It isn’t quite halfway through the Foothill League baseball season, but Valencia is pretty confident in its chances of winning the league title.
Said Tyler Robitaille: “I think we’re going to win. Hopefully not tie it. Our chemistry on our team is super strong. And we’re always here for each other.”
And Brock Klezcz: “That’s definitely a strong possibility. And hopefully we’ll go far in playoffs too.”
After shutting out Hart 10-0 at Valencia on Wednesday, those predictions might be closer to fulfillment than ever.
Robitaille pitched his first complete game of the league season (he came close earlier this year after pitching 6 2/3 innings against Saugus). He almost pulled off a no-hitter, but a single in the seventh inning from the Indians’ Jackson Dow prevented it.
“He almost had one against Saugus, but he got out on pitch count,” said Valencia coach Mike Killinger. “So this one, he had a chance at the no-hitter there in the seventh and we were getting him a chance and they got us, so it was awesome for him to have that opportunity.”
Ian Sockett was the starting pitcher for Hart. Sockett’s sidearm style gave the Vikings some difficulties in the first inning, even though Killinger was throwing sidearm in practices that week to prepare his hitters.
Sockett gave up only a single in the first inning, but the Vikings (11-6 overall, 9-1 in Foothill League) were able to make adjustments to string together some hits and score five runs.
Davis Cop hit a two-run single to get Valencia on the board, then Kyle Barileau followed up with an RBI double, forcing the Indians (9-10, 4-5) to exchange Sockett for Pat Arman.
“I think we just had to sit back more on our bats,” Klezcz said. “Lefty sidearm, it’s a little harder to hit. Outside pitches, driving to right field, that’s the adjustment we made.”
Mitchell Torres and Klezcz each hit RBI singles in the next two at-bats to give Valencia a 5-0 advantage by the end of the second inning.
Klezcz had another RBI single in the following inning, driving in Barileau to put the Vikings up by six runs.
Klezcz, a junior, went 4-for-4 at the plate in the game with two RBIs and one run.
“Definitely approaches at the plate,” Klezcz said of what he’s working on this season. “Last year was really rough for me for approaches and I was only a sophomore. That’s no excuse, but that definitely gave me some experience last year and just approach, staying back on the ball.”
The Indians were only able to get on base twice through the first six innings as Rocco Saldivar and Isaac Kim were both walked.
Conversely, the hits didn’t stop for Valencia. Barileau cracked a two-run homer over the right field fence in the fifth inning to keep the momentum going for the Vikings.
“That’s a pretty cool moment especially for him, he’s struggled at the beginning of the season, but he came out and he’s been doing great so far,” Klezcz said. “Keep it up, we got one more game left in this half of league. So we’ve got to come out and win.”
Although Hart wasn’t able to win, they were able to reintroduce two players into the batting order. Cooper Austin and Tyler Vannix both returned to the lineup after dealing with injuries.
The Indians are quickly moving on from Wednesday’s game, though.
“Valencia is pretty impressive, no doubt about it,” Hart coach Jim Ozella said. “Outstanding job on the mound today, outstanding job hitting. Overwhelmed us. Overwhelmed us from the second inning on. So that’s a credit to them. Today is their day. Hopefully, on Friday we’ll be ready to play.”
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The Vikings’ pitching staff is nearly at full strength as well. In addition to Robitaille and Torres, Ryan Kysar is close to seeing time on the mound after coming back from injury.
“He could’ve thrown today if we needed him,” Killinger said of Kysar. “We’re just working him back in there and we hope to have him when we come back from spring break full time.”
Hart and Valencia continue their Foothill League series on Friday at Hart at 3:30 p.m.
With a win, the Vikings move one step closer to the league crown. Something Killinger believes is a possibility.
“I hope so,” he said. “But there’s a lot of baseball out to play. They’re all going to come for us, so we’ve got to keep working and keep putting our best foot out there.”