in conjunction with the CCCAA State Championship Final Four being played at Fresno City College.

Wilkins is a freshman from Scripps Ranch High School. Montiel is a sophomore from Carlsbad High School. Sanders is a sophomore from Murrieta Valley High School.

Wilkins named as conference's Athlete of Week

SAN DIEGO (5-15-2013) -- Palomar's Zach Wilkins is the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Men’s Athlete of the Week for all sports for the two weeks that ended on Sunday.

Wilkins, a freshman pitcher from Scripps Ranch High School, recorded his 10th and 11th saves of the season in 3-2 and 1-0 wins over Orange Coast in a first-round Southern Cal Regional Series, then came back to notch his 12th save in a 3-2 victory over Glendale in the Fullerton Super Regional.

He then switched to a starter’s role and pitched a complete-game, five-hit 8-0 shutout against Southern California No. 1 seed Fullerton, the host team at the Super Regional. The Comets eventually lost to the Hornets 7-6 in the finals as Fullerton moved on the this weekends CCCAA State Final Four.

ABOVE: Palomar's Matt Matlock slides into third base as Fullerton's left fielder can't get the ball into the infield on time after making an error on Chris Sanders' fifth-inning single in Sunday's second game. Comet head coach Buck Taylor is the third-base coach. -- Courtesy photo by Colleen Smith. BELOW LEFT: Pitcher Zach Wilkins, who went from his previous closer role to starter in the day's first game and shut out the Hornets 8-0 on a five-hit complete game. BELOW RIGHT: Chris Sanders. Sanders went 3-for-5 in a 10-2 win over Compton on Saturday (see below) and also was 3-for-5 in Sunday's first game. He had nine hits in five Super Regional games

Wilkins tosses shutout, then PC can't hold lead

FULLERTON (5-12-2013) -- Ace closer Zach Wilkins pitced a masterful  five-hit shutout to beat host and No. 1 seed Fullerton 8-0 in his first start of the season, keeping Palomar alive in the Fullerton Super Regional on Sunday.

But the Comets couldn't hold a 6-0 lead late in the day's second game and dropped a 7-6 heartbreaker to the Hornets for the championship of the Super Regional, sending Fullerton into this weekend's CCCAA State Final Four in Fresno and ending Palomar's season in agonizing disappointment.

The Hornets take a 30-13 record to Fresno while the Comets end the year 29-14.

"So close," Palomar coach Buck Taylor said to the San Diego Union-Tribune. And, for the Comets, so painful.

Game 1: Palomar 8, Fullerton 0 -- Wilkins, a freshman  right-hander who set a PC record with 12 saves this season, completely shut down the surprised Hornets, throwing 124 pitches in the complete game. He hadn't pitched more than two innings in 19 previous appearances.

He had a two-hitter through the first six innings and silenced the bats of the heavy-hitting Hornets, the Orange Empire Conference champions and the top post-season seed in Southern California, all game long.

Chris Sanders led a 14-hit attack for the Comets, going 3-for-5 with two of his three RBIs for the day and a sacrifice fly. He had nine hits in the Super RegionalDillan Smith also went 3-for-5 and drove in a run.

Palomar jumped to a 4-0 lead in the second inning, getting RBI singles from Eric Sapp, Smith and Matt Matlock and Sanders' sacrifice fly. The Comets made it 7-0 with a three-run fourth inning that was highlighted by Sanders' RBI single and Becker Sankey's two-run home run that scored Sanders ahead of him.

Matlock and Anthony Fernandez had two singles each. Dennis  Morton contributed an RBI single in the eighth inning. Justin Hargrove also had a single. And Palomar played nearly flawless defense, led by their middle infielders (Morton at shortstop, Smith at second).

Game 2: Fullerton 7, Palomar 6. Matlock's RBI single to the right side gave the Comets a 1-0 third-inning lead and the Comets continued on to a 6-0 lead through the top of the sixth behind the pitching of Taylor Miller, normally their set-up man.

But Miller began to tire, allowed a run in the bottom of the sixth and hit two batters with one out in the before coming out of the game. Fullerton came back with three runs in the seventh and three more in the eighth before usual Anthony McIver, who started against Glendale in the first game of the tournament on Friday, came in to put out the fire with a pop-up. By then, however, the damage had been done.

Sanders had an RBI single in the game. Smith, Morton, Sapp and Hargrove also hit safely. And Sankey, who caught 41 innings over the weekend, contributed a sacrifice fly and, as has been his specialty all season, was hit by two pitches in the game mand three times for the weekend. He reached base 14 times during the season as a hit batter.

GAME 1 BOX GAME 2 BOX

PC downs Glendale, Compton to reach Day 3

FULLERTON (5-10-2013 / 5-11-2013) -- Palomar reached Sunday's third day of the Fullerton Super Regional by defeating Glendale 3-2 on Friday and El Camino-Compton Center 10-2 on Saturday afternoon, sandwiched around a 5-1 loss to Southern Cal No.1 seed Fullerton College on Saturday morning.

Freshman right-hander Vaughn Berberet pitched a complete-game victory to beat Compton.

Friday: Palomar 3, Glendale 2 -- The Comets, who showed an ability to come from behind late in games all year, rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to overcome a 2-1 deficit against the Vaqueros.

With one out, Nico Garbella walked, Becker Sankey was hit by a pitch, Dennis Morton singled to drive in a run and Denny Vigo drove in another run with a sacrifrice fly.

Palomar took a 1-0 second-inning lead on Dillon Smith's RBI single and that's the way it remained until Glendale scored  twice in the bottom of the eighth.

Garbella wet 2-for-3 and walked for the Comets. Eric Sapp contributed a double and Justin Hargrove and Sanders each had a single.

Taylor Miller (3-1) came on to earn the pitching win in relief and Zach Wilkins pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 12th save.

Saturday A.M.: Fullerton 5, Palomar 1 -- The Comets managed only three hits off the Hornets' Juan Beruman and Jacob Miller, singles by Matt Matlock  in the second inning, Hargrove in the sevbenth and Sanders in the ninth. Morton drove in Garbella with Palomar's only runwith a sacrifice fly in the seventh. The Comets stranded runners at third base  in the sixth and eighth innings.

Ryan Beliel pitched 4 2/3 innings of one-run relief.

Saturday P.M. Palomar 10, Compton 2 -- Berberet (6-1) allowed only one earned run in his first complete game of the season and the Comets banged out 11 hits to eliminate the Tartars. Compton had knocked Glendale out of the tournament in two games by beating the Vaqueros 4-3 in a morning game at Santa Ana College.

Sanders (3-for-5, double, RBI) and Garbella  (2-for-5 before leaving the game with a rib injury in the bottom of the ninth had multiple hits for Palomar.

Smith, Morton, Matlock, Hargrove, Dylan Navarro and Anthony Fernandez each contributed a single.

The Comets, leading 2-1, broke the game open with seven runs in the fifth.

PHOTOS: Palomar second baseman Dylan Smith fields a grounder and throws out Compton's Juan Avena for the third out in the bottomof the seventh. -- Photo by Hugh Cox. Vaughn Berbert, who pitched a complete game against the Tartars to advance to 6-1 on the season.

GLENDALE BOX FULLERTON BOX COMPTON BOX

 

Vaughn Berberet (above) and his Palomar teammates are Super Regional-bound. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Comets vs. Glendale on Fri. in Super Regional

SAN MARCOS (5-5-2013) -- The Palomar baseball team (26-11) will play Glendale (27-11) on Friday at 11 a.m. to begin the three-day Fullerton College Super Regional.

The Comets won two of three games to defeat Orange Coast in first-round play over the weekend, while the Vaqueros swept Grossmont in their first-round series.

Fullerton (27-12) and El Camino Compton Center (24-16) are the other teams in the Super Regional, one of two in Southern California next weekend, and will square off in Friday's 3 p.m. game.

Friday's winners will play on Saturday at 11 a.m. while the losers play at an alternate site at 10 a.m. The 11 a.m. loser and the 10 a.m. winner will play an elimination game Saturday at 3 p.m. The 11 a.m.winner will sit back and await an 11 a.m. Sunday meeting with Saturday afternoon's winner.

An extra game in the double-elimination tournament, if needed, would follow on Sunday afternoon.

The Fullerton Super Regional winner and the survivor of the Saddleback Super Regional (College of the Canyons, Saddleback, Cypress and Mt. SAC) will advance to the CCCAA State Championship Final Four on May 17-18-19 at Fresno City College along with the winners of two Northern California Super Regionals.

ABOVE: Denny Vigo, who had walked with two out, rounds third and heads home to score the only run of the series' third and deciding game in the second inning. He scored on Justin Hargrove's double to the bank in left field. OCC's Cody Bruder fields the ball in the background.  BELOW LEFT: Zach Wilkins, who notched his 11th save to break two Palomar records he previously shared, delivers a pitch in the ninth inning. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW RIGHT: Vaughn Berberet, who threw the first eight innings and was the winning pitcher

Berberet, Wilkins pitch PC into Super Regional

SAN MARCOS (5-4-2013) -- After Orange Coast tied the teams' first-round Southern California Best 2-of-3 series at a game each by winning Saturday's first game 5-2, Palomar's Vaughn Berberet and Zach Wilkins took command in the deciding second game.

Berberet and Wilkins combined on a four-hitter to shut out the Pirates 1-0, giving the Comets the series two games to one and putting them into a four-team Super Regional next weekend at either Fullerton College or Saddleback.

Berberet, a red-shirt freshman left-hander, blanked Coast on four hits over the first eight innings. Wilkins, a true freshman right-hander who tied the Comets' single-season and career records in a 3-2 win on Friday, came on to relieve Berbert to begin the top of the ninth and retired the Pirates 1-2-3 for his 11th save.

That gives him both the single-season and career marks by himself with one and possibly two weekends remaining in the Comets' season.

After going 0-and-2 against Orange Coast lead-off batter Zach Nehrir to begin the ninth inning, Wilkins retired Nehrir on a groundball to shortstop Dennis Morton. He struck out Austin Saenz looking and Danny Jimenez swinging for the game's final two outs.

Justin Hargrove drove in the game's only run in the second inning to lift Palomar to the win. He doubled to left center to drive in Denny Vigo, who had worked OCC left-hander Evan Porcella for a two-out walk. Porcella pitched a four-hitter in a losing cause for the Pirates.

Dillan Smith provided two of the Comets' four hits in the game, a single to left in the third inning and a bunt single to the third baseman in the eighth. Morton  contributed the other hit,  a single in the seventh.

Berberet made two huge defensive plays to help himself out.

The first came on a second-inning pickoff in a first-and-third situation when he teamed with Smith, his second baseman, to get Coast's Cody Bruder in a rundown between second and third. Berberet and Smith both held Manny Argomaniz at third during the play, as Berberet threw the ball to Smith, who threw back to Berberet who tagged out Bruder for out No. 3.

Berberet's second big defensive play came to lead off the eighth inning, when he somehow knocked down a screaming line drive back at him by Chris Iriart, then reacted quickly to field the ball which was bouncing away from him and threw out Iriart at first.

Center fielder Chris Sanders left his feet to make two big catches in the sixth and seventh innings and Hargrove, playing left, ran down a long fly ball hit by hit by Iriart down the left-field line in the fifth.

GAME 1 BOX GAME 2 BOX SEASON STATS

LEFT: Palomar catcher Becker Sankey tags  out Orange Coast's Cody Bruder on a relay from right fielder Nico Garbella-to first baseman Denny Vigo to Sankey in the fifth inning of the mornng game on Saturday. RIGHT: Comet second baseman Dillan Smith tags out Austin Saenz unsuccessfully trying to steal.on Sankey.in the sixth inning. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW: Reliever Cody Ells, who retired the side in order in OCC's final at bat, striking out two

Vigo 3-for-4 in A.M. game, but OCC ties series

SAN MARCOS (5-4-2013) -- Palomar knocked out 10 hits in Saturday morning's second game of its first-round CCCAA Southern California Regional series against Orange Coast at Myers Field.

