The Foothill League is no stranger to great rivalries.
And last season, the West Ranch-Valencia rivalry cemented its place among the league’s best, as the Wildcats took the final two games against the Vikings, causing the teams to share the Foothill League crown.
With both teams entering Wednesday’s game undefeated, the latest edition of the rivalry lived up to the hype and added another wrinkle.
Just when it appeared Valencia was on the verge of redemption, West Ranch reminded the Vikings of the bitter taste they experienced last season.
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After the Wildcats scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to extend the game, Austin Hernandez provided a walk-off single to defeat Valencia 3-2 and keep West Ranch unbeaten in Foothill League play.
“These memories are going to last forever,” said West Ranch starting pitcher Timmy Josten, who picked up the win in an eight-inning complete-game effort. “You don’t really come into these games expecting it’s going to end like that. And when it does, it stiffens the hair on the back of your neck.”
Josten finished with seven strikeouts and retired the final 16 hitters he faced after his lone blemish of the day – a two-out breaking ball in the third that Valencia’s Ben Fariss lifted for a two-run home run.
Two runs looked like plenty of support for Valencia (9-5 overall, 4-1 in Foothill) and starting pitcher Chase Farrell, as he dominated for most of the game.
Following his no-hitter against Canyon in his previous start, the right-hander carried another no-hit bid into the fifth inning against West Ranch.
Garrett Monheim’s single broke up the no-no with one out in the fifth, but it was the only hit Farrell surrendered through six.
“Everything felt good. My fastball was firm and hard as usual. My slider was cutting real nicely, and my curveball was loopy,” said Farrell, who finished with 10 strikeouts.
But West Ranch (9-3, 5-0) found an answer in the seventh.
Trailing 2-0, an unsung hero came through for the Wildcats. With one out and the bases loaded, Evan Gellatly delivered a pinch-hit two-RBI double to send the game into extra innings.
“There’s no doubt that Hernandez won the game for us, but there was a massive hit in the seventh by Gellatly, who came off the bench in only his second or third at-bat of the year,” said West Ranch coach Casey Burrill. “It’s probably one of the more impressive pinch-hits that I’ve been around in coaching high school.”
After Josten returned to the rubber and retired the side in the eighth, the stage was set for Hernandez in the bottom of the frame. The senior singled up the middle, knocking in Christos Stefanos and sending his teammates into a frenzy.
“It was a chance to take first place going into spring break, which would have been nice,” said Valencia coach Mike Killinger. “But now we just have some extra work to do when we get back.”