Throughout the game, West Ranch pitcher JD Callahan had to endure the chants and noise coming from the Valencia dugout.
“I really just tried to keep it in the zone,” Callahan said. “All that matters is the pitcher and the catcher, that’s about it. Anything they say, I just take it and block it out. That’s all you can do. If they get in your head, you already lost the game.”
Setting the tone in the first inning and doing a good job of blocking out the opposing team’s dugout, Callahan pitched five innings, giving up five hits and one earned run while striking out six batters on the way to a 2-1 West Ranch win.
After getting the Davis Cop and Kyle Barileau to fly out to center field and strikeout, Callahan walked the next batter and gave up a hit Brock Kleszcz, putting runners on first and second base.
Getting Matt Cotti to pop-up in foul territory, West Ranch first baseman Ryan Tucker kept the game scoreless by catching the third out in foul territory.
Valencia pitcher Tyler Robitaille’s first inning turned out a little different.
Walking the first two batters, Jovan Camacho and Ryan Ilan, Robitaille seemed a little rattled, throwing seven balls in a row, but got the following two batters to fly out and strikeout.
With a full count, two outs and runners on second and third base, Wildcats catcher Nicholas Perez stepped up to bat.
Hitting a double into center field, Perez scored Camacho and Ilan to light up the scoreboard.
“It sounds funny, but nothing really,” Perez said about what he was thinking as he stepped up to the plate. “We always work on that in the cages, so it’s almost muscle memory. Going the other way with two strikes, putting up a good fight, it’s just muscle memory and something that we have to do and that we are taught every day.”
Accruing four more strikeouts over the course of the next four innings, Callahan kept the Vikings off the board, but ran into some trouble in the top of the fifth inning.
Vikings’ Sean Ogrin hit a grounder toward second baseman Nikko Clarke. Clarke fumbled the ball for an error, allowing Ogrin to reach first base safely.
Two batters later, Barileau successfully laid down a bunt toward third base for a single and advanced Ogrin to third.
After striking out in the top of the fourth, Kleszcz saw his opportunity to help out his team and hit a blistering ball down the third baseline for an RBI-double, scoring Ogrin from third and cutting the deficit to one run.
Saving face, Callahan got Cotti to strikeout and got out of the inning only giving up one run, effectively ending his night.
“They got to me a little bit,” Callahan said. “I didn’t have my best stuff, but I battled through it. I really just prepared and went through the game exactly how I planned to. That’s how I try to go through everything. Set the tone early and rely on my defense.”
Trent Bird came on to relieve Callahan in the top of the sixth inning, and finished out the game giving up no hits and walking one and striking out two.
“We had two really good pitching performances from Callahan and Bird,” said West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill. “We are thrilled that we could have a two-run lead hold up so we thought our pitchers were pretty dominant.
“They were pretty lights out. Both of those guys got a little bit of swagger behind them with those two pitching.”
Trying to keep the Wildcats off the board in the bottom of the sixth inning, Valencia opted to use Cade Erickson and Mitchell Torres.
Erickson gave up one hit and got one out, and Torres finished out the inning, striking out the side.
After striking out Valencia’s Steven Gonzalez on a full count, Bird got Cop to pop-up and Barileau to ground out to seal the West Ranch victory.
“It’s a big win for us,” Burrill said. “It was more of a must win for us today than it was for Valencia. We have identical records now. If they win today’s game they have a little bit of a stranglehold, so it’s nice to have everything all tied up and Friday becomes a massive game for both programs.”
Both teams will face off again this week at Valencia at 3:30 p.m on Friday.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” said Valencia head coach Mike Killinger. “A lot of games you don’t come through and sometimes you come through on every single one. That’s why we put up some big numbers early in league and now we just have to make sure we put the bats on the balls when it matters.”