But it wasn't enough as the Pirates won 5-2 to force a third game on Saturday afternoon.

 Denny Vigo went 3-for-4 for the Comets in the morning game. He drove in a second-inning run after Dennis Morton and Trey Gueda singled back-to-back with one out.

Vigo then singled through the left side to score Morton.

The Comets' other run came in the eighth inning. Chris Sanders doubled down the left field line and Becker Sankey drove him in with a single to right.

Gueda went 2-for-4 in the game. Smith and pinch-hitter Matt Matlock singled to round out the 10-hit attack.

Palomar got a big-time effort from relief pitcher Cody Ells in the eighth inning, OCC's last at-bat of the afternoon (the Pirates were home team for the middle game of the series).

Ells, a freshman right-hander from Rim of the World High School, came on at the beginning of the inning and struck out Anthony Virgen and Chris Iriart, then got Cody Bruder to fly out to Sanders in center field for the third out.

ABOVE: Palomar shortstop Dennis Morton takes throw from catcher Becker Sankey and tags out Orange Coast's Greg Espinosa tryng to steal second in the fourth inning on Friday. BELOW: Zach Wilkins strikes out pinch-hitter Jacob Hill for the final out of the game in the top of the ninth. Wilkins picked up his 10th save of the season to tie the Palomar record. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

PC tops Coast, goes for series victory Saturday

SAN MARCOS (5-03-2013) -- Freshman right-hander Zach Wilkins tied Palomar's single-season and career saves record on Friday and the Comets opened play in the Southern California Regionals with a 3-2 victory over visiting Orange Coast.

The Comets can clinch the Round 1 best 2-of-3 series by beating the Pirates again on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Myers Field. A third game, if necessary, would follow.

Anthony McIver pitched the first eight innings of Friday's win, advancing to 5-0 on the season, before Wilkins came on to retire Orange Coast 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth with a strikeout, ground ball and another strikeout. That gave him his 10th save.

Wilkins, brother of former Comet and current North Carolina State pitcher Ryan Wilkins, tied the Palomar single-season record set in 2009 by Casey Edelbrock, who later pitched for Lewis-Clark State in the NAIA World Series and in the Kansas City Royals organization.

Wilkins also equaled the Palomar career saves record, also 10, set by Jerry Stafford (1989-90) and tied by Chris Adams (1991-92), Edelbrock and Nick Carmichael (2011-12). Stafford went on to pitch for San Diego State and in the Florida Marlins organization. Adams later pitched for New Mexico. Carmichael currently pitches in the Detroit Tigers organization.

The Comets (25-11) fell behind 2-0 after 2 1/2 innings, tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the third, then scored what turned  out to be the winning run in the fourth.

Eric Sapp doubled, Dillan Smith singled and Becker Sankey knocked out an RBI single to highlight the third-inning rally. Vaughn Burberet walked to lead off the fourth, advanced to second on Justin Hargrove's sacrifice bunt and scored the winning run on an error with Sapp batting.

For the game, Sapp went 2-for-3 with a double and single. Dillan Smith went 2-for-4. Dennis Morton also was 2-for-4 and made a series of outstanding defensive plays at shortstop in his first game back from a knee injury.

Sankey came up big twice defensively. He gunned down Orange Coast's Greg Espinosa tryig to steal second in the fourth. He also stabbed a low pop-up hit by Manny Argomaniz just above his head in the eighth inning and gunned the ball to Morton, who made an athletic play to get Manny Jiminez, who had doubled, as he tried to get back to second.

Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year Kyle Montiel (7-1) will pitch for the Comets in Saturday's 10 a.m. game.

Orange Coast falls to 22-15.

BOX SEASON STATS

Montiel and Taylor are Player, Coach of Year

SAN DIEGO (4-29-2013) -- Palomar landed seven players on the All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference baseball team on Monday evening. The Comets' Kyle Montiel (left, photo by Hugh Cox) was voted Player of the Year honors by PCAC coaches. And Buck Taylor has been named the conference's Coach of the Year.

Montiel, a sophomore left-hander from Carlsbad High School who had a 7-0 conference record and 1.63 ERA for Palomar's conference championship team, was joined on the first team by two other PC pitchers, sophomore left-hander Anthony McIver and freshman right-handed closer Zach Wilkins. Freshman left-handed pitcher / outfielder Vaughn Berberet, was the first-team utility player.

The other Comets receiving first-team recognition were sophomore outfielders Chris Sanders and Nico Garbella, freshman infielder Dillan Smith and freshman Dennis Morton at designated hitter.

Comets host Orange Coast in 1st-round series

SAN MARCOS (4-28-2013) -- Palomar's Pacific Coast Athletic Conference baseball champions have been seeded sixth in the 18-team CCCAA Southern California Regionals and will begin a best-of-3 series against Orange Coast on Friday at 2 p.m. at Myers Field.

The Comets come in with a 24-11 record. The Pirates, the fifth-place finishers in the Orange Empire Conference, come in at 22-14.

The series will continue on Saturday at 10 a.m. An additional game, if necessary, would follow immediately.

PC alum Wilkins will start vs. No. 1 Tar Heels

RALEIGH, North Carolina (4-25-2013) -- Former Palomar All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference pitcher Ryan Wilkins has moved into the Friday Night starter's role for nationally No. 6-ranked North Carolina State.

And he'll put his 5-1 record and 3.16 ERA on the line when the Wolfpack hosts the nation's No. 1-ranked team, North Carolina, to open the ACC rivals' three-game series on Friday at Doak Field in Raleigh. The series is a sellout, with North Carolina State bringing the nation's longest Division I win streak of 15 games in a row into the game.

Wilkins, a 6-foot-2, 219-pound right-hander who came to Palomar from Cathedral Catholic High School, was 5-2 a year ago as an NC State junior, recording two wins with 6 2/3 shutout innings out of the bullpen vs. Vanderbilt to enable the Wolfpack to win the Raleigh Regional and advance to the Gainesville Super Regionals vs. overall No. 1 national seed Florida.

Against the Gators, Wilkins piched 5 1/3 strong relief innings in the second and deciding game to force extra innings but was out of the game by the time Florida won to advance to the College World Series.

Wilkins went 6-3 with three saves in making the All-PCAC first team as a Palomar freshman in 2010. As a sophomore in 2011, he was 4-2 with one save.

He's the older brother of current Palomar closer Zach Wilkins, a freshman right-hander out of Scripps Ranch High who is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA and nine saves for the Comets, one save short of the Palomar record, entering the Southern California Regonals.

Ryan and Zach Wilkins are the sons of Dean Wilkins, a right-handed pitcher who was selected in the first round out of San Diego Mesa College by the New York Yankees in the old January draft in 1986 and pitched from 1989-1991 in the Major Leagues for the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros.

ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: Ryan Wilkins is shown picking up the win vs. Vandervilt in 2-12 as he pitches NC State into the Super Regionals. ABOVE RIGHT: Wilkins as a Palomar sophomore in 2011

Comets' silent bats unable to support pitchers

SAN DIEGO (4-25-2013) -- First, one must set the record straight.

Other than Pacific Coast Athletic Conference champion Palomar's being able to get work for its pitchers entering the Southern California playoffs and San Diego City College's frantically looking to close 2012 with a win after falling behind the Comets 4 games to 0 in the teams' season series, the game meant nothing.

The Knights won 1-0 as the Comets' bats went silent, managing only four hits against two City College pitchers.

For its part, Palomar got both superb pitching and superb defense in the game.

Starter Kyle Montiel (left) began the game with six 2-hit, shutout innings, striking out 6 batters, before coming out to get three other pitchers pre-playoff work.

Montiel, Emilio Esquibel, Taylor Miller and Rusty Edwards combined to throw a six-hitter at the Knights. Edwards (right) entered the game in the bottom of the eighth and handcuffed City College with a scoreless relief inning, striking out two.

Defensively, the Comets made three huge plays.

Center fielder Chris Sanders and first baseman Denny Vigo made back-to-back diving catches in the bottom of the second.

Sanders made his catch coming straight in on Ryan McClanahan's siking liner, matching his two diving catches in Tuesday's 4-3, 12-inning victory on Tuesday vs. San Diego Mesa.

Vigo sprinted back in foul territory and made an even more-spectacular catch of Randy Carrazco's foul pop-up as he laid out approaching the fence down the rightfield line.

The Comets' big scoring threat came in the top of the first first when Sanders singled to left with one out and, with two down, Becker Sankey singled to right. But the next batter hit a foul pop-up to the first baseman.

That was one of 15 pop-ups that Palomar hit to City College infielders.

The Comets' only other hits came on Josh Hargrove's double to center in the third inning and a single to the right side by Dillan Smith in the fifth.

San Diego scored the game's only run in the seventh inning, one Palomar barely missed averting when a relay to first base on what would have been an inning-ending double play was ruled late.

While the Knights (15-17, 13-12 in the PCAC) put their gear away, the Comets (24-11, 21-4) await Sunday's Southern California seeding meeting and will begin the post-season at home at Myers Field a week from Friday, on May 3.

BOX

ABOVE: Dillan Smith gets down a perfect bunt to advance Nolan Barraza, who had singled, to third and Eric Sapp, who had reached base on a walk, to second with none out in the bottom of the 12th. Mesa pitcher Andrew Dages went to third too late to get Barraza. Smith was safe on a sacrifice and fielder's choice to load  the bases and the Comets went on to score three runs and win the game 4-3. -- Photo by Hugh Cox. BELOW: Chris Sanders (left) and Nico Garbella (right), who drove in runs in the inning.

Comets, down 3-1 in the 12th, find a way to win

SAN MARCOS (4-23-2013) -- Palomar, trailing 3-1 to begin the bottom of the 12th inning, found a way to win Tuesday's next-to-last game of the regular season. The Pacific Coast Athletic Conference champions scored three runs to defeat San Diego Mesa 4-3 at Myers Field.

The victory was the Southern California sixth-ranked Comets' 15th in their last 16 games and 21st in their last 23 games and allowed them to keep their momentum intact leading up to Sunday's regional seeding meeting.

After Mesa scored two runs to take the lead in the top of the 12th, the Comets stormed back in the bottom of  the inning to load the bases on Nolan Barraza's single to center, a walk to Eric Sapp and Dillan Smith's sacrifice bunt. That loaded the bases when Mesa pitcher Andrew Dages went to third in an unsuccessful attempt to get Barraza, the lead runner.

Smith was credited with a sacrifice and fielder's choice and the next batter, Chris Sanders, singled to right field to drive in Barraza and cut the Olympians' lead to 3-2. Palomar coach Buck Taylor held Sapp at third and Nico Garbella followed with a sacrifice fly to center to drive in Sapp and tie the game 3-3.

Matt Matlock's groundball to the right side moved the runners to second and third and Smith scored the winning run when Dylan Navarro forced him in by getting hit by a pitch.

Matt Dinerman, the sixth Palomar pitcher of the afternoon, came in to get the final out in the top of the 12th and picked up the win. Starter Anthony McIver, Ryan Beliel, Isidro Perez, Zach Wilkins, Taylor Miller and Dinerman combined to throw an eight-hitter, allowing a total of one earned run between them.

They were helped along by two spectacular diving catches by Sanders in center.

Mesa, trailing 1-0 from the second inning on, had tied the game in the top of the ninth off Wilkins, Palomar's closer, on a bad-hop single through the right side.

Palomar banged out 12 hits.

