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Lautz scores game-winner as Vaqueros clinch WSC North crown

Reinhard "Matt" Lautz beats the tag from pitcher Austin Rubick to score from second base on a high chopper by Tyler Rosen in the third inning. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Reinhard "Matt" Lautz beats the tag from pitcher Austin Rubick to score from second base on a high chopper by Tyler Rosen in the third inning. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

Reinhard Lautz went 2-4 with two RBIs, two runs and two stolen bases on Tuesday, leading SBCC to a 6-5 baseball win over Ventura at Pershing Park.

The triumph clinched the Vaqueros' fourth WSC North title in the last seven years.

SBCC, ranked No. 10 in Southern Cal, improved to 23-15 overall, 15-3 at home and 13-6 in conference. The Vaqueros have a two-game lead over Cuesta (11-8) with one to play.

Rodolfo Aguilar was 3-5 with three RBIs for Ventura (19-20, 9-10).

Santa Barbara will be making its seventh straight trip to the Southern Cal Regional and the Vaqueros will host a first-round best-of-3 series, starting Friday, May 5.

Lautz, a freshman right fielder who redshirted at UCSB last year, tied the game 2-2 in the third by racing home from second base on a high chopper to the pitcher by Tyler Rosen.

"That was all instincts," said Lautz. "The ball was hit high off the plate and no one was paying attention at third, so I just kept going."

The Vaqueros took a 5-2 lead on a two-out, two-run single by Lautz in the fourth and an RBI double by designated hitter Mitchell Sancier in the fifth. Sancier was 3-3 with two doubles.

"It was bases loaded and two out in the fourth, so I was looking for something middle and over the plate," said Lautz, who's hitting .362 in April and has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games. "Their guy threw hard and he was throwing fastballs. I was looking for something middle away and I got it and  nailed it up to right field.

"It feels great to be WSC champions. We started out a little rough and then we picked it up and jelled as a team. I think we'll do really good in the playoffs, we've already competed and beat some of the best teams in the state."

Ventura (19-20, 9-10) tied it at 5-5 with three runs on three hits and a two-out throwing error by John Jensen in the sixth.

Lautz scored the game-winner in the sixth on a first-and-third situation with one out. Jensen, who was hit in the helmet and has been hit-by-a-pitch four times in the last two days, was on first and Lautz, who reached on a bunt single, was on third.

Ventura reliever Andrew Nardi picked Jensen off first and Lautz ran home with the game-winning run while Ventura tagged out Jensen in a 1-3-6 rundown.

"Their pitcher made a good move to first and I got a good jump on the play," said Lautz. "They just let me come right in."

Designated hitter Jake Holton went 3-4 and then pitched the ninth to record his second save in a week. Brendan Griffith got a bad-hop single with one out in the ninth, then the Vaqueros ended it when Bryson Wallet hit a double-play ball to Wesley Ghan-Gibson at shortstop.

"We spotted them two in the first again and we had 'em right where we wanted 'em," said sixth-year SBCC coach Jeff Walker. "Reece Elliott was on a pitch count, which is why he came out after three innings, and Jonathan Keller did an outstanding job, then ran out of gas.

"We went to David Appleby (2.1 innings, 1 hit) and Holton to finish it off."

The Vaqueros are 15-4 when they score six or more runs.

"It's great to win the conference by ourselves," said Walker. "We'll be at home for the first round of the Southern Cal Regional, which is great."

The Vaqueros will play their last regular-season game on Thursday at Ventura with the first pitch at 2:30 p.m.