Michael Coates' entire sophomore season played out over nine innings Tuesday afternoon.
Down early, toughing it out through the middle innings and ultimately prevailing for his teammates, the Cal State Northridge-bound pitcher from Thousand Oaks High put the Moorpark College baseball team into first place with two games to play with a 5-3 complete game victory at Ventura College.
"He bulldogged it," Moorpark coach Mario Porto said. "He just got better as the game went on. That's the type of guy you want out there right now."
Coates (4-5) shut out the Pirates for the final five innings to pick up his fourth straight win after starting the season 0-5.
"This is amazing," said Coates. "We have everything against us. It's just exciting to be in the race."
The win, combined with Cuesta's 9-8 loss at Santa Barbara City in 10 innings, put No. 20-ranked Moorpark (17-17, 11-7) even with No. 5 Cuesta (22-12, 11-7) in the Western State Conference's North Division with two games to play.
Third-place Santa Barbara (17-17, 10-8) is just one game behind, which will make the final two days of the regular season even more enthralling, considering only the top two teams will earn automatic postseason berths and the tiebreakers will be a mess since all three teams split their four-game season series against each other.
Moorpark has won 10 of its last 14 games to put itself in this position.
"It's surreal," said sophomore outfielder Taylor Khanowitch. "We've been the underdogs all season. We don't just have something to prove to the other teams, we have something to prove to ourselves."
Moorpark hosts fourth-place Hancock today at 2:30 p.m. in the program's final scheduled home game. School administrators have decided to shutter the program after the season due to budget cuts.
Former coaches Gil Mendoza and Jerry White are scheduled to throw out the first pitch. The school has invited all former Moorpark College baseball players to attend.