Four Comets contributed multiple hits: Sanders (2-for-6, RBI), Garbella (2-for-5, sac fly, RBI), Justin Hargrove (2-for-5, double) and Trey Guedea (2-for-4). Smith, Vaughn Berberet, Barraza and Sapp all singled. Smith, Barazza and Sapp all got down successful sacrifice bunts while Matlock, Guedea and Navarro all reached base by getting hit by pitches.

The Comets (24-10, 21-3 in conference) will close out the regular season with a 2 p.m. game Thursday against San Diego City College at Morley Field in Balboa Park. They'll then be off until they host a first-round Southern California Regional series against an undetermined opponent on Friday and Saturday of next week at Myers Field, with one game Friday, a second game Saturday and a third game, if needed to follow immediately after the game second.

BOX SEASON STATS

ABOVE: Eric Sapp slides into third base with a triple for the Comets in the third inning. -- Photo by Hugh Gerhardt. BELOW: Matt Matlock, one of four Comets with two hits each

PC plays sloppy game but wins title by selves

SAN MARCOS (4-20-2013) -- Palomar played a sloppy, error-filled game on Saturday at Myers Field but the Comets' 11-4 victory over visiting Imperial Valley was as functional as could be.

After wrapping up no worse than a tie for the championship earlier in the week, the Comets clinched the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference title by themselves. The conference championship is the fifth in in Buck Taylor's eight seasons as head coach and the 15th ever for Palomar.

Palomar made up for seven sloppy errors with a 17-hit attack against the Arabs. Nolan Barraza (2-for-3, triple, 2 RBIs), Becker Sankey (2-for-3, double, 2 RBIs), Dillan Smith (2-for-4, RBI, hit by pitch, 2 stolen bases) and Matt Matlock (2-for-4, RBI, stolen base) had multiple hits.

Eric Sapp tripled and Denny Vigo doubled. Chris Sanders, Armando Valencia, Nico Garbella, Bubba Craig, Dylan Navarro, Trey Guedea and Troy Forester each added a hit.

Vaughn Berberet, the Comets' starter, pitched six innings of four-hit ball to move to 4-1 on the season. He allowed four runs, all unearned as Palomar made five of their errors behind him.

The Comets are 23-10, 20-3 in the PCAC with two regular-season games remaining. They host San Diego Mesa on Tuesday at 2 p.m. and will visit San Diego City College on Thursday at the same time.

Grossmont, which already has clinched second place, now  finds itself four games behind Palomar with two regular-season games left.

BOX

ABOVE: Chris Sanders slides into third base on a seventh-inning triple which tied Thursday's game at Grossmont 5-5. BELOW: Grossmont's Billy Flamion slides in high at second in the top of the fourth inning as Palomar shortstop Dennis Morton waits for a throw from right field. Morton went down on the play and had to be helped from the field with an injury to his right knee on the play.-- Photos by Hugh Cox

Bid for undisputed title put off for at least a day

EL CAJON (4-18-2013) -- Palomar lost shortstop Dennis Morton to a knee injury in the fourth inning and lost Friday's game at Grossmont on a bases-loaded squeeze bunt in the bottom of the ninth.

The loss to the second-place Griffins, which snapped the Comets' win streak at 13 games, delayed Palomar's shot at clinching the undisputed Pacific Coast Athletic Conference championship by at least two days -- but the big concern is Morton's right knee. He had to be helped from the field after a play at second.

Palomar (22-10, 19-3 in conference), which clinched at least a tie for the PCAC title by beating Southwestern on Tuesday, was trying to win its season series from Grossmont 5 games to 0. Instead, the Comets won the series 4 games to 1. The Griffins (24-9, 16-6) clinched undisputed second place with the victory.

Chris Sanders went 2-for-3 for the Comets with a triple over the left fielder's head that drove in Eric Sapp with the tying run in the top of the seventh, after they entered the inning trailing 5-4. Matt Matlock had led off the inning with a single through the left side, and Sapp was on base on a fielder's choice that forced Matlock at second.

Sanders also singled, drew a walk, scored two runs and executed a sacrifice bunt -- and made a diving catch in center field that robbed Grossmont's Jesse Jenner of a hit to lead off the bottom of the seventh.

Grossmont center fielder Kacy Smith returned the favor the following inning when he sprinted toward the fence and, with his back to the plate, caught a long drive by Nolan Barraza to rob him of an extra-base hit.

Zach Wickham pitched three strong relief innings but took the loss in the ninth. He had left the game when pinch hitter Javier Gonzalez drove in the winning run on a picture-perfect squeeze.

Palomar's pitching staff surrendered the first home run by an opposing team all season when Flamion hit a two-run shot to right field off starter Kyle Montiel in the fifth.

Saturday's Palomar-IVC game will be played at Myers Field at 12 noon. The Comets lead Grossmont by three games with three to play, and will play their final two regular-season games next week when they host San Diego Mesa on Tuesday and travel to Morley Field in Balboa Park to face San Diego City College on Thursday.

BOX

ABOVE: With legendary 79-year-old longtime Southwestern coach Jerry Bartow watching, Becker Sankey doubles to drive in two runs with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game 3-3 on Tuesday. BELOW: Closer Zach Wilkins pitches to the Jaguars' Carlos Carriedo, the game's final batter, with two out in the top of the ninth in a 4-3 win.Wilkins retired the side in order in the inning and picked up his ninth save. -- Photos by Hugh Cox.

Comets rally in 9th for 4-3 win, clinch title tie

SAN MARCOS (4-16-2013) -- Palomar lost two battles but won the war on Tuesday, coming back in its final at-bat to down Southwestern 4-3 at Myers Field for its 13th straight win -- and clinching no worse than a tie for its third straight Pacific Coast Athletic Conference championship in the process.

The losses: Coach Buck Taylor, who was ejected for arguing balls and strikes with the plate umpire, and starting pitcher Andrew McIver, who took a batted ball off his shin after holding the Jaguars to only one earned run through 7 2/3 innings. McIver's injury was not serious. It turned out to be a bruise.

The war: Palomar (22-9,19-2) now leads second-place Grossmont, which was upset 5-4 by San Diego Mesa, by four games with four to play -- including a 2 p.m. game on Thursday against the Griffins in El Cajon when the Comets can clinch an undisputed title.

By winning Tuesday's game, Palomar already has clinched the PCAC's No. 1 playoff seed. The Comets have already swept all four meetings with the Griffins to clinch the teams' season series even before the Thursday game, and head-to-head results are the tie-breaker if teams tie for the conference title.

With Southwestern on top 3-1 and two out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Nico Garbella, Becker Sankey and Dennis Morton banged out back-to-back-to-back doubles. That put the Comets ahead by the final margin and set the stage for freshman closer Zach Wilkins, who retired the Jaguars 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth to notch his ninth save.

That leaves Wilkins one save shy of the Palomar single-season record with the four regular-season games and the post-season playoffs remaining.

Garbella led off the ninth by doubling into the rightfield corner. Sankey, whose single in the third inning had driven in Dillon Smith, aboard on a single, for Palomar's first run in the bottom of the third, then drove a ball into the leftfield corner, driving in Eric Sapp (aboard on a walk) and Garbella and tying the game 3-3.

Morton followed with a double to left that scored pinch-runner Dylan Navarro with what turned out to be the winning run.

Taylor Miller, who got the Comets out of the top half of the eighth when McIver had to leave the game, picked up the pitching win and set the stage for Wilkins.

Sankey (2-for-4 with the double and three RBIs) and Garbella (2-for-4 with his double) had multiple hits for the Comets, who managed only six hits off Southwestern's Kiki Medina, who pitched a complete game and took the loss.

Matt Matlock, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter, played third base for the first time all season and made the defensive play when he leaped high in the air to stab and ball that bounced high in the air and appeared headed to left field for a base hit in the top of the eighth. He threw to first to get Southwestern's Chris Allen for the second out in the inning.

Taylor will have to sit out Thursday's game because of the ejection. Associate head coach Ben Adams, who coached the Comets for the remainder of the game Tuesday after the ejection, will again be at the helm against Grossmont.

The win was Palomar's 19th in its last 20 games.

BOX

Berberet tops City 1-0; Comets' win streak at 12

SAN MARCOS (4-13-2013) -- Palomar closed in on its third straight Pacific Coast Athletic Conference championship on Saturday at Myers Field by completing a sweep of a  three-game series with San Diego City College.

Red-shirt freshman left-hander Vaughn Berberet shut out the Knights 1-0 with relief help from Taylor Miller and Zach Wilkins, who notched his eighth save, as the Comets ran their win streak to 12 games.

Coach Buck Taylor's club (21-9, 18-2 in the PCAC) won for the 18th time in its last 19 games and still leads second-place Grossmont, an 8-7 winner over Southwestern, by three games. There are five games left in the conference season.

Berberet threw 7 1/3 innings of five-hit, shutout basebalL. Miller came on to get the last two outs in the eighth and Wilkins pitched a scoreless top of the ninth.

The Comets scored the game's only run off the Knights' Mark Vasquez, who pitched eight innings of five-hit ball, in the third inning. Chris Sanders singled to the left side of the infield with two out and came home on a booming double to right-center by Nico Garbella (right), the next batter.

Sanders went 2-for-4, his 16th multiple-hit game of the season and fourth in the last five games. Becker Sankey contributed a double. Matt Matlock added a single.

Palomar played outstanding defense in back of its pitchers, led by Garbella who made a diving catch of Drew Danziesen's foul fly ball to right for the final out in the first inning. Second baseman Dillan Smith and first baseman Eric Sapp also made big-time defensive plays in the second and seventh innings, and shortstop Dennis Morton turned a double-play in the fifth, taking a throw from Smith and relaying it to Sapp at first.

The Comets will host Southwestern on Tuesday at 2 p.m. The combination of a Palomar win and a San Diego Mesa upset of Grossmont, which has a nine-game win streak of its own, would enable the Comets to clinch at least a tie for the conference championship.

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 This time, Montiel pitches 2-1 victory over City

SAN DIEGO (4-11-2013) -- In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it was "deja vu all over again."

Only this time, on Thursday afternoon, it was sophomore left-hander Kyle Montiel (left) who pitched a complete-game 2-1 victory over San Diego City College instead of sophomore left-hander Anthony McIver, who had done the same thing on Tuesday.

Montiel (7-1), like McIver, allowed only a lone unearned run. His performance gave Palomar its 11th straight victory, its 17th win in its last 18 games, and its 20th win of 2012.

It also enabled the Comets (20-9, 17-2) to remain three games up on second place Grossmont in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference. The Griffins downed Southwestern on Thursday 11-7.

And it all but eliminated the Jaguars from PCAC championship contention, dropping them six games behind the Comets with six games remaining.

Palomar supported Montiel, who has a 7-0 record in the conference, with a series of superb defensive plays. Second baseman Dillan Smith had a hand in most of them, handling eight chances of the field. Four of them ended City College innings, including two double-plays.

But the biggest defensive play of the afternoon came from Eric Sapp (right), who went in to play first base in the bottom of the ninth inning. Sapp did an athletic, acrobatic flip to catch a foul pop-up by the Knights' Randy Carrazci for the first out. Montiel quickly retired Alberto Robles on a ground ball to Smith for out No. 2 and Drew Danzeison on a ground ball to Sapp, who went to the bag for the final out of the game.

Trey Guerea and Smith both went 2-for-4 to account for half of the Comets' eight hits. Justin Hargrove, Sanders, Becker Sankey and Dennis Morton also hit safely.

The Comets took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on Hargrove's single to left, Sanders' sacrifice bunt, a walk to Nico Garbella and a wild throw on Morton's infield single.

