From favorites to sudden underdogs, Sierra College's record baseball season is teetering on collapse.
But the No. 2 seed Wolverines collectively vow to regain their balance and push back, and they are seemingly stocked with the arms and bats capable of the task.
Sierra, the top-ranked team in Northern California, lost 8-4 to seventh-seeded Cabrillo College of Aptos on Friday afternoon in a NorCal Super Regional opener in Rocklin. The loss will make the Wolverines' trek back to the state tournament a daunting one.
The Wolverines (31-8) must win four consecutive games in two days through the losers' bracket in this four-team scramble to capture the program's fourth Super Regional in 10 years.
It's been done before.
Santa Rosa Junior College accomplished it in the Super Regionals in 2005 and went on to win the state championship tournament in the same manner.
Heading into this weekend, Sierra's goal was to win the program's second state championship since 2008.
The Wolverines play third-seeded Fresno City, an 8-5 loser to Feather River in the other Super Regional opener, at 10 a.m. today at Sacramento City College.
"Now we're trying to stay alive," said Sierra right fielder Dalton Blaser, who had two hits and scored a run. "Maybe we needed a smack in the mouth."
Cabrillo (21-18) delivered the punch in the form of 10 hits to chase Sierra ace Andrew Cooper (13-2).
The Seahawks of the Coast Conference Pacific Division were paced by ace Zach Settles, who kept a potent lineup off balance. Cabrillo infielders Scott Mercer, Eric Vegas and JQ Folena all combined for five RBIs. Folena, a freshman shortstop from Pleasant Grove High School, epitomized his team's good defense.
Jake Riffice had two RBIs and Jared Snow and Blake Grant-Parks one each for the Wolverines, who won their first outright conference title this season since 1979.
Sierra beat Sacramento City on the final day of the regular season to lock up the Big 8 Conference, and now it will use the Panthers' Union Stadium as a home away from home.
"We've got a chance to win this thing," Sierra coach Ryan Evangelho said. "We have nothing to lose. We can be a scary underdog. Give Cabrillo credit, they played well. It's going to be a grind from here, and we told the boys, 'All hands on deck.' "
Sierra's Matt Fielding (6-3) will start today. He won a clinching NorCal Regional game over Visalia's College of Sequoias 8-0 last week. He and his teammates put a positive spin on Friday's outcome.
"This will make us more hungry," said second baseman Nick Blaser, the Big 8 Conference Player of the Year.
Sierra 14, Sacramento City 4 Jenna Mae Thorne had a lead-off home run, and Sarah Rasmussen and Gabby Gonzalez also homered to power the Wolverines to a rout in a Super Regional opener in Redding.
Maddie Phelps pitched her third consecutive complete-game victory for the Wolverines, who play at 11 a.m. today against host Shasta.