Playing with a short-term memory, Santa Rosa bounced back against Sierra as two of the state's top junior college baseball teams battled Thursday.
Scratching out runs and pitching with confidence, Santa Rosa took a 4-2 home win to regain momentum in a stellar season after Sierra captured the series opener.
Northern California's No. 1 and No. 2 teams play again Saturday in Rocklin for the Big 8 Conference lead.
"Every game is huge in the Big 8. We've got to win the series. That's the big thing," said first baseman Anthony Sequeira. "We've got to get better every game."
Shutdown pitching and ample hitting have carried Santa Rosa this season and the Bear Cubs needed everything working to edge Sierra.
Jason Alexander (Cardinal Newman) limited the conference's top-hitting team to one run over six innings. Tyler Sanders (Rancho Cotate) closed out the win, earning his fourth save.
"I love the big games. I get kind of fired up," Alexander said.
Clutch hits, six stolen bases, and a squeeze bunt rallied Santa Rosa's offense.
Centerfielder Siosi Poti (Rancho Cotate) had the bunt to score the game's first run. Poti helped manufacture the final tally on a double and stolen base ahead of left fielder Ryan Xepoleas' sacrifice fly.
Evening the series with Sierra was the Bear Cubs' biggest win yet. Sierra — coming off another state Final Four appearance — handled Santa Rosa 8-3 in Rocklin on Tuesday.
Typically among the best in Northern California's toughest junior college conference, the two programs respect how each competes across the diamond.
"Our defense and pitching carries us. We play a lot of small ball and put as much pressure as we can on the defense," said Sierra coach Ryan Evangelho.
"That's a good part of both our games."
No better evidence of that approach was Santa Rosa's ability to manufacture the game's first run without a hit.
With one out in the second inning, Parker Shaw was hit by a pitch, then stole second — the right fielder had three steals — and moved up to third base on a passed ball. After a walk, Poti squeeze-bunted Shaw home on the next pitch.
Sierra evened the score in the third inning with a two-out rally.
After Chris Streeter battled for a walk to push Jared Snow to second base, Blake Grant-Parks stroked an RBI single.
A pair of quick innings at the plate stymied Santa Rosa, drawing reminders about batting approaches from head coach Damon Neidlinger. The Bear Cubs needed to hit line drives and battle with two strikes and two outs.
Xepoleas sliced a two-strike, two-out infield single to score a sixth-inning run.
In the seventh, third baseman Nico Felice (Cardinal Newman) reached on a soft line drive to right field with two outs, bringing home Sequeira with the eventual game-winner.
One of the Bear Cubs' hardest hitters, Sequeira blasted a triple to center field.