The Knights tied the game in the bottom of the inning, and Palomar then tallied the winning run in the top of the seventh. Morton walked with one out. Sankey singled through the right side to move him to second, and Guedea drove himin when he banged a single to left.

The two teams will complete a three-game series on Saturday at Myers Field, beginning at noon.

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ABOVE AND BELOW LEFT: Anthony McIver, who threw a complete-game victory, deals to the plate. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW RIGHT: Chris Sanders, who was 3-for-4 and drove in the Comets' first run.

McIver (5-hitter) pitches PC to 10th win in row

SAN MARCOS (4-09-2013) -- Sophomore left-hander Anthony McIver threw a complete-game five-hitter over 1 hour and 59 minutes on Tuesday at Myers Field to give Palomar its 10th straight victory, 2-1 over San Diego City College. The win was the Comets' 16th in their last 17 games.

The Knights' run, which came in the fourth inning, was unearned as McIver advanced to 4-0 on the season with a 2.45 earned run average over 66 innings. McIver struck out seven and walked one as he celebrated his 21st birthday a day late in style.

The first-place Comets (19-9, 16-2 in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference) lead second-place Grossmont by three games and third-place Southwestern by five games with seven conference games remaining. The Griffins defeated the Jaguars 8-4 on Tuesday.

Palomar took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on Justin Hargrove's leadoff single to right-center and a single to center by Chris Sanders that drove him in.

After City College tied the game in the top of the fourth, the Comets went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on singles by Becker Sankey, Dillan Smith and Hargrove. Hargrove's hit, to center field, scored Sankey.

Palomar got to the Knights' Brent Daugherty, who also threw a complete game, for 11 hits but left 10 runners on base.

Sanders went 3-for-4 with the RBI for the Comets. Sankey also went 3-for-4. Hargove was 2-for-4 with the triple and RBI. Danny Vigo, Smith and Trey Guedea also hit safely.

The two teams will play the second game of the series on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Morley Field in Balboa Park, and will play the third game on Saturday at noon back at Myers Field.

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Hargrove (4-for-5, 3 doubles) leads 9th in row

SAN MARCOS (4-04-2013) -- Led by sophomore left fielder Justin Hargrove (left), who went 4-for-5 with 3 doubles, 1 run scored, 3 RBIs and a spectacular diving catch, Palomar ran its win streak to nine games on Saturday.

The Comets swept a three-game series from San Diego Mesa with a 9-6 win on the road. Dennis Morton and Eric Sapp hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning as Palomar won for the 15th time in its last 16 games.

The Comets moved to 18-9 on the season, 15-2 in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference. They lead second-place Grossmont, an 8-1 winner over Imperial Valley on Friday, by three games and third-place Southwestern, a 9-5 loser to San Diego City College on Saturday, by four games with eight to play.

Morton (3-for-5, 2 RBIs, stolen base), Chris Sanders (3-for-6, double, 2 RBIs), Sapp (2-for-5, RBI) and Nolan Barraza (2-for-5, double) also had multiple hits for Palomar.

Nico Garbella was hit by pitches twice and threw out a runner trying to score from second on a fly out to right. Dillan Smith stole two bases.

Starting pitcher Vaughn Berberet, who pitched 5 1/3 innings, recorded the win and is now 2-1. Zach Wilkins, the Comets' sixth pitcher of the afternoon, came on to get his seventh save in the bottom of the ninth.

Catcher Becker Sankey gunned down a runner attempting to steal.

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Chris Sanders slides in safely at the plate for Palomar in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Comets scored three runs on Nico Garbella's bases-loaded squeeze bunt and a wild throw on the play -- Photos by Deb Hellman.

Comets: 8th win in row, 14th in last 15 games

SAN MARCOS (4-04-2013) -- Palomar kept a good thing going on Thursday at Myers Field as the Comets defeated Pacific Coast Athletic Conference opponent San Diego Mesa 10-7 to make it eight straight wins and 14 victories in their last 15 games.

Chris Sanders went 3-for-4 with a triple, an RBI, a walk and a running catch that saw him come all the way over from center toward the left-field line to make the play.

Rounding out the Comets' 11-hit attack against three Mesa pitchers: Dennis Morton went 2-for-4 with a double, a sacrifice fly and two RBIs. Becker Sankey went 2-for-4. Denny Vigo doubled to drive in a run, reached base as a hit batter and drove in another run when he drew a walk with the bases loaded.

Nico Garbella singled and drove in a run on an eighth-inning, bases-loaded squeeze play, with two more runs scoring on a wild throw on the play. Vaughn Berberet singled, contributed a sacrifice bunt and drove in a run with a fielder's choice. Dylan Navarro added a single and stole a base.

Nolan Barraza drove in a run on a ground ball, and Dillan Smith chipped in with a walk and two sacrifice bunts.

Starting pitcher Kyle Montiel ran his record to 61 as he scattered six hits over seven innings, allowing two unearned runs. Taylor Miller got the Comets out of a jam when he struck out a batter for the final out with runners on second and third in the eighth inning. Appearing in a non-save situation, closer Zach Williams pitched a hitless ninth inning. He also gave up an unearned run.

First-place Palomar (17-9, 14-2 in conference to lead Grossmont and Southwestern by three games) closes this week's series vs. Mesa on Saturday at 12 noon in San Diego.

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PC survives sloppy effort, stretches lead to 3

SAN DIEGO (4-02-2013) -- Palomar's 9-8 victory over host San Diego Mesa on Thursday was neither pretty nor fundamentally sound. But it was very, very functional.

By running their win streak to seven games, and getting some help from San Diego City College in the form of a 6-5 upset of Southwestern, the first-place Comets stretched their lead in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference lead to three games over the Jaguars and Grossmont with 10 games to play.

Coach Buck Taylor's club, which has won 13 of its last 14 games and has lost only once since Feb. 26, advances to 16-9 on the season, 13-2 in conference. Grossmont, a 20-2 winner over Imperial Valley, and Southwestern are both 10-5.

The Comets, getting outstanding pitching from starter and winner Anthony McIver (left, 3-0) and freshman closer Zach Wilkins' sixth save of the season, overcame a defensive meltdown (seven errors, six by their infield) to win the game. All eight of Mesa's runs were unearned.

McIver was victimized by Palomar's first four errors and the first three unearned runs. But he pitched seven innings of four-hit ball before being relieved by Ryan Beliel, who was the victim of three of the errors in a nightmare five-run eighth inning as Mesa cut a 9-3 Palomar lead to the final 9-8 margin.

Wilkins came on to get the final out in the eighth, then threw a scoreless ninth inning to slam the door on the Olympians.

As bad as Palomar's defensive play was, the offense was every bit as good.

Vaughn Berberet clubbed a solo home run over the rightfield fence in the seventh inning and Nico Garbella (right) smashed a two-run HR over the leftfield fence in the eighth as the Comets banged out 15 hits off three Mesa pitchers.

Nolan Barraza went 3-for-4 with a double and also contributed a sacrifice bunt. Garbella went 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Berberet went 2-for-4 and had two RBIs. Dennis Morton was 2-for-5 with two doubles. Justin Hargrove was 2-for-3 with three RBIs, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and had a sacrifice bunt.

Denny Vigo added a double. Dillan Smith singled and also drove in a run on a squeeze bunt. Chris Sanders drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Eric Sapp singled and was hit by a pitch. Trey Guedea contributed a pinch-hit single.

Hargrove, the Comets' catcher, gunned down two Mesa runners attempting to steal.

The two teams will resume their series on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Myers Field and will conclude the week with another meeting at Mesa on Saturday at noon.

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Comets' Smith is conference Athlete of Week

SAN DIEGO (4-02-2013) -- Palomar baseball player Dillan Smith, a freshman from Temescal Canyon High School in Elsinore, has been selected as Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Men's Athlete of the Week for all sports.

Smith, the Comets' second baseman, went 7-for-14 with an inside-the-park home run, seven runs scored, five RBIs, three walks, a sacrifice fly and a steal as Palomar swept three games from Imperial Valley 11-5, 11-4 and 23-1. In the final game of the series, he went 3-for-5 with the home run, three runs scored, four RBIs, a walk and a sacrifrice fly.

Smith leads the Comets with a .380 batting average and has 15 RBIs, eight walks, four sacrifice flies to lead the team, nine sacrifice bunts to lead the team, a .424 on-base perdcentage to lead the team and six steals on six attempts.

He also leads Palomar in the PCAC with a .478 average.

PC backs winner Berberet to the tune of 23-1

IMPERIAL (3-29-2013) -- Redshirt freshman left-hander Vaughn Berberet (left) pitched six dominating innings of two-hit, shutout ball and visiting Palomar made it six straight wins and 12 victories in their last 13 games on Friday, unloading on Imperial Valley 23-1.

Berberet, who recorded the win, Taylor Miller, Rusty Edwards and Zach Wilkins combined on a three-hitter as the Comets advanced to 15-9 and 12-2 to remain two games ahead of second-place Southwestern in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference. The Jaguars defeated San Diego Mesa on Saturday 7-0.

Led by freshman second baseman Dillan Smith (right, 3-for-5, inside-the-park home run, sacrifice fly, walk, three runs scored, four RBIs), Palomar banged out 20 hits against five IVC pitchers.

Nolan Barraza  (3-for 4, 2 RBIs), Dennis Morton 2-for-5, 2 doubles, 3 RBIs), Dylan Navarro (2-for-3, double, 3 RBIs),  and Nico Garbella (2-for 3, 2 sacrifice flies, 2 RBIs) and Anthony Fernandez (2-for-2, double) also had multiple-hit games for Palomar. Armando Valecia tripled and drove in a run. Chris Sanders, Matt Matock and Eric Sapp each added an RBI single.

The Comets led by only 1-0 over the first four innings before scoring 22 runs in the fifth through the ninth.

Palomar plays three games against Mesa this upcoming week, on Tuesday and Saturday on the Olympians' field, sandwiched around a 2 p.m. game on Thursday at Myers Field.

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Comets win 5th straight, lead conference by 2

SAN MARCOS (3-28-2013) -- First-place Palomar wasn't at its best on Thursday afternoon. But the Comets still stretched their lead over second-place Southwestern to two games as the 25-game Pacific Coast Athletic Conference season passed the halfway point.

Chris Sanders (left) went 2-for-4 with a double, a stolen base and three RBIs as the Comets (14-9, 11-2 in conference) came back from an early 2-0 deficit to down Imperial Valley 11-4 at Myers Field. Down south, San Diego Mesa knocked off Southwestern 2-0, dropping the Jaguars two games off the PCAC lead. Third-place Grossmont turned back San Diego City College 9-8 and still trails the Comets by three games.

Nolan Barraza (2-for-4, double) and Dillan Smith joined Sanders with multiple-hit performances.

Sanders played a major role in two big innings by Palomar which produced all of the Comets' 11 runs and all of their nine hits as coach Buck Taylor's team overcame a listless performance against the last-place Arabs.

Palomar hung a 5-spot on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third, when Sanders contributed a two-run, opposite-field single to right which gave the Comets their first lead of the afternoon at 3-2. He also stole a base and scored a run on a wild pitch inning.

Dylan Navarro, Barraza and Smith all singled in the inning. Matt Matcock and Nico Garbella drew walks, and Becker Sanky was hit by a pitch.

IVC closed the gap to 5-4 in the top of the following inning, and that's the way it remained until the Comets came to bat in the bottom of the seventh still clinging to a one-run lead. Palomar pushed across six runs in the inning to lead by the final 11-4 margin.

Sanders doubled to right to drive in a run, Barraza also had a double in the inning, Dennis Morton had a two-run single, and Smith and Garbella each had a single. Vigo drew a walk in the inning and Sankey forced in a run when he was hit by a pitch for the third time.

