Valencia baseball upsets top-seeded Harvard Westlake in CIF-SS playoffs

There was complete silence during Nick Tanis’ final pitch in Valencia baseball’s game against Harvard Westlake of Studio City. Then there was the slap of a baseball hitting leather, then screams.

The strikeout sealed the Vikings’ upset of the No. 1 Wolverines, 8-4, in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Friday at Harvard Westlake.

“We wanted to end this on a strikeout and the pitch was thrown and the kid swung through it,” said Vikings coach Mike Killinger.

“We gave big high fives, the kids rushed the field and shook hands with other coaches and as the kids ran back out to the field, I was just giving fist bumps and high fives to every kid as they came by.”

The Vikes (16-16) piled on the runs early in a four-run scoring spree that started with a two-run single from left fielder Owen Strader.

It was a big moment for Strader, who had been shuffled in and out of the lineup earlier in the season.

“We knew he had it in him the whole season,” said Valencia pitcher Ryan Kysar. “He was just slow starting off. He’s getting hot now and that’s when we need it most.”

Kysar, who committed to the University of Arizona on Tuesday, was in command on the mound for three 2/3 innings, recording five strikeouts and yielding three earned runs. He was pulled due to high pitch count.

“I just came in the game knowing we’re the underdogs and all the pressure was on them,” the sophomore said. “We weren’t feeling any pressure the whole time.”

Valencia tacked on two more runs in the second inning, working around the pitching of Harvard Westlake hurler and Vanderbilt commit Sam Hliboki.

“I was hitting a lot yesterday, looking at film from the pitcher they were throwing today,” said Mitchell Torres, who had three RBIs on the afternoon. “I got my timing down and hopped on it early and it worked for me.”

The Wolverines (26-4) were able to score once in the second inning and three times in the fourth inning on a two-run single from JP Corrigan and an RBI single from Michael Snyder to cut the deficit to 6-3.

Torres locked up the win with a two-run single in the sixth inning.

“Our coach is always telling us, once you have a team down by a bunch of runs, you step on their throat and make them lose their will and that’s what we did,” Torres said.

Valencia nearly didn’t make it to the first-round game, facing a possible forfeit of their wild card win against Oaks Christian on Wednesday. The Vikings were accused of an illegal pregame batting practice, but were never found guilty.

Now, they’re looking at a second-round game against Bishop Amat on Tuesday.

“Everyone was so happy and we’re excited to play more games,” Torres said. “…We’re looking forward to playing the next team that wants us.”

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