As the Valencia baseball team returned to the dugout after each inning in its Tuesday-afternoon home game against Hart, the coaching staff would tell them a different number.
“We knew every time the inning would end, just say ‘We got 12 more outs to get, nine more outs to get.’ Just keep them focused on that so that we always know exactly where we’re at,” said Vikings coach Mike Killinger.
By the time the odd-numbered countdown had ended, Valencia had wrapped up a 2-1 win over Hart, the top team in the Foothill League, and secured a CIF-Southern Section playoff bid.
“It feels really good,” said Lukas White. “Their lineup is really deep, they hit the ball hard and we knew that going in today that we needed to get into playoffs and we ended up doing it.”
Davis Cop opened up Valencia’s offense, hitting a double in his first at-bat of the afternoon. Luke Chung laid down a sacrifice bunt to get Cop to third, then White hit a sacrifice fly to right field to send Cop home for a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
The Vikings (14-15 overall, 9-5 in Foothill League) picked up another run in the second inning. With the bases loaded, Cop was walked to put Valencia up 2-0.
“Some of it came about just how Bryce (Collins) pitches, we got after the fastball early, which we knew we wanted to do coming in,” Cop said.
Cody Jefferis hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning to drive in the only run of the day for the Indians (18-12, 11-3).
White kept Hart’s hard-hitting lineup contained, striking out six and giving up two hits in seven innings of work and the defense followed. The Vikes executed three quick outs in the sixth and seventh frames to close out the game.
“It was just having Lukas’ back because we knew how hard he was working on the mound and doing everything we needed to do to win the game for him,” Cop said.
Collins was equally impressive on the mound, yielding four hits and logging 11 K’s.
“You hit on his time, not on yours,” said Cop. “He makes you try to feel uncomfortable in the box, which is just a nod to how good of a pitcher he is … a pitcher you don’t want to hit against ever.”
Valencia has tied the Foothill League series at 1-1 after losing to the Indians 10-1 on March 28. The two meet again on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at Hart.
Canyon 9, Saugus 8 (8 innings)
The Cowboys’ Shane Halstead was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs, while Tyler DeYoung was 3-for-5 with three RBIs. CJ Dowell went 2-for-5 with two RBIs.
For Saugus (12-12-1, 7-7), Tony Jacob went 3-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and Chase Lindemann was 5-for-5 with one RBI.
The league series between Canyon (13-13, 5-9) and Saugus is tied at 1-1. Their next game will be Thursday at Saugus at 3:30.
West Ranch 12, Golden Valley 4
Nicholas Perez was 3-for-3 with four RBIs and a triple for the Wildcats (18-9, 10-4). Jovan Camacho was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Ryan Camacho was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
The Grizzlies’ Cameron Pfafman was 1-for-4 with two RBIs.
With the Cats leading the series 2-0, the two play again on Thursday at 3:30 with the Wildcats hosting Golden Valley (9-18, 0-14).