The Arabs took advantage of three Palomar errors to score four unearned runs off starter and winner Kyle Montiel, who worked five innings to run his win-loss record to 5-1. Montiel lowered his earned run average to 2.44 on the season over 51 2/3 innings and to 1.07 for 33 2/3 innings in conference. He has a 5-0 conference record.

Ryan Belliel (above right) pitched two innings of hitless, scoreless ball in relief. Isidro Perez and Matt Dinerman each contributed one one no-hit, shutout inning as the Comets' bullpen came up big to help Palomar to its fifth straight win and its 11th victory in its last 12 games.

The two teams finish the week's series with a 2 p.m. game on Friday at Imperial.

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Garbella is 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs; PC wins again

IMPERIAL (3-26-2013) -- With Nico Garbella (left) going 3-for-4 with a double, three RBIs and a steal, Palomar jumped on Imperial Valley early and went on to win Tuesday's Pacific Coast Athletic Conference game 11-5.

The win moves the first place Comets to 13-9 on the season, 10-2 in the PCAC. They retain a one-game lead over second-place Southwestern, which beat San Diego Mesa 5-4 in 11 innings, and a three-game lead over third-place Grossmont, which defeated San Diego City College by an identical 5-4 score in 11.

It was over after 1 1/2 innings as starting pitcher Anthony McIver (right) worked 5 2/3 innings to advance to 2-0.

Palomar went in front of the Arabs 1-0 in the top of the first when leadoff batter Dillan Smith singled to center, went to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on Chris Sanders' sacrifrice bunt and scored on Garbella's ground out to short.

The Comets then scored six times in the top of the second to lead 7-1. Vaughn Berberet walked and  went to second on a balk. Dennis Morton reached base as a hit batter. Nolan Barraza singled to center, driving in Berberet. Matt Matlock drove in Morton with a ground ball to the right side.

Smith walked, stole second, and with two out Barraza and Smith scored on Garbella's two-run, opposite field double to right. Denny Vigo singled to right, driving in Garbella. Becker Sankey singled to the shortstop to score Garbella. And Berberet singled to center to drive in Vigo, making  it 7-0.

Smith (2-for-5 with an RBI, a walk and a steal), Barraza (2-for-5 with an RBI, a walk and a steal) and Vigo (2-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch) and Armando Valencia (2-for-2 off the bench) joined Garbella with multiple hits. Matlock, who also had two steals, and Bubba Craig had Palomar's other hits to round out a 17-hit attack off four IVC pitchers.

Emilio Esquibel and Cody Ells, who finished the game witth a pair of shutout innings, allowing one hit, followed McIver to the mound.

Imperial Valley, which fell to 1-11 and 2-20, comes to Myers Field for a 2 p.m. game Saturday, and the teams will conclude their three-game series back at Imperial on Friday at the same time. The series finale has been moved up a day to avoid playing on Saturday of Easter week.

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PC wins on Navarro's sac fly in 11; Sanders 4-4

SAN MARCOS (3-23-2013) -- Chris Sanders (left) went 4-for-4 with a run scored, a sacrifice fly, an RBI and a sit-down sliding catch in center at Myers Field on Saturday, and Pacific Coast Athletic Conference leader Palomar beat Grossmont 4-3 in the bottom of the 11th on a sacrifice fly by Dylan Navarro.

The Comets fell behind 3-2 in the top of the 11th. then scored two runs to win the game in the last half of the inning. Becker Sankey, who went 2-for-4, led off with a single through the left side and Palomar sent Matt Matlock in to run  for him.

Dennis Morton beat out a bunt single, with the runners advancing when Grossmont's pitcher fielded the bunt and threw the ball away.

The Griffins decided to walk Nolan Barraza intentionally to load the bases. Dillan Smith and Navarro followed with back-to-back sacrifice flies to tie the game and then win it.

The victory gave the Comets a sweep of the week's three-game series with Grossmont, which was tied with them for first place entering the week. It also gives Palomar a 4-0 lead in five conference games between the two teams. The Comets lead second-place Southwestern, an 8-0 winner over Imperial Valley, by one game and are three games up on the third-place Griffins.

The Comets (12-9, 9-2 in conference) got a combined seven-hitter from red-shirt freshman left-hander Vaughn Berberet (right), who threw two-hit ball over six innings in his first community college start, Zach Wickham, Rusty Edwards, Taylor Miller and Zach Wilkins.

Wilkins pitched the final 1 2/3 innings to record the win.

Palomar 1-0 lead in the first inning on Sanders' one-out single to center, a back, Nico Garbella's fly ball that moved him from second to third and Denny Vigo's RBI single to center with two outs.

After Grossmont tied the game in the second inning, the Comerts went back in front 2-1 in the third when Smith beat out a bunt single, stole second, went to third on Justin Hargrove's single and scored on Sanders' squeeze bunt to the pitcher.

The Griffins tied it up again in the eighth, then took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 11th, setting the stage for Palomar's two-run rally to win it in the bottom of the inning.

Trey Guedea also hit safely for Palomar.

The Comets begin a three-game series with Imperial Valley this upcoming week, with 2 p.m. games on Tuesday at Imperial, Thursday at Myers Field and Friday back at IVC.

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Vigo stays hot and Comets beat G-House again

EL CAJON (3-21-2013) -- Denny Vigo continued to swing a hot bat on Thursday, and first-place Palomar won for the eighth time in its last nine games, downing Grossmont for the second time in three days 7-5 at Noel Mickelsen Field.

Vigo (left) went 3-for-4 with a home run, double, walk and three RBIs as the streaking Comets (11-9, 8-2) remained one game ahead of second-place Southwestern and dropped the Griffins (14-7, 6-4) into third place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference race.

Dillan Smith went 2-for-3 for Palomar with a double and two walks. Nico Garbella was 2-for-5 and drove in a run.

Winning pitcher Kyle Montiel (4-1) began the game with five shutout innings before seeing his consecutive shutout inning streak snapped at 31 1/3.

Ryan Beliel relieved Montiel during Grossmont's four-run sixth inning and kept the Griffins in check until Zach Wilkins (right) pitched a hitless, scoreless ninth inning to record his fifth save.

The Comets jumped out to a 5-0 lead with two runs in the third inning and three more in the top of the fifth.

Smith walked on four straight pitches to lead off the top of the third. Chris Sanders singled to left field to move Smith to second, Garbella got down a bunt single to the left side and Vigo singled through the left side of the infield to drive in Sanders.

Smith started the fifth-inning rally by doubling down the leftfield line. Sanders moved him to third with a groundball. Garbella drove in Smith with a single to left, and Vigo followed with a home run over the leftfield fence to score Garbella ahead of him and put the Comets up by five runs.

After Grossmont's four-run sixth, Palomar answered right back with two runs in the top half of the seventh. With one out, Vigo doubled down the leftfield line, Eric Sapp walked, Dennis Morton followed with a hit-and-run single to drove in Vigo and Trey Guedea scored Sapp with a squeeze-bunt single to the pitcher.

Defensively, the Comets were helped along by Sanders, who made a diving catch in center; by Garbella, who made a running catch of a foul fly to right and made an off-balance throw back into the infield to save a run; and Sapp, who made two big plays at first base.

Palomar clinched the season series between the two teams, taking a three games to none lead with two meetings remaining to give the Comets the advantage in a potential tie-breaker. The two teams play again on Saturday at Myers Field at 2 p.m.

BOX SEASON STATS

ABOVE: Chris Sanders rounds the bag at second on his fourth-inning triple. He scored the game's first run later in the inning on a Denny Vigo single. BELOW LEFT: Catcher Becker Sankey holds his ground to tag out Grossmont's Billy Flamion after a laser throw from leftfielder Justin Hargrove in the seventh inning. Flamion unsuccessfully tries to take Sankey out. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW: Starter and winning pitcher Anthony McIver

McIver, Comets win 2-0; PC back alone in 1st

SAN MARCOS (3-19-2013) -- Tuesday was about as good a day as Palomar's Anthony McIver could ever have hoped for.

With his future coach Rich Hill of the University of San Diego watching, the 6-foot-4 sophomore left-hander shut down Grossmont 2-0 at Myers Field as he pitched the Comets back into the undisputed Pacific Coast Athletic Conference lead.

The G-House had moved into a tie for first place with the Comets by routing San Diego Mesa 14-2 on Saturday. But McIver, a Rancho Buena Vista High School product and transfer from Notre Dame who signed early with USD, made sure the Griffins' stay at the top would be a short one as he dominated them for eight shutout innings.

With the help of single runs in the fourth and sixth innings, and huge defensive plays by center fielder Chris Sanders and left fielder Justin Hargrove, McIver slammed the door on the Griffs.

Then he showed them the door, shoving them into a tie for second place with Southwestern, which escaped with an 8-6 win at Imperial Valley. Coach Buck Taylor's Comets, who have won seven out of their last eight games, lead the conference with a 7-2 record, followed by the Griffins and Jaguars at 6-3.

Palomar, which saw its six-game win streak snapped 2-1 at Southwestern on Saturday, turned right around and ended Grossmont's six-game win streak as McIver won his pitchers' duel with the Griffins' Kendall Lindley, another left-hander who brought a 4-1 record into Tuesday's game.

The Comets took a 1-0 lead off Lindley in the bottom of the fourth inning when Sanders tripled into the right-field corner with one out and, with two down, scored on Denny Vigo's RBI single to center.

They made it 2-0 in the sixth. After Nico Garbella, who led off the inning, was robbed of a hit by Billy Flamion's diving catch in right field, Vigo doubled to left. With two out, Becker Sankey drove Vigo in with a double to left. Dennis Morton and Nolan Barreza followed with back-top-back singles. The Comets then left the bases loaded -- but the damage had been done.

Sanders made the first big defensive play in back of McIver when he sprinted straight in from center field to make a diving catch which robbed the Griffins' Curren Facer of a hit. If the ball would have gotten by Sanders, Facer likely would have at least made it to third base and possibly would have scored.

The second big defensive play came courtesy of Hargrove, a transfer from Grossmont, in the top of the seventh as he gunned down Flamion trying to score from second on a single with a laser throw from left field.

Palomar also got a clutch pitching performance from freshman right-hander Zach Wilkins, who came on in the ninth inning with a runner on second and retired the Griffins 1-2-3 for his fourth save.

Vigo and Dennis Morton each went 2-for-4 for Palomar with two singles each.

Trey Guedea doubled and Hargrove singled for the Comets' other hits.

Palomar and Grossmont play two more games against each other this week, at the Griffins' Noel Mickelsen Field on Thursday at 2 p.m. and Saturday back at Myers Field at the same time.

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PCAC Athlete of the Week Kyle Montiel pitches in Comets' 1-0 win over Southwestern last Thursday. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Montiel is PCAC Athlete of Week for all sports

SAN DIEGO (3-19-2013) -- Kyle Montiel, Palomar's sophomore left-handed starting pitcher from Carlsbad High School, has been honored as the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Men's Athlete of the Week for all sports.

Montiel threw 8 1/3 innings to notch the victory in the Comets' 1-0 win over Southwestern last Thursday at Myers Field. He's 3-0 in the PCAC to lead the conference and has a PCAC earned run average of 0.00 for 23 1/3 innings, also to lead the conference.

Montiel has a 26 1/3 consecutive scoreless-inning streak to go along with the 23 1/3 scoreless-inning streak in PCAC games. He's compiled a 2.18 ERA for 41 1/3 innings on the season.

