Playing an entire season on the road due to construction for new facilities presented plenty of challenges for the Cosumnes River College baseball team this spring.
There were rained-out practices or brief 90-minute sessions. There was the role of visiting team even when they were the home club in the scorebook, not to mention a lot of gas expenses.
So what about the opening-game of a California Community College Northern California Regional playoff series? Another road trip and more encouraging results.
The Hawks of south Sacramento received 8-plus innings of strong pitching from Nick Smart, more superb defense and just enough timely hits to take Game 1 over College of the Sequoias 5-1 on Saturday afternoon at American River.
CRC, winners of what has become the state's top league in the Big 8 Conference, can deliver the knockout blow to the Giants of Visalia today in Game 2 at 11 a.m. Game 3 follows, if necessary.
"Great group of guys," CRC coach Tony Bloomfield said of his 19-man roster. "We don't care where we play. We just play."
Smith, a left-handed freshman from Fairfield, relied on his curveball in scattering nine hits. He struck out five and walked one. Smart wanted to complete the game but Bloomfield pulled him with one out in the ninth with 107 pitches. Blake Harrison came in and induced a double play for the Hawks.
"That was all defense today helping me," Smart said. "We have the best defense in the league, hands down. That's what makes me look good. We didn't feel any pressure. And being on the road all season, it feels kind of normal now."
Shawn Wheeler scored Josh Silver with a single in the first to open the CRC scoring, and Garrett Heisinger drove in two with a shallow single to right for a 4-1 lead. Colby Brenner's RBI single in the eighth made it 5-1 in the eighth. Brenner had two hits.
CRC will go with ace Austin Ales of Oak Ridge High School in Game 2. Ales is 8-2 with four saves.
"We would've used Ales in relief today if it was a 1-run game," Bloomfield said. "He can go every day. We have to tone him down he's that into it."
* Sierra 4, Laney 2 - Josh Eagle tossed a complete game with one walk and nine strikeouts, and the Wolverines scored two in the top of the 10th to win Game 1 of their regional opener in Oakland.
In the 10th, Brady Steiger had a pinch-hit double to score Eddie Mora, who had two doubles, and Brad Gerig had a sacrifice fly. Eagle, a sophomore from Antioch, improved to 9-2 in drawing more praise from his head coach.
"He's an amazing pitcher and young man," Sierra coach Rob Willson said. "He's got a fast ball, a curve, his change, and a cutter. He has four pitches. Just amazing what he's done."
Sierra will go with Ryan Millison on Sunday in Game 2. Millison is the staff co-ace and a scholarship signee to Long Beach State. Sierra seeks its seventh regional title in nine years under Willson, whose 2008 club won the state championship.
* Feather River 13, Sacramento City 5 - The top-seeded Golden Eagles scored five in the fifth inning and five in the eighth to win their regional opener a year after the Panthers stunned them in the opening round. Michael Bennett earned the win for Feather River, improving to 10-1 on the season.
Feather River can win its sixth regional title since 2000 with a win Sunday. Sac City has been in the postseason every season since 1976.
* Sierra softball 12, De Anza 0 - Ashley Osier tossed a one-hitter to improve to 17-2, and the Wolverines clubbed two more home runs to give them 69 for the season in a 5-inning opening-round rout of the Dons.
Amanda Wright hit her third grand slam of the season, and Michelle Fogal had a three-run home run, her 12th of the season. Jenna Thorn had a three-run triple for Sierra, which moved to 36-5 on the season.
Osier struck out four with no walks. The state Player of the Year, Osier leads the state with 18 home runs under coach Darci Brownell, in her 24th season at the Rocklin school.
- By Joe Davidson
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter: @sb_joedavidson