The Cuesta College baseball team out-defensed the Hancock College side Monday, so the Bulldogs were saddled with a second consecutive home loss for the first time this season.
The Bulldogs came from 6-1 down to a 6-6 tie with two runs in the seventh, but that wasn't enough because four Hancock errors led to five unearned Cuesta runs. The Cougars snapped the 6-6 tie with three in the ninth and emerged with a 9-6 Western State Conference win at Hancock's John Osborne Field.
The Cougars moved to 15-12, 4-5. The Bulldogs are 15-14, 4-5. The game Monday was a makeup of an earlier rainout. Hancock lost at home for just the third time in 16 games this season.
"Our guys made it competitive, but we chased too many early mistakes," said Hancock coach Chris Stevens.
Cuesta's winning run was, fittingly enough, unearned.Andrew Navigato came home on a passed ball, though he eventually would have scored anyway on Alec Smith's single off Hancock starter Izzy Hernandez, who took the loss.
A hard Ruben Mercado ground ball got past Hancock second baseman Davy Demeter, a ninth-inning replacement, for another error and two more unearned runs.
However, the most glaringly deficient Hancock inning on defense was the second. The Bulldogs committed three errors then, including two on the same play, and two of Cuesta's three runs that inning off Hancock starter Nic Cardinal were unearned as the Cougars jumped to a 5-1 lead.
With Cuesta ahead 3-1 and runners on first and third, Chandler Hughes, who had just singled in a run, took off for second on a steal attempt. Hancock catcher Shane Flaningam's throw went into center field, Mercado scored from third and then Hughes came around to score himself when Hancock center fielder Dylan Maiden had trouble picking up the ball.
"You can't give teams in our league chances like that," said Stevens..
"If you give 'em two inches, they'll take a foot."
Hancock shortstop Quinntin Perez made a two-base throwing error on a Zack Berohn ground ball, but Cardinal got around that when he fielded a Nik Pagan comebacker and threw to first for the third out.
Phil Almanza worked three hitless innings after coming in for Cardinal to start the fifth, but the Bulldogs couldn't overcome all those errors.
Cuesta made one error, in the ninth and, as it turned out, that one didn't even prolong the game.
It didn't prolong the game because Cuesta left fielder Smith doubled Brendan Gomez off first base for the third out after reaching low to glove a line drive for the second.
Josh Harmonay had reached second base on a one-out, two-base throwing error and had gone to third on Gomez's infield single.
Hancock, aided by four Fresno City College errors that day, had beaten the Rams 9-8 at the Hancock Spring Classic March 28 with a four-run ninth. Smith and Cuesta closer Johnny Wiltfang made sure there was no big Hancock comeback in the ninth this time.
Wiltfang, Cuesta's third pitcher, came in with the Cougars ahead 6-5 and a runner on third with two outs in the seventh. He gave up a game-tying single to Maiden, but he got Flaningam to fly to left for the third out. Wiltfang eventually earned the win.
Gomez doubled in a run and Flaningam doubled in two more in the fourth as Hancock drew to within 6-4. Gomez, off reliever Cameron Ziegler and Maiden, off Wiltfang, drew the Bulldogs even with consecutive singles in the seventh but that was it for the Hancock scoring.
Starter Cole Tucker went five innings for Cuesta.
Cuesta out-hit Hancock 13-11. Lead-off batter Hughes had three hits for Cuesta, and Berohn, Smith and Mercado all had two.
Gomez had three hits for the Bulldogs. Maiden, Flaningam and Jake Shusterich had two apiece.
The teams will play at Cuesta at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.