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Central Coast Classic: Rojas did it all in farewell to high school baseball
Central Coast Classic

Central Coast Classic: Rojas did it all in farewell to high school baseball

Lompoc senior right-hander Oscar Rojas handled a come-backer, ran toward first base and flipped the ball to Braves first baseman Dylan Bailey for the final out of this March 6 game.

His sweet farewell to pitching from the mound on the Lompoc High School diamond was complete.

Rojas threw a three-hitter and struck out 11 in what turned out to be the last Lompoc home game that season, a 5-1 win over Lompoc Valley rival Cabrillo in both teams' Channel League opener.

Besides his gem of a pitching performance, Rojas tripled in an unearned run in a three-run Lompoc sixth.

He was the only player from either side with more than one hit. Rojas singled in the fifth.

Schools statewide closed later that month because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last sports events on the Central Coast took place March 13. The CIF state office announced on April 3 that all spring sports post-season events were cancelled.

However, that March 6 day was a glorious afternoon on the diamond for Rojas.

"I was able to keep the ball down and away in the strike zone," Rojas said afterward.

"I threw mainly fastballs, with some off-speed pitches mixed in."

Along with everything else he did, Rojas scored the winning run. He sprinted home from third with Lompoc's second run in the first, on a two-out throwing error, as the Braves took a 2-1 lead.

Rojas' afternoon did not exactly get off to an auspicious start.

Cabrillo lead-off hitter Hunter Barthel whacked the second pitch of the game into left field for a double. Conqs pitcher Luke Kovach, with another well-struck double to left, drove in Barthel.

Alfredo Cruz singled to right with two outs in the second. That was it for the Cabrillo hits against Rojas and nearly it as far as the Conqs' baserunners for the game.

The Conquistadores got two batters on base against Rojas the rest of the way, on a passed ball on a strikeout in the third inning and a hit batsman in the fourth.

"Sometimes it takes Oscar a second to settle down," Lompoc coach Jason Carlson said afterward.

"He's such a competitor that sometimes he tries to do too much early. Once he settles into the steady pitcher he is, he starts groovin'." That is what happened that day.

Kovach pitched a solid game himself that day.

In fact, Lompoc didn't do much against the junior left-hander until the sixth. The Braves had all of two hits against Kovach from the second inning through the fifth.

Kovach seemed to tire a bit in the sixth. Bailey led off with a triple and Gunnar Thomas singled him home. Stephen Espinosa reached base on the second straight Cabrillo error and scored on the Rojas triple.

Cabrillo center fielder AJ Simmons kept Rojas' day from being an even bigger one than it was. He robbed Rojas of at least one RBI in the third when, with runners on second and third, he charged and snared a Rojas liner to short center for the third out.

The Braves backed Rojas with solid defense. They made one harmless error, in the second.

Months earlier, Rojas committed to play baseball for Yale. Lompoc's last game of the season was a 5-3 loss at Channel League rival Santa Ynez March 9.

Player of the Decade: We're looking for the top player of the last 10 seasons

The sports staff at the Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record and Santa Ynez Valley News is looking for the top football player from Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County over the last 10 seasons of high school ball.

See who our nominees are thus far.

Senior Spotlight Series: Celebrating the area's top senior student-athletes

Our 'Senior Spotlight' series is aimed at highlighting senior student-athletes who have had their final year of high school disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The athletes featured here were their school's nominee for Athlete of the Year or Student Athlete of the Year for the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table's end-of-year banquet that has been canceled due to the outbreak.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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