Virant’s streak ends at 33

Hunter Virant is throwing a ball.
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© Chuck Kirman/VC Star
Camarillo pitcher Hunter Virant throws a pitch against Oxnard. Virant retired the first 12 batters he faced in a 3-2 win. © Chuck Kirman/VC Star

Great stuff and good command can only take you so far, realizes Camarillo High pitcher Hunter Virant.

Tenacity and more than a little grit are needed to complete the job.

Virant finished what he started Tuesday, retiring the first 12 batters he faced, weathering a rough patch in the sixth inning when he yielded four hits and two runs, then stranding the potential tying run at second base in the seventh to pitch the Camarillo baseball team to a clutch, 3-2 victory over prime rival Oxnard in an early Pacific View League showdown.

After pitching a perfect game against Rio Mesa last Tuesday, Virant ran his string of consecutive batters retired to 33 until allowing an Oxnard base runner in the fifth inning.

Virant, a 6-foot-2 junior left-hander, took a one-hit shutout into the top of the sixth, but allowed a double to Anthony Alvarez, a single to Jeremy Alvarado and run-scoring singles to Julian Ramon and JR Banuelos. What had been a comfortable 3-0 lead turned into a taut, 3-2 contest.

But Virant, who barely saw action as a pitcher a season ago, never flinched.

“You’ve got to keep your composure and compete,” he said. “I couldn’t let what happen in the sixth affect me. I had to put it behind me, because I definitely wanted to finish the game.”

With two out in the seventh, Oxnard’s Matt Gutierrez reached second base on a two-base throwing error to represent the tying run. But Virant retired Alvarez on a fly ball to left for the final out.

From barely pitching a year ago, Virant throws a complete-game victory in what to date is the key game of the young season.

“I love pitching in a game like this,” he said. “I want to come through for the team.”

Camarillo coach Richard Jaquez was impressed by the pitcher’s grit.

“We had a pitch count going, so we were looking at taking him out when he got close to that,” he said. “He said he felt fine heading into the seventh, so I wanted to give him a chance to finish. He’s a young pitcher and still learning.

“I’m sure he knows a little more after a game like this.”

Virant, who struck out seven batters and didn’t walk a hitter, is now 3-0.

The victory improves first-place Camarillo to 4-0 in league and 7-3-1 overall. Oxnard, in taking its first loss of the season, moves to 3-1 in league and 8-1 overall.

The two teams hook up again on Friday at Oxnard.

Camarillo did its damage early, scoring single runs in the first, second and third innings.

Michael Martinez finished 2 for 3 with a double; Justin Chamberlain tripled in the second inning and scored on a single by Paul Ishiyama, and Parker Hindle had an RBI double in the third inning.

Oxnard pitcher Oscar Sandoval yielded three runs and six hits in the first three innings, then gave up nothing. He retired the final nine batters he faced, allowing the Yellowjackets to climb back into the game.

“We battled back and had our chances,” said Oxnard coach Al Tarazon. “He (Virant) is a really good pitcher, and still we fought back into the game. We have the tying run at second base and you can’t ask for more than that.”

Tarazon said his team won’t be rattled by dropping its first game of the season.

“We’ll learn some lessons and move on,” he said. “We want to be 9-1 on Friday, then 10-1 after that. We want to start a new streak.

“The key for us is to start the next game like we finished this one.”

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