Despite giving up two hits and two runs in the first inning, West Ranch pitcher Cade Nicol never looked unnerved. He immediately shook it off and moved on to the next batter he was facing.
The senior right-hander only gave up two hits after the initial inning, helping lead West Ranch to a 12-3 win over Canyon on Friday at West Ranch High School.
“Cade has always been that no emotion guy and I think that kind of showed and worked in his favor today. It would be really easy to get rattled giving up two runs in an emotional game and right away they got two runs on the board,” West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill said. “He’s the type of pitcher that is able to settle down, relax and be patient, and wait for the offense to do something.”
“I think the confidence in my team, my defense behind me and my offense as well to come through, it’s just a belief that they are going to get it done for me as well,” Nicol, who recorded three strikeouts, said. “I just got to do my job. Do my part and keep the game close.”
With Nicol leading the way on the mound, the West Ranch (9-3, 5-1 in Foothill League) defense took care of the rest.
The fielding was on point, evidenced by zero errors on the defense. First baseman Ryan Tucker even turned an unassisted double play in the second inning.
“Defense is just as important as scoring runs or even our pitching,” senior right fielder Garret Monheim said. “It’s the backbone to our team and it’s what’s helping us win these games.”
The offense wasn’t too shabby either.
Second baseman Nikko Clarke went 2-for-3 with one RBI and a walk and reached base on all four at-bats. Shortstop Ryan Farr went 2-for-4 and Tucker went 2-for-4, including reaching base on a precise bunt that also advanced Clarke.
Ryan and Jovan Camacho each had an RBI, with the former going 1-for-2 with a walk, including getting hit by a pitch.
The Wildcats scored seven runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and their 12 total runs tied a season-high.
“We continue to get better as the season goes on and we put up 12 runs today,” Monheim said. “It’s just the beginning. Next week we hope to bring it up again and show up.”
Monheim was particularly clutch, going 2-for-2 with three RBIs and two walks.
His double in the bottom of the fourth as part of a West Ranch two-out rally seemed to spark the team, as he scored both of the Camachos and helped lead the Wildcats to a 4-2 advantage heading into the fifth inning.
“I thought we put a dent in them when we scored the three runs with the two outs, I thought that was the pivotal moment of the game. That really put the game out of reach,” Burrill said. “We’re super excited for Garret. I think that ball looks like a beach ball coming up there for him. He’s enjoying every moment of it and we’re enjoying watching it.”
“Garret is on fire right now. We love it,” Nicol said. “A lot of energy coming from him and a lot of great at-bats. It’s just a lot of fun to watch him hit.”
Trent Bird closed out the game for West Ranch, allowing one run in the seventh inning but also striking out three batters.
Canyon (3-9, 2-4 in Foothill League) pitcher Charles Harrison did his best to keep the Cowboys within striking distance.
He pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and logging six strikeouts. He also went 2-for-3 at the plate and scored a run in the first inning after hitting a double, then was brought home by a double from center fielder Noah Blythe.
“He didn’t have his best stuff today, but there’s a reason why he’s the guy for us. He competes no matter what the situation is, no matter what stuff he has,” Canyon head coach Justin Stark said. “His (velocity) was down today and he still pitched well I thought. Well enough to put us in a position to be successful.”
Blythe went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and third baseman Josh Ortega went 1-for-3 with one RBI for Canyon.
Left fielder Conrad Meza went 2-for-3 and scored a run in the seventh inning.
“I’m really happy with Conrad. He comes every day and works hard and it showed,” Stark said of Meza. “He’s always asking questions, trying to learn the game and he’s been bringing energy to this team, helping hold this team together.”
The Cowboys are a team that thrives on energy and rooting for one another, but they found it difficult to find a rhythm because the umpire didn’t allow either team to cheer on their teammates aside from clapping.
It was highly unusual said Stark, who has been around the game a long time and was a three-year varsity player at Canyon.
“It’s difficult to have that energy. I felt that we were really restricted, being told by the umpire that we can’t be behind our teammates and talk. That’s tough for a team to be behind their guys and be a team,” he said. “For them to say you can’t say a word besides clapping, it blows my mind. You made the game about yourself at that point as an umpire, you took the fun out of the game.
“You need to be able to behind your team and I thought that was tough, tough to come back in games when you can’t create that energy. I’ve never seen anything like that. I think it’s horrible for the game and I don’t think it should ever happen again.”
Canyon will look to get back to its winning ways on Wednesday, facing Hart on the road.
West Ranch will play Valencia on Wednesday at home in a highly-anticipated matchup between the top two teams in the Foothill League.
“They’re going to be super excited to come out and face us. They got the unblemished record and want to protect that, and we need to scrap and get one or two of those games to keep ourselves in the race for a Foothill League title” Burrill said. “I think it’s going to be well attended by people in the community and I think everyone is going to be up and super excited.”
Valencia 14, Golden Valley 3
The Vikings improved to 9-4 on the season and 6-0 in the Foothill League with their road win over the Grizzlies on Friday.
Cade Erickson pitched a complete game, allowing three hits and recording five strikeouts.
Davis Cop went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Kyle Barileau went 2-for-3 with two walks and Parker Simonian had two RBIs.
Mitchell Torres and Matt Cotti both went 3-for-5, with the former logging one RBI and the logging two RBIs.
Brock Kleszcz, Grant Weiss and Owen Strader each went 2-for-5 with, with Kleszcz and Weiss both recording an RBI.
Valencia will be on the road on Saturday to face Ayala High School before returning to league action on Wednesday against West Ranch.
Golden Valley (5-7, 1-5 in Foothill League) will face Saugus on the road on Wednesday.