The Canyon baseball team hosted Valencia on a chilly and windy Monday afternoon in a game that was rescheduled from last Friday due to weather concerns.
While there were a few sprinkles of rain minutes before the start of the game, the weather held up, and the Vikings came away victorious against the Cowboys 7-3.
Junior Mitchell Torres took care of business on the mound and at the plate for Valencia (7-4, 4-0 in Foothill League), allowing four hits and recording four strikeouts in five innings pitched while going 3-for-4 with a double, two singles, a walk and an RBI.
“Anytime any player can get on that often it’s huge, but when you have a guy that can do the same thing on the mound and give you a quality start and keep a pretty good team down, you can’t ask for anything more,” Valencia head coach Mike Killinger said of Torres’ performance.
“There is not many people in this league or anybody that I ever played with that I have as much confidence in as I do Mitchell,” Valencia third baseman Davis Cop said. “He’s just one of those guys, whether he’s on the mound, at first, in the outfield, when he’s hitting, he’s going to make something happen. That’s just the type of player he is and that’s why we have so much confidence in him to do whatever on the field that we ask him to do.”
The Vikings struck first in the top of the second inning, starting with a single to left by first baseman Matt Cotti.
Second baseman Kyle Barileau then reached base and Cotti advanced to third on a Canyon (3-7, 2-2 in Foothill League) error. Left fielder Owen Strader followed with a single to center, scoring Cotti and giving the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
The scoring didn’t stop there, as Cop reached base on another Canyon error, followed by right fielder Parker Simonian reaching base due to a pitch getting away from Canyon catcher Tyler DeYoung on a third strike, also allowing Strader to score.
Torres then drove home catcher Grant Weiss, who had reached base earlier on a fielder’s choice, giving Valencia a 3-0 lead.
Canyon pitcher Steven Cornell, who finished with five strikeouts in four innings pitched, did his best to minimize the damage in the second, striking out center fielder Brock Kleszcz to end the inning, but the multitude of errors on the defense put the senior in a tough position.
“I think the biggest thing is our focus. I don’t think we’re prepared every single pitch, I think that’s our problem right now. If you don’t take care of the baseball you’re not going to win many games,” Canyon head coach Justin Stark said. “I feel like our pitchers all year have done a great job and I think it’s time for the defense and offense to pick them up moving forward.”
“We have to be with each other, help each other out and pick each other up,” DeYoung added. “If we don’t do that, we don’t execute very well.”
The Cowboys were able to get a run in the third inning, starting with a single to right from second baseman Josh Ortega.
Senior Collin Cunningham entered the game as a pinch hitter and reached base on a walk. DeYoung then reached base on a fielder’s choice, with Cunningham getting thrown out at second, but allowing Ortega to advance to third.
C.J. Dowell singled to left, scoring Ortega to bring the score to 3-1.
The score remained that way until the top of the fifth inning, when Valencia was able to double up its runs thanks to prolific hitting from the bottom of the lineup.
Barileau hit a double to left to start off the inning, then Weiss hit a single to center off of Charles Harrison, who came in to relieve Cornell, scoring Barileau. Cop, the leadoff hitter, smashed a double to center and Simonian then reached base due to another Canyon error, which also allowed Weiss and Cop to score.
“When you have guys one through nine who are having as good of bats as they did today, everybody had productive at-bats and did their jobs, stayed with their approach, we are really hard to beat,” Cop said. “Especially as well as they are throwing it on the mound. Our pitchers have been impeccable all season.”
“When the bottom of the order is able to produce it just makes life so much easier and it makes everybody look like a great coach,” Killinger said with a smile.
Trailing 6-1 in the bottom of the fifth, the Cowboys didn’t let up, fighting back to bring the deficit to within three runs.
Sophomore Brandon Whiting walked, then Cunningham hit a single to give Canyon runners on first and second with one out.
DeYoung stepped up to the plate and launched a double to left, scoring Whiting and advancing Cunningham to third. Cunningham was able to steal home on a passed ball, making the score 6-3.
Dowell then walked, and the Cowboys looked poised to keep the scoring going with DeYoung on third and Dowell on first with one out. However, Noah Blythe and Cebastian Arriaga both popped out to end the inning.
“We’re aiming toward winning league this year because everybody sees us as the underdog, so we want to really come up and show them what we really are,” Cunningham said. “I think if we work together and put ourselves out there, we should do well, we should get wins.”
“If you’re not resilient you’re not going to win many games in this league. I thought offensively we looked a lot better, made some improvements, but I think most importantly we have to learn how to play as a team and pick guys up when they’re not performing,” Stark said. “We’re still learning that right now.”
Valencia scored once more in the top of the sixth after another series of errors from Canyon. First, Barileau reached base due to an error and then Weiss reached second and scored Barileau after another error.
Senior pitcher Cade Erickson took over on the mound for Valencia in the bottom of the sixth and quickly dispatched Canyon, facing only seven batters before closing the game with a strikeout.
Weiss finished the game 2-for-4 with one RBI and Barileau went 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Kleszcz and Simonian both went 2-for-5, with the latter adding an RBI. The Vikings had 12 hits in total.
The Cowboys recorded four hits, with DeYoung going 1-for-2 with two walks, a stolen base and one RBI. Dowell finished 1-for-3 with one RBI and one walk. Ortega went 1-for-3 and Cunningham finished 1-for-2 with a walk.
Valencia will face Golden Valley at home and Canyon will take on West Ranch at home on Wednesday. Both games are slated to start at 3:30 p.m.
“We can never take a team easy. Play every game like it’s your last,” Torres said. “You have to leave everything on the field every day, every inning, every pitch, and hopefully get out of the game with a dub.”