On a windy Wednesday afternoon at Golden Valley High School, the Canyon baseball team took advantage of steady pitching and aggressive base running to defeat Golden Valley 3-1 in the first Foothill League game of the season.
Junior southpaw Jace Root took the mound for the Cowboys and delivered a strong performance, striking out five batters in six innings to earn the victory.
Root struck out three of the first seven batters he faced and his pitches seemed to get stronger as the game progressed.
“He prepares himself better than anyone I’ve seen. He’s mentally ready for the next level,” Canyon head coach Justin Stark said. “If he’s starting and I let him know three days in advance he’s doing something to prepare himself the right way. Honestly, the way he competes on the mound, you’re not going to get much better than that.”
The Cowboys struck first in the top of the third inning when catcher Tyler DeYoung singled to left to get on base. Junior shortstop CJ Dowell then doubled to bring DeYoung home, giving Canyon a 1-0 lead.
Dowell singled in his first at-bat and finished the day 2-for-4 batting in the three-hole.
“CJ, the last couple games I would say he’s been putting in a little extra work,” Stark said. “I see him in there early every day getting some extra hacks and it’s paid off for him.”
The Grizzlies responded and tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning by loading the bases with no outs.
Junior third baseman Chase Hwang got on base with a single, then senior first baseman Steven Moreno walked. Senior catcher Nicholas Marino then executed a precise bunt that advanced the runners and got himself safely to first.
Junior Joseph Behan came up with the bases loaded and grounded out and Canyon was able to throw out Hwang at home, but in an attempt to pick off Moreno heading to third, DeYoung overthrew third baseman Jacob Garcia, allowing Moreno to score.
On the same play, Marino was then caught between second and third base and was tagged out, and two batters later Canyon was able to escape the inning after allowing only one run.
“I like Tyler being aggressive. He’s the best catcher in this league by far and I say that with confidence. If he thinks he has a chance to get a guy out I want him to throw it 100 percent of the time,” Stark said about DeYoung. “I think he was a little emotional today, a little jitters. He was pretty energized today, but that’s not like him to make a poor throw like that. I think it was a good opportunity to get a guy, he just let it get away from him.”
Senior pitcher Bryson James started the game for Golden Valley, allowing only one run through five innings while striking out three batters.
Shortstop Bryant Colon then switched to pitching, replacing James, and found himself in a tough situation in the top of the sixth inning.
After Dowell flied out, senior first baseman Cebastian Arriaga singled to left field then stole second base. Senior Charles Harrison then was walked, giving the Cowboys two runners on with one out.
Golden Valley head coach Matt Sorensen came out to meet with his pitcher, and Colon was able to force the next two batters into fly outs, getting out of the inning without giving up a run.
“I don’t say much, I do a little socratic questioning when I go make mound visits. It’s something I learned when I was a pitcher because as a pitching coach, you want to know how your pitcher is feeling and what he’s thinking,” Sorensen said. “If he’s not thinking the right things then you can give him some tips and advice, but I just go ask questions and kind of them make them answer to get to where I want them to be through my line of questioning.”
Heading into the seventh inning tied 1-1, junior Shawnn Adams came in as a pinch hitter for Canyon and reached first base by way of a walk. Senior Collin Cunningham was then subbed in as a pinch runner as junior Aydyn Litz came up to the plate.
Litz doubled for his second hit of the game, advancing Cunningham to third. DeYoung then flied out to center field, but two Golden Valley players collided while making a play on the ball which allowed both Cunningham and Litz to reach home for the scores.
“It was two seniors being aggressive at the ball. We have them flip flopping back and forth between left and center, but they know what they did,” Sorensen said. “It wouldn’t have made a difference in the ball game. They did a great job of base running and made plays when they had to so all the credit goes to them.”
Sophomore Brandon Whiting then took the mound to close out the game for Canyon. Facing Dylan Daszek first, the senior blasted a ball to the right side of the mound, but Whiting dove to the ground and extended his arm to snag the ball and throw him out at first.
“It pays off because I can play everywhere and I love diving for balls too,” Whiting said.
After allowing a single to Colon, he then struck out James before allowing another single to Hwang. Whiting closed out the game and earned the save when Moreno flied out to right.
“As a sophomore, for him to come in there like that, that was pretty special moment for him and there’s more to look forward in the future,” Stark said about Whiting.
While Whiting was proud of his performance, he was more impressed with his fellow pitcher Root.
“That was awesome, it was the best. I’d watch that all day,” Whiting said of Root.
Canyon and Golden Valley will face off again on Friday, with the game scheduled to start at 3 p.m. at Canyon High School.