When USC Lancaster got off the bus on Saturday, the Lancers boasted perhaps the best offense in the NJCAA. USCL is currently leading the nation in home runs and is second in the country in runs scored, so Chargers skipper Dash O’Neill knew his club would be facing a tough challenge this weekend. “Those guys have been putting up video game numbers so far and winning by huge scores, so we’re going to have to really be sharp on the mound and try to limit how much we give away for free. I like our club though, and I think these guys are looking forward to facing another quality opponent.”
For the most part, O’Neill’s Chargers were able to do what he hoped, playing perfect defense on the day and minimizing the Lancers’ opportunities to have a big inning. Highlands sent freshman Drew Wilson to the mound in the first game of the doubleheader, and Wilson, coming off a 1 hit performance last week, was outstanding again. He came within one out of throwing his third complete game of the season going 6.2 innings scattering 7 hits, allowing just one run, and striking out 7.
Speaking of limiting freebies, the Lancers only walked 2 batters in the ballgame, while hitting another 3, and the Chargers were able to capitalize, scoring 3 of the 5 runners they got for free. Two of those hit by pitches came in the first inning as Bronco O’Brien and Jonathan White were put on early. Back to back RBI singles by Caleb McElwaney and Matthew Vaccaro put the Chargers on top early and a pair of hits in the second inning gave GHC all the scoring they would need.
The Lancers threatened to make a comeback in the last inning when their first two hitters walked on questionable calls by the umpire. The leadoff hitter than hit a single up the middle to score a run, but the runner at first got greedy and was gunned down at third when he tried to test Devin Bilardello’s arm. Wilson struck out the next batter and pitched around one of the hottest hitters in the country, Evan Edwards to put runners at first and second. O’Neill turned to freshman submariner Britt Buckelew to face the nation’s leading home run hitter Cross Holfert, and Buckelew sat the big righty down on one pitch to pick up the save and end the game.
Game two was far less exciting. The Chargers took advantage of a shaky Lancer start on the mound to score 6 runs in the bottom of the first, and they were able to add to the score in each of the next three innings until the game was called at 14-4 due to the mercy rule. Matt Vaccaro added to his home run tally, blasting a long shot to left field to highlight the offensive explosion for GHC. Matthew Norton collected his 3rd win of the season, and Britt Buckelew retired Holfert a second time to end the game. The victory was the Chargers’ program record 11th straight and gives them three straight against two of the nation’s top offensive teams, a feat Coach O’Neill wants to keep in perspective. “You can see why these guys are putting up the big numbers, they are all physical and they are up there to do damage. I’m just proud of the way our guys took advantage of opportunities and responded to this challenge. We still have a long way to go and alot to work on, but I hope we can just continue to play hard and and communicate heading into the conference.”
The Chargers are now 17-8 on the season. They will host Triton College, another vaunted NJCAA program with alot of tradition on Sunday at 12PM.