The Big 8 Conference was everything the Modesto Junior College baseball team expected it to be, and then some.
The Pirates wrapped up their first Big 8 season with a 10-4 loss to visiting Santa Rosa on Thursday. Moving into the highly-touted Sacramento-based conference required growing pains as Modesto finished tied for fourth with a 10-11 record.
From Modesto's standpoint, being in a tough conference is only going to help it in the playoffs. The Pirates clinched a postseason spot by beating Santa Rosa 7-2 on Tuesday.
"We had to scrap for a lot of wins, and we lost some close ones," said center fielder Dwight Nixon, who led the Pirates with 34 runs. "Going 10-11 stinks. We can't do anything about that now. Our mind-set is to concentrate on the playoffs. We'll be ready to play next week."
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Sacramento (13-8) claimed the conference title on the final day, beating American River 9-4 as Diablo Valley (12-9) fell to Cosumnes River 9-8 to finish second. The North Division Super Regional Playoffs begin May 8. Seedings will be announced this weekend.
Santa Rosa scored five runs in the seventh to break open a 4-2 game and take a 9-2 lead. Modesto (21-18) scored two in the bottom of the inning -- Joey Blakely had an RBI double, and Ross Brayton singled him home.
Blakely and David Whiteside each had two hits. Modesto stranded seven and forced the Bear Cubs to leave 10 on base.