ABOVE: Palomar first baseman Eric Sapp applies the tag as pitcher Vaughn Berberet picks off Southwestern's Albert Mikell in the fifth inning on Saturday. -- Photo courtesy of Russell Scoffin, Southwestern College. BELOW LEFT: Berberet, who allowed one run on three hits in 4 2/3 innings of relief. BELOW RIGHT: Nolan Barraza, who drove in the Comets' run

Streak ends in 2-1 game; PC back in tie for 1st

CHULA VISTA (3-16-2003) -- Palomar, which had beaten Southwestern in back-to-back games earlier in the week to take over first place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference by itself, turned around and dropped a tough 2-1 decision to the Jaguars on Saturday.

The Comets (9-9, 6-2 in conference), who saw their six-game win streak snapped, now find themselves back into a tie for first, this time with Grossmont which boat-raced San Diego Mesa 14-2 on Saturday. Southwestern, which was tied for Palomar for the conference lead entering the week, is a game back of the Comets and Griffins in third place.

Palomar plays a three-game series against Grossmont this upcoming week, at home on Tuesday, at the G-House on Thursday and back at Myers Field on Saturday.

Southwestern pitcher Juwun McCray, a first-team all-counference selection last season, shut down the Comets as he combined on a five-hitter with Matt DeRosier, who came on to get the last two batters in the ninth inning.

Palomar starter Zach Wickham pitched three innings of two-hit, scoreless ball before the Comets handed the Jaguars a gift-wrapped unearned run in the top of the fourth on a hit-batter with two strikes, an error on a pickoff attempt, a balk and a second error on another pickoff attempt.

Reliever Vaughn Berberet (left) came in to get Palomar out of the inning and finished the game off by allowing one run on three hits over 4 2/3 innings, striking out five.

The Comets tied the game when Nolan Barraza (right) lined a single to left to drive in Justin Hargrove in the fifth inning. Hargrove had singled through the right side of the infield with one out and advanced to third on Matt Matlock's ground ball.

But Southwestern came back to tally the deciding run on Sheldon Gabriels' RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.

Matlock, Dylan Navarro and Nico Garbella had Palomar's remaining hits, all singles. Garbella led off the top of the ninth with his hit through the right side. Eric Sapp moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt, but the Comets stranded both runners when DeRosier came in from the bullpen to get the last two batters on a fly ball and a strikeout.

Wickham and Berberet also teamed up on a five-hitter.

BOX

Montiel's streak at 26 1/3 scoreless innings

SAN MARCOS (3-14-2013) -- Kyle Montiel (left) ran his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 26 1/3 (23 1/3 innings in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference) at Myers Field on Thursday, recording the win as first-place Palomar beat visiting Southwestern for the second time in three days 1-0.

The 6-foot, 4-inch sophomore from Carlsbad High School worked the first 8 1/3 innings before Ryan Beliel came in to record the save.

Montiel (3-1) started the streak by pitching eight innings to beat Grossmont 2-0 on Feb. 28. He threw seven innings to defeat San Diego City College 4-0 on March 7.

Palomar made the most of only six hits to beat Southwestern's Augustin Lopez, who had a 4-1 record and 1.74 ERA going into the game. The Comets scored the game's only run in the bottom of first and had all of their hits in the first four innings. 

Nico Garbella (right), who was 2-for-4 with a stolen base, drove in the game's only run with a single with one out. Dillan Smith drew a walk to open the Comets' half of the first, stole second and scored the run when Garbella lined a Lopez pitch to left.

Smith went 2-for-3 with the walk and the steal. Vaughn Berberet and Justin Hargrove had the other hits.

Palomar (9-8, 6-1 in conference) will visit Southwestern on Saturday at noon to close out the three-game series. Grossmont passed the Jaguars to take over second place by beating San Diego Mesa 3-1 in 10 innings on Tuesday.

BOX

PC rallies to win by 4-3, is alone in first place

CHULA VISTA (3-12-2013) -- Dillan Smith (left) singled up the middle with two out in the eighth inning to tie the game and Bubba Craig (right) drove in the winning run by singling to center in the ninth on Tuesday as Palomar rallied from three runs behind to beat host Southwestern 4-3.

The win, the Comets fifth  in a row, moved them past Southwestern into undisputed first place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference with a 5-1 record six games into a 25-game conference schedule. The Jaguars, who were deadlocked with the Comets for the PCAC lead going into the game, fall into a tie for second place with Grossmont.

Palomar, which finally pulled back to .500 on the season at 8-8 after a 3-8 start, banged out 15 hits, all in the last seven innings and all off Southwestern pitching ace Kiki Medina.

Third baseman Nolan Berraza went 3-for-5 with an RBI to lead the Comets at the plate. Eric Sapp (2-for-3 with a double, hit-by-pitch and a steal), Smith (2-for-3 with 2 RBIs, a sacrifice bunt and a steal) and Chris Sanders (2-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch) also had multiple hits.

Rusty Edwards, the second of four Palomar pitchers, came on in the seventh inning to get the Comets out of trouble as he recorded his second win in 10 days, while Zach Wilkins shut out the Jaguars in the eighth and ninth innings to notch his second save.

With a runner at second and two outs i the eighth, shortstop Dennis Morton got the Comets out of the inning with a difficult defensive play to throw out the Jaguars' Miguel Solano at first. Edwards had started a four-man pickoff play in the seventh on which he tagged out Southwestern's Augustin Lopez at first on another huge defensive play

Starter Anthony McIver and Taylor Miller kept Southwestern in check with a combined 4 1/3 shutout innings in the middle of the game after Palomar had fallen behind early 3-0. Miller entered the game with runners at second and third and none out in the sixth and got the Comets out of the inning without any runs. He wound up throwing 1 1/3 scorless innings.

The Comets still trailed 3-1 when Becker Sankey and Vaughn Berberet started the top of the eighth with back-to-back singles. Dennis Morton moved them along with a perfect sacrifice bunt, setting the stage for Smith's two-run single which tied the game.

Sanders singled to lead off the ninth, Nico Garbella bunted him to second. With two out, Craig delivered the game-winning hit.

The win equaled the two teams' season series at a game apiece with three meetings between the two remaining. The Comets and Jaguars will play again on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Myers Field and will be back at Southwestern for a noon game on Saturday.

BOX

ABOVE: Winner Kyle Montiel delivers a pitch. Montiel, Zach Wickham and Zach Wilkins combined on the shutout. -- Photo by Deb Hellman. BELOW LEFT: Dennis Morton, who was 3-for-5 with three RBIs. BELOW RIGHT: Nico Garbella, who delivered two more hits.

Montiel, Morton lead Comets into tie for 1st

SAN MARCOS (3-07-2013) -- Palomar, which got off to a miserable early-season start before getting its act together, finds itself in a tie for first place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference today. This is thanks to a four-game winning streak, capped by a 5-0 victory over San Diego City College on Thursday at Myers Field.

The win bumped the Comets into a tie with Southwestern for the conference lead after the Jaguars lost 2-1 to Grossmont.

The Comets, who were alone in second going into the day, got huge efforts from starting pitcher Kyle Montiel and shortstop Dennis Morton.

Montiel (2-1), a sophomore from Carlsbad High School, threw seven innings of five-hit ball to record the win as he combined on a six-hit shutout with Zach Wickham and Zach Wilkins.

Morton, a freshman out of Temecula Valley High, went 3-for-5 and drove in three runs.

Nico Garbella remained hot as he went 2-for-4. Chris Sanders, who also made two big catches coming in on the ball in center field, was 1-for-3 with a double and a sacrifice bunt. Eric Sapp also went 1-for-3.

Palomar, which has climbed back to 7-8 overall after starting the year 3-8 with seven one- and two-run losses, will face Southwestern three times next week in a series that could establish the early favorite in the 25-game conference race. The Comets (4-1 in the PCAC) will play the Jaguars on Tuesday on the road, next Thursday at home and next Saturday back at Southwestern.

BOX

Garbella (4-for-5), PC top Mesa for 3rd in row

SAN DIEGO (3-05-2013) -- Nico Garbella (left) went 4-for-5, tripled, doubled and drove in three runs on Tuesday as visiting Palomar made it three straight Pacific Coast Athletic Conference victories with a 6-3 win over San Diego Mesa.

The Comets (3-1 in conference) moved into undisputed second place, one game behind first-place Southwestern (4-0), which blasted San Diego City College 18-3. Palomar and City were tied for second going into Tuesday's games.

Garbella's triple, past the Oympian center fielder who was unable to make a diving catch, scored Palomar's second of three ninth-inning runs which put the Comets in front by three.

Trey Guedea got the rally started by drawing a walk, Dillan Smith sacrificed pinch-runner Dylan Navarro to second, Matt Matlock (right) singled off the shortstop's glove for his third hit to move Navarro to third, and Chris Sanders gave Palomar a 4-3 lead as he lined a single off the shortstop's glove.

The Olympians scored a run in the bottom of the inning but Ryan Beliel, who worked the last two innings in relief of starter Anthony McIver, got the last two outs on a fly ball and a grounder to strand two runners and pick up the pitching win.

Palomar staked McIver to a 3-0 lead after four innings. But, after the left-handed Notre Dame transfer retired the first 11 Mesa batters and took a two-hit shutout into the sixth, the Olympians came back to score three times in the last half of the inning. McIver retired the side 1-2-3 in the seventh before being relieved by Beliel.

Matlock went 3-for-5 as the Comets banged out 15 hits off returning all-conference pitcher Chris Tuma, who went the route for the Olympians. Vaughn Berberet went 2-for-4 with a double. Sanders was 2-for-5 with an RBI, and Smith went 1-for-2 with a sacrifice fly and the sacrifice bunt. Vigo, Justin Hargrove and Dennis Morton also hit safely.

Morton, playing shortstop, made a spectacular play for the final out in the sixth to cut off the Olympians' rally, and the Comets turned a double play to end the sixth inning that went from third baseman Guedea to Smith at second to first baseman Denny Vigo.

 PC rallies for 6 late runs to win; Smith is 4-for-4

IMPERIAL (3-02-2013) -- Tied at 6-6 after seven innings, Palomar erupted for seven runs in  the final two innings on Saturday to beat Imperial Valley 12-6 on the road. The Comets are 2-1 in conference, trailing first-place Southwestern (3-0) one week into the 25-game Pacific Coast Athletic Conference season.

Second baseman Dillan Smith (left), batting in the 9 hole, again sparked the Comets. He went 4-for-4, hitting a sacrifice fly and driving in three runs and also had a big defensive game.

Denny Vigo (right) slugged a two-run home run over the leftfield fence in the fifth inning.

Chris Sanders singled in two runs to break the game open in Palomar's four-run eighth inning. He also had a sacrifice fly, matching Smith with three RBIs, stole two bases and alertly advanced  from first all the way to third on a wild pitch..

Nico Garbella went 2-for-4 with a double, a hit-by-pitch and a steal. Dennis Morton went 2-for-5. Matt Matlock singled and also had a sacrifice bunt and reached base twice as a hit batter. Justin Hargrove, Nolan Barraza and Dylan Navarro also hit safely. Anthony Fernandez contributed a sacrifice fly.

Rusty Edwards, the third of five Palomar pitchers, recorded the win. He threw a hitless seventh inning.

The Comets, who spotted IVC an early 3-1 lead, also got strong relief performances from Vaughn Berberet, Ryan Beliel and Emilio Esquibel.

BOX

Montiel blanks Griffs with Wilkins' relief help

SAN MARCOS (2-28-2013) -- Sophomore left-hander Kyle Montiel threw eight shutout innings to record the win and freshman right-hander Zach Wilkins picked up the save with a three-strikeout ninth inning on Thursday.

Palomar downed Grossmont 2-0 at Myers Field, evening its PCAC record at 1-1.

The victory snapped a five-game losing streak and ended some relentless frustration for the Comets, who have outplayed most of their opponents while playing a tough early schedule but have lost four games by one run and three others by two runs. Montiel (1-1) and Wilkins combined to strike out seven batters in the last four innings.

