Vikes baseball ready for wild-card challenge

Valencia's varsity baseball team celebrates their win over West Ranch, which clinched them the league title, after a baseball game on Thursday, May 11, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Some prep baseball teams have one, unified pregame tradition that helps them get focused up for an impending game. Not Valencia.

Across the field, some guys have complex handshakes. Others do simple chest bumps. Regardless of how many different superstitious acts there are, however, they all somehow fit together.

That’s been the theme for the young Vikings all season: Taking a bunch of pieces and arranging them in order to build towards the ultimate goal of a playoff berth.

“Finding out where everyone was going to be on the field was a big step,” said junior Davis Cop.

“Once we got that, it was starting to gel and knowing if I throw here, I know this guy can make the play … and not having to think about what’s he going to do. I know exactly what he’s going to do because we’re coming together as a team.”

The Vikings have managed to assemble a well-rounded team and earn a spot in a wild-card game against Oaks Christian in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

But with only three players returning with playoff experience, more challenges await the team.

“We’ve got to make sure that they’re in the right mindset to just go out there and don’t try to do too much,” said coach Mike Killinger. “There’s going to be a point in the game where the pressure is on you and you’ve just got to try to relax and try and take it as much like a regular season game as you can.”

One of the Vikes’ key returners is Lukas White, who has put in work both on the mound and at the plate this season. The senior starting pitcher has logged a 2.57 ERA in addition to a .393 batting average.

He’s become a leading man for Valencia as the team transitioned from having a star-studded batting order last season to a raw, but talented lineup this year.

“Me and ‘Biz’ (Jake Biscailuz), last year we were the backup guys,” White said. “We didn’t have to have a great game and we could still go out with a W, but this year we had to be it. Everyone had to step up and me and Biz had a good game we knew we were going to win.”

Nevertheless, the untried-turned-season group that worked its way to a third-place finish in the Foothill League is eager for a shot at playoffs and is taking preparation very seriously.

Outside of practice, the Vikings reached through their networks to compile intel on Oaks Christian. They’ve learned that the Lions look similar to themselves with a confident starting pitcher and good defense. On top of that, Oaks has some quick runners leading the lineup, too.

“We know they’re a good team and at practice we just kind of the last two days just reviewed a lot of little things about baseball and all the specialty stuff,” Killinger said.

The Vikings play the Lions today at 3:15 p.m. at Valencia, where each player will be armed not just with a pregame tradition, but also with the confidence that they belong in the playoffs.

“We needed to play a little bit different than (past Valencia teams),” Cop said. “The pressure was different from what we felt in the past, so it was more just getting to the next stage, which is exactly what playoffs is. Just getting to the next game because there is no tomorrow.”

NOTES – Hart and West Ranch baseball both secured first-round games in the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs. The Indians will host Los Alamitos on Friday, while the Wildcats will travel to Mira Costa.

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