Valencia baseball looked primed to distance themselves from West Ranch in a battle for the top spot in the Foothill League at Valencia on Friday.
Scoring at least one run in every inning but the sixth the Vikings put any doubt to rest, defeating the Wildcats 8-1.
“We went into this week thinking we should take both games, said winning pitcher Mitchell Torres. “After a disappointing loss on Tuesday, we came into the game with the mindset of we are not going to get outworked, outplayed, outhit, everything and I mean I think we came out on fire and it really helped.”
Torres laid the groundwork of what would be a scoreless 5 ⅓ inning outing in which he gave up three hits while striking out four in the process.
Striking out the first two batters he faced, Torres made quick work, knowing that his teammates were eager to get some runs on the board.
In the bottom of the inning, Valencia (10-6 overall, 7-1 in Foothill League) second baseman Kyle Barileau doubled to center and scored two batters later with two outs on after Brock Kleszcz singled and beat out the throw to first.
West Ranch pitcher Cade Nicol escaped the inning giving up just the one run after Kleszcz got caught in a pickle trying to steal second base.
Vikings first baseman Steven Gonzalez doubled down the third baseline in the bottom of the second. Feeding off his teammates energy with two outs and Gonzalez on third base, Valencia left fielder Owen Strader hit a two-run home run to give Valencia a 3-0 lead after two.
“My hitting coach, coach Rainel (Caranto) told me to think left center on this guy and just get a fastball up,” Strader said. “He threw me a high-inside fastball and I just knew that my approach was to hit it to the left center gap, so I just went with it.”
Putting the at-bat behind him, Nicol came back and threw a three-pitch strikeout out to get out of the inning giving up two runs.
Torres got Ryan Farr to pop out and Ryan Ilan and Ryan Camacho to bring his strikeout total to four through three innings.
Leading off in the bottom of the fourth, Valencia’s third baseman Davis Cop hit a solo home run for what was the beginning of a three-run inning for the Vikes.
Torres hit a blooper to left field for a single, Kleszcz followed with a single to center and Grant Weiss looked at four balls to load the bases.
Gonzalez hit into a fielder’s choice single, scoring Torres from third. Later in the inning, Kleszcz scored on an error to give the Vikings a 6-0 lead heading into the fourth inning.
After the Kleszcz run, Nicol was taken out in favor of Trent Bird. He finished the outing striking out three and giving up five earned runs on seven hits.
In the fourth inning, Valencia scored another run after back-to-back doubles by Cop and Barileau scoring Cop for the seventh run of the game for Valencia.
“Just all around our whole lineup hit,” Strader said. “We set the tone in the first inning with a run and the second we came up and we scored two more and from there on we just kept hitting, kept hitting, kept hitting and everything just fell into place basically.”
Valencia almost scored a couple more runs if it wasn’t for West Ranch (10-4,6-2) center fielder Jovan Camacho, who prevented a home run at the wall for the third out.
Valencia scored one more run in the bottom of the fifth inning, with Cop’s second RBI of the night on a bases loaded sacrifice fly to right field scoring Simonian.
Cade Erickson came in to relieve Torres in the top of the sixth and did his job going 1 ⅓ innings giving up no runs.
The Wildcats, however, were able to get one run back in the top of the seventh inning as Vikings closer Ryan Kysar walked two out of the first three batters he faced to load the bases for Ryan Camacho.
Camacho was walked and brought in the Wildcats’ lone run to end the thought of a Valencia shutout.
Kysar got the next West Ranch batter to pop up and end the game.
“Valencia was pretty good today,” said West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill. “I thought Torres was fantastic on the mound. I thought he worked ahead. I thought he had three pitches for strikes.
“We would have liked to be a little more competitive today. There’s not many aspects of the game that went well for us today. Valencia played a great game all the way through and they were pretty offensive today. We tip our cap to them and look forward to a fun game No. 3 after spring break.”
Valencia gets Hart at home on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m while West Ranch plays at Dos Pueblos tomorrow at 11 a.m.