Palomar (4-8 overall) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and made its lead stand up the rest of the day to beat Adam Anawalt, who pitched a complete game for the Griffins in what turned into a 1-hour, 54-minute pitching duel.

Matt Matlock singled to center to lead off the bottom of the first and moved to second on Chris Sanders' sacrifice bunt. Nico Garbella doubled to left field, driving in Matlock. Justin Hargrave  singled through the right side of the infield with two out to score Garbella from second.

Garbella went 2-for-4 with the RBI to pace a seven-hit attack for Palomar.

Dennis Morton and Vaughn Berberet both singled for the Comets.

Palomar travels to Imperial Valley for a 12 noon conference game on Saturday. The Comets dropped a double-header to the Arabs on their last visit to the desert last April, which eventually cost them an undisputed PCAC championship. They wound up tying for the conference title with Southwestern and San Diego Mesa, but did not make the playoffs. A double-header split would have given the Comets a first-place finish by themselves.

PHOTOS: Left: Winning pitcher Kyle Montiel, who threw eight shutout innings. Right: Palomar second baseman Dillan Smith catches throw from catcher Justin Hargrove and tags out Grossmont's Curren Facer trying to steal for out No. 3 in the fifth inning -- Photo by Hugh Cox

PC gets 17 hits but can't hold lead and falls 9-8

CHULA VISTA (2-26-2013) -- Palomar twice took the lead in the top of an inning, but was unable to shut down Southwestern in the bottom of the inning as the Comets dropped their Pacific Coast Athletic Conference opener to Southwestern 9-8 on Tuesday.

This, despite mounting a 17-hit attack.

The killer was the sixth inning, when Palomar scored five runs to take a 7-4 lead, then gave up five runs in the bottom of the inning.

Dillan Smith (left, 3-for-3, 2 sacrifice bunts) and Dennis Morton (right, 3-for-5) led the 17-hit attack for the Comets. Nico Garbella (2-for-5, stolen base, 2 RBIs), Vaughn Berberet (2-for-4, sacrifice fly, 2 RBIs), Matt Matlock (2-for-6, RBI) and Chris Sanders (2-for-6) also had multiple hits.

Isidro Perez, the third Palomar pitcher of the day, struck out the only batter he faced in the bottom of the sixth to finally get the Comets out of the inning. He threw 2 1/3 innings of one-hit, scoreless ball to close out the game, striking out three, walking none and allowing only one base runner. But his effort came too late.

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Palomar nearly stuns Coast (11-2), falls in 10

COSTA MESA (2-22-2012) -- Palomar came oh-so-close to upsetting Orange Coast on Friday at Wendall Pickens Field, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the seventh, but left the bases loaded and eventually lost 3-2 in 10 innings.

The Pirates, who are off to an 11-2 start to the season, scored the winning run with two out in the bottom of the 10th to give coach John Altobelli his 500th victory.

Chris Sanders led off the Palomar seventh by blooping a single into short right field and stole second. With one out, Sanders went to third on Dillan Smith's ground ball to the right side and scored on a passed ball to cut Coast's lead to 2-1.

With two out, Nico Garbella drew a walk, Justin Hargrove singled to left and Trey Guedea singled through the left side of the infield to drive in Garbella from second. Eric Sapp walked to load the bases but the Comets left the bases loaded.

Sanders (left) and Gueda (right) each went 2-for-4 for the Comets. Along with Hargrove, Sapp and Bubba Craig also hit safely.

Palomar got strong pitching performances from starter Kyle Montiel and relievers Zach Wickham and Ryan Beliel in the los

PC can't overcome 5-0 1st-inning, loses 11-5

FULLERTON (2-16-2013) -- Palomar spotted host Fullerton a 5-0 first-inning lead, eventually battled back, bot it was too little, too late as the Comets dropped an 11-5 non-conference decision to the Hornets on Saturday afternoon.

The Comets got multiple-hit performances from Dennis Morton (3-for-5, double, RBI), Nico Garbella (3-for-5, double) and Chris Sanders (2-for-5) in the loss.

Vaughn Berberet came on in relief to throw 1 1/3 innings of good relief before running into trouble in the fourth inning. Palomar also got effective relief pitching performances from Matt Dinerman, Emilio Esquibel and Rusty Edwards.

Comets shut down and lose both lead, game

SAN MARCOS (2-14-2013) -- Leading by 8-1 after five innings,  Palomar saw Fullerton come from behind to pin the Comets with another close non-conference loss on Thursday at Myers Field, this one by a 10-8 score.

The Comets swung the bat for those first five innings, but their offense shut down as the Hornets outscored them the rest of the afternoon 9-0.

Chris Sanders (2-for-5, double, three RBIs), Justin Hargrove (2-for-4, hit by pitch, RBI) and Matt Matlock (2-for-3, two walks, steal) led Palomar offensively.

Right hander Cody Ells came on to pitch a scoreless ninth inning, but the damage had been done. Trley Navarro, who had a sacrifice fly in the third inning, walked with one out in the bottom of the ninth but was left stranded.

Win or lose, very game for Palomar, which fell to 3-5, has been decided by either one or two runs.

PHOTOS: LEFT: Chris Sanders, who went 2-for-5 with a double and three RBIs for the Comets. RIGHT: Catcher Justin Hargrave, who had a big day both at the plate and behind the plate, awaits the arrival of Fullerton's Thomas Castro in the seventh inning, taging him out at home on an attempted double steal for the second time in the game. -- Photo by Deb Hellman.

Palomar leaves bases loaded in ninth, loses

SAN MARCOS (2-13-2013) -- Palomar again tried to pick up a victory in the ninth inning on Wednesday at Myers Field, but this time the Comets left the bases loaded and dropped a tough 4-3 decision to Orange Coast.

Trailing 3-0, Palmar rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game. The Pirates (6-2) then took a 4-3 in the top of the ninth, scoring a run onj a hit batter, a single and two errors.

Dillan Smith, who led Palomar by going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a sacrifice bunt, led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. But he was forced at second on a fielder's choice and the Pirates eventually got out of the inning -- and escaped with the win -- after the Comets loaded the ases with two out.

In the three-run seventh-inning rally, Dennis Morton drew and walk. Chris Sanders, Smith and Nico Garbella hit back-to-back-to-back singles, with Smith's hit driving in a run. Matt Matcock also drove in a run with a ground ball. The other run came home on an error. The Comets left runners stranded at first and third in the inning.

Anthony McIver and Ryan Beliel combined  to throw a five-hitter for Palomar. McIver, a Notre Dame transfer out of Rancho Buena Vista High School, retired  the side in order in four of the seven innings he pitched. He struck out seven batters and walked one.

PHOTO: Anthony McIver, who struck out seven batters in seven innings -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Comets top Cypress, San Bernardino, go 2-1

SAN MARCOS (2-09-2013) -- Palomar, which had a miserable day in the field, rallied for three runs in the ninth inning on Saturday to  finish the round-robin Buttles Memorial Tournament with a 7-6 victory over San Bernardino Valley at College of the Desert's Ted Hamilton Field.

The Comets were upset 6-4 by host COD 6-3 on Thursday, then rebounded to knock off Cypress 5-4 in 11 innings on Friday. They won two of three games in the tournament.

Palomar 7, San Bernardino Valley 6 -- San Diego State transfer Denny Vigo (left), who went 3-for-4 for the game with a home run, double and walk, got the rally going by doubling to lead off the top of the ninth. Justin Hargrove, Armando Valencia and Anthony Fernandez had RBI singles later in the inning.

Nolan Berraza and Trey Gueda also had multiple-hit games for Palomar (3-3 on the season) as they each went 2-for-4 with a walk. Nico Garbella, Bubba Craig and Dennis Morton also hit safely as the Comets banged out 16 hits.

Freshman right-hander Zach Wilkins, Palomar's fourth pitcher of the day, threw hitless, shutout ball ove the last two innings, striking out three, to record the win. Hargrove, who came in to catch in the sixth inning, also contributed big-time defensively when he gunned down San Bernardino's Joseph Szczepanski, who had reached base four times on errors, in the bottom of the ninth.

Palomar 5, Cypress 4 -- Reliever Ryan Beliel I(above right) came on to pitch four strong innings from the sixth through the 11th, giving up one run and striking out three to pick up the win as Nico Garbella (3-for-6, two doubles) doubled to drive in the winning run with two out in the bottom of the 11th.

Dylan Navarro went 2-for-4 with a walk for the Comets, who had nine hits.

COD 6, Palomar 4 -- Gueda (2-for-2 with a double, walk and sacrifice bunt) and Chris Sanders (2-for-4 with a double and RBI) had multiple hits as Palomr banged out nine hits. But it wasn't enough as the Roadrunners won it with two runs in the bottom of the eighth.

Garbella doubled in two runs as the Comets went on top 3-0 in the top of the second.

Comets strand tying runner at 3rd, fall to Dons

SANTA ANA (2-05-2013) -- Palomar stranded the tying run at third base in the ninth inning on Tuesday as the Comets, who have 23 freshmen on their roster, came oh-so-close to knocking off Santa Ana, one of the favorites to win the CCCAA state championship, in a non-conference game. The Dons eventually survived 5-4.

It was the first close game of the young season for the Dons (3-0), who are ranked second in Southern California and third in the state by the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association and No. 4 on the Pacific Coast by the American College Baseball Coaches Association.

Palomar fell behind 4-0, came back to tie the game 4-4, then trailed 5-4 going into the top of the ninth. Shortstop Dillan Smith led off the inning by doubling to the wall over Santa Ana right fielder Cody Bergeson's head. Nico Garbella moved Smith to third with a sacrifice bunt but the Comets stranded him at third.

Chris Sanders (left) went 3-for-4 to pace a 10-hit attack off eight Santa Ana pitchers as Palomar reached double figures in hits for the third straight game.

Sanders' single drove in Justin Hargrove with the tying run in the top of the sixth. After Santa Ana took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the inning, Sanders clubbed a hard-hit, two-out single to right-center in the eighth inning, which would have tied the game. But Hargrove, who had singled and advanced on a wild pitch, was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second.

Smith went 2-for-3 with a single. Along with Hargrave's single, Garbella, Matt Matlock and Danny Vigo also hit safely.

Palomar (1-2) got strong relief performances from Isidro Perez, who came on in the second to get the Comets out of a jam and wound up striking out three batters in 4 2/3 innings, and Ryan Beliel (above right). Beliel came into the game to start the seventh and shut down the Dons with two straight 1-2-3 innings, giving the Palomar a chance to tie or win the game in the ninth.

Garbella's bases-loaded triple in 9th wins it

HUNTINGTON BEACH (2-02-2013) -- A bases-loaded triple by Nico Garbella (left) highlighted a five-run ninth inning that gave Palomar a 6-4 non-conference baseball win over Golden West on Saturday at Fred Hoover Field.

The victory enabled the Comets to split the two-day, season-opening series with the Rustlers after Golden West won 8-6 in 12 innings Friday at Myers Field (see below).

With one out and no one on in the top of the ninth and the Rustlers leading 2-1, Vaughn Berberet drew a walk for the Comets and Trey Guedea singled to left, advancing Berberet to second.

After a Golden West pitching change, Chris Sanders singled to center to load the bases. Dillan Smith (right) beat out an infield single to score Berberet from third, tying the game at 2-2.

Garbella followed by slamming the triple to left-center field, driving in three runs and giving the Comets a 5-2 lead. Following another Golden West pitching change and a strikeout for out No. 2, Garbella scored the sixth run when the Rustlers' shortstop threw away Dennis Morton's ground ball.

That made it 6-2. Golden West closed the gap to 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth before Zach Wilkins, the fifth Palomar pitcher of the afternoon, struck out Steve Pascual swinging for the final out of the game.

Zach Wickham threw five-plus strong innings after he relieved starter Rob Woodcock, a transfer from Cal, following a scoreless first inning. Woodcock left the game when he felt a twinge in his arm on the final pitch of the inning.

Isidro Perez and Taylor Miller followed Wickham to the mound and both had their moments before Wilkins, the brother of ex-Palomar and current North Carolina State pitcher Ryan Wilkins, entered the game with none out and two runners on in the ninth.

Miller notched the pitching win. Wilkins picked up the save.

Guedea went 3-for-4 for the Comets. Berberet went 2-for 2 and walked twice, and Morton was 2-for-5 with a double. Eric Sapp singled in a run in the top of the fourth inning.

Garbella made a diving catch coming in on a ball in right field to get Palomar out of a bases-locaded jam in bottom of the fourth.

Comets drop 3 1/2-hour, 12-inning marathon

SAN MARCOS (2-01-2013) -- Despite an near-spectacular performance by starting pitcher Anthony McIver (left), and despite a four-hit performance at the plate by Eric Sapp (right), Palomar dropped a marathon decision to Golden West to open the baseball season on Friday.

Sophomore Chris Sanders also had a big day, going 2-for-5 with a big RBI, a run scored, a stolen base and a spectacular diving catch in center field and reliever Kyle Montiel struck out six batters in 3 1/3 innings but the Comets eventually fell 8-6 to Golden West in a 12-inning game that last 3 hours, 28 minutes and ended in near-darkness.

"I was really happy with the way we played and the way we kept battling back, coming through offensively when we had to, executed when we needed to and made key pitches when we had to, especially with all the freshmen we have," coach Buck Taylor said. "If we play and battle like this, we're going to be just fine."

McIver, a Rancho Buena Vista High School product and a transfer from the University of Notre Dame, pitched seven strong four-hit innings and left the game with Palomar leading 2-1.

Sapp, a Cathedral Catholic High School product and a red-shirt freshman who transferred from the University of Oregon, went 4-for-6 with two RBIs, a run scored and a steal as the Comets banged out 11 hits.

Sanders' single through the right side on an 0-2 count with two out in the bottom of the seventh drove in pinch-runner Dylan Navarro from second and gave Palomar the 2-1 lead.

Sanders also singled and scored the tying run in the bottom of the ninth as the Comets came back from a 6-5 deficit to send the game to extra innings. He moved to second on Dillan Smith's sacrifice bunt and scored when from second when Nico Garbella singled and  the right fielder through the ball away.

Montiel came on in the top of the ninth to get the Palomar out of the inning after the Rustlers had scored three runs, setting the stage for the heroics in the last half of the inning. Montiel threw 3 1/3 innings of strong one-hit ball bu;t Golden West scored two runs in the top of the 12th to win it with the aid of a walk, two passed balls and a wild pitch.

Matt Matlock, Troh Forester and Anthony Fernandez also hit safely.

2013 Baseball Schedule and Results

(Home Games in Bold)

DAY DATE OPPONENT SITE TIME / SCORE BOX W-L CONF

Fri

Feb 1

Golden West

Myers Field

L 6-8 (12 inn.) BOX 0-1  
Sat Feb 2 at Golden West Golden West College W 6-4 BOX 1-1  
Tue Feb 5 at Santa Ana Santa Ana College L 4-5 BOX 1-2  
Thu Feb. 7 at College of the Desert (Buttles Memorial Tournament) Palm Desert (COD) L 4-6 BOX 1-3  
Fri Feb 8 Cypress (Buttles Memorial Tournament) Palm Desert (COD) W 5-4 (11 inn) BOX 2-3  
Sat Feb 9 San Bernardino Valley (Buttles Tournament) Palm Desert (COD) W 7-6 BOX 3-3  
Web Feb 13 Orange Coast Myers Field L 3-4 BOX 3-4  
Thu Feb 14 Fullerton Myers Field L 8-10 BOX 3-5  
Sat Feb 16 at Fullerton Fullerton College L 5-11 BOX  3-6  
Thu Feb 21 Santa Ana Myers Field Rain      
Fri Feb 22 at Orange Coast Costa Mesa (Orange Coast College) L 2-3 (10 inn) BOX 3-7  
Tue Feb 26 at Southwestern (PCAC) Chula Vista (Southwestern College) L 8-9 BOX 3-8 0-1
Thu Feb 28 Grossmont (PCAC) Myers Field W 2-0 BOX 4-8 1-1
Sat Mar 2 at Imperial Valley (PCAC) Imperial (Imperial Valley College) W 12-6 BOX  5-8 2-1
Tue Mar 5 at SD Mesa (PCAC) San Diego (SD Mesa College) W 6-4 BOX 6-8 3-1
Thu Mar 7 SD City (PCAC) Myers Field W 5-0 BOX 7-8 4-1
Tue Mar 12 at Southwestern (PCAC) Chula Vista (Southwestern College) W 4-3 BOX 8-8 5-1
 Thu Mar 14 Southwestern (PCAC) Myers Field W 1-0 BOX 9-8 6-1
Sat Mar 16 at Southwestern Chula Vista (Southwestern College) Lost 1-2 BOX 9-9 6-2
Tue Mar 19 Grossmont (PCAC) Myers Field W 2-0 BOX 10-9 7-2
Thu Mar 21 at Grossmont (PCAC) El Cajon W 7-5 BOX 11-9 8-2
Sat Mar 23 Grossmont (PCAC) Myers Field W 4-3 (12 INN.) BOX 12-9 9-2
Tue Mar 26 at Imperial Valley (PCAC) Imperial (Imperial Valley College) W 11-5 BOX 13-9 10-2
Thu Mar 28 Imperial Valley (PCAC) Myers Field W 11-4 BOX 14-9 11-2
Fri Mar 29 at Imperial Valley (PCAC) Imperial (Imperial Valley College) W 23-1 BOX 15-9 12-2
Tue Apr 2 at SD Mesa (PCAC) San Diego (SD Mesa College) W 9-8 BOX 16-9 13-2
Thu Apr 4 SD Mesa (PCAC) Myers Field W 10-7 BOX 17-9 14-2
Sat Apr 6 at SD Mesa San Diego (SD Mesa College) W 9-6 BOX 18-9 15-2
Tue Apr 9 SD City (PCAC) Myers Field W 2-1 BOX 19-9 16-2
Thu Apr 11 at SD City (PCAC) San Diego (Morley Field) W 2-1 BOX 20-9 17-2
Sat Apr 13 SD City (PCAC) Myers Field W 1-0 BOX 21-9 18-2
Tue Apr 16 Southwestern (PCAC) Myers Field W 4-3 BOX 22-9 19-2
Thu Apr 18 at Grossmont (PCAC) El Cajon (Grossmont College) L 5-6 BOX 22-10 19-3
Sat Apr 20 Imperial Valley (PCAC) Myers Field W 11-4 BOX 23-10 20-3
Tue Apr 23 SD Mesa (PCAC) Myers Field W 4-3 (12 inn.) BOX 24-10 21-3
Thu Apr 23 at SD City (PCAC) San Diego (Morley Field) L 0-1 BOX 24-11 21-4
CCCAA Southern California Regionals Round 1 (Best 2-of-3 Series)
Fri May 3 Orange Coast Myers Field W 3-2 BOX 25-11  
Sat May 4 Orange Coast Myers Field L 2-5 BOX 25-12  
Orange Coast Myers Field W 1-0 BOX 26-12  
CCCAA Southern California Fullerton Super Regional A (4-team Double-Elimination)
Fri May 10 Glendale Fullerton College W 3-2 BOX 27-12
Sat May 11 Fullerton Fullerton College L 1-5 BOX 27-13  
    Compton Fullerton College W 10-2 BOX 28-13  
Sun May 12 Fullerton Fullerton College W 8-0 BOX 29-13  
    Fullerton Fullerton College L 6-7 BOX 29-14  

2013 Roster

No

Name

Pos

B/T

Ht

Wt

Yr

High School (City) /  Previous College

1 Matt Matlock INF L/R 5-11 165 Fr Murrieta Valley (Murrieta, CA)
2 Ricky Kliebenstein INF R/R 5-11 170 RS El Camino (Oceanside, CA)
4 Dylan Navarro OF L/R 6-0 160 Fr El Camino (Oceanside, CA)
7 Dillan Smith INF L/R 6-1 150 Fr Temescal Canyon (Lake Elsinore, CA)
8 Trey Guedea INF R/R 5-10 180 Fr Paloma Valley (Menifee, CA) / Bakersfield CC
9 Emilio Esquibel RHP L/R 5-11 175 Fr Vista (Vista, CA)
11 Justin Hargrove C R/R 5-9 185 So Fallbrook (Fallbrook, CA) / Grossmont CC
12 Chris Sanders OF R/R 6-1 185 So Murrieta Valley (Murrieta, CA)
13 Nico Garbella IF/OF R/R 6-1 180 So Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, CA) / UC Santa Barbara
14 Isidro Perez LHP R/L 5-10 190 Fr Carlsbad (Carlsbad, CA)
15 Ryan Beliel RHP R/R 5-11 170 So Redmond (Redmond, WA) / Whitworth College
16 Matt Dinerman LHP L/L 6-2 170 Fr Canyon Crest (San Diego)
17 Taylor Miller RHP R/R 6-2 185 Fr Poway (Poway, CA)
18 Eric Sapp INF/OF L/R 6-2 200 Fr Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, CA) / University of Oregon
19 Rusty Edwards LHP L/L 6-2 185 So El Camino (Oceanside, CA)
20 Becker Sankey C R/R 6-1 210 So Rancho Bernardo (San Diego, CA) / Friends Univesity
21 Nolan Barraza 1B/INF R/R 6-4 202 Fr Mission Hills (San Marcos, CA)
22 Max Burdette RHP R/R 6-1 175 RS Oceanside (Oceanside, CA)
23 Dennis Morton INF R/R 6-0 205 Fr Temecula Valley (Temecula, CA)
25 Zach Wilkins RHP R/R 6-3 205 Fr Scripps Ranch (San Diego, CA)
26 Dakota Thompson C R/R 5-10 175 RS Temecula Valley (Temecula, CA)
27 Armando Valencia OF R/R 6-2 200 Fr Murrieta Mesa (Murrieta, CA)
28 Bubba Craig C R/R 6-0 200 Fr Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, CA)
30 Troy Forester 1B L/R 6-2 210 Fr Carlsbad (Carlsbad, CA)
31 Kyle Montiel LHP L/L 6-4 185 So Carlsbad (Carlsbad, CA)
32 Zach Wickham RHP R/R 6-5 210 Fr Rancho Buena Vista (Vista, CA)
33 Vaughn Berberet OF/LHP L/L 6-5 220 Fr Fallbrook (Fallbrook, CA)
34 Anthony Fernandez OF L/L 6-0 195 Fr Mission Hills (San Marcos, CA)
37 Anthony McIver LHP L/L 6-5 210 So Rancho Buena Vista (Vista, CA) / University of Notre Dame
38  Cody Ells RHP R/R 6-6 205 Fr Rim Of The World (Lake Arrowhead, CA)
39 Robert Woodcock LHP B/L 6-4 220 RS Marin Catholic (Kentfield, CA) / University of California - Berkeley
40 Denny Vigo 1B R/R 6-2 225 So Simi Valley (Simi Valley, CA) / San Diego State University
COACHING STAFF
10 -- Buck Taylor, Head Coach
6 -- Ben Adams, Associate Head Coach; Recruiting Coordinator, Infield Coach
24 -- Rich Graves, Outfield Coach
29 -- Jared Suwyn, Pitching Coach
3 - Tony Turski, Strength Coach, Bench Coach

 

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