Foothill baseball hits pause amid precautions

West Ranch outfielder Brandon Wyre (3) makes the catch for the first out of the fourth inning against Saugus at West Ranch. PHOTO BY DAN WATSON / THE SIGNAL
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Prep basketball has officially ended in Santa Clarita, and a new season is underway. Although spring prep sports have been postponed until April 30, baseball presented quite a few memorable moments.

At the end of every sixth inning, the Centurions meet at the first base line and the visitor meets at the third base line to lead the fans in a moment of silence for Gracie Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell, two victims of the Saugus High School shooting. 

“Ever since the tragedy, every home game that we’ve had before every seventh inning, we give a moment of silence,” said Saugus’ Ryan Egan. “It’s something that we can’t forget. It’s going to be a tradition from now on.”

In Egan’s eyes, it gives more of a meaning to the game and brings a community closer together.

“First off, as a team, we’re playing for more than just winning (the Foothill) League,” he said. “We’re playing for Gracie and Dom.”

One of the largest arguments for not being interested in baseball is that the sport is too slow and there isn’t enough scoring. Hart and Valencia have found ways to counter that argument.

To kick off league play, the Indians scored 25 runs against Golden Valley. They scored so much in three innings that they went through the entire batting order within three outs. 

“We just came off of a couple losses and came out swinging,” said Hart’s Matt Quintanar after the scoring parade. “We worked on hitting fastballs and capitalized on that.”

On the other side of town, the Vikings amped up the excitement with a show of their own. They stormed out to a 15-1 win, but that wasn’t even the most exciting part of the game. In the first inning, Valencia’s Steven Gonzalez rocked a grand slam.

“Oh my gosh. It got the whole lineup going,” said Vikings’ Tyler Robitaille. “It was awesome with all of our hitters getting hot. It’s a good start to league.”

The Foothill League has been more than just the bats. It’s a pitcher’s league, too. Hart’s Ben Niednagel was just a few batters shy of a no-hitter in a game in which he struck out six batters.

“The last inning, I was sitting in the corner, staring at the fence just trying to stay focused,” he said after the game on his superstitions in the dugout.

Egan eventually ended the no-hit bid.

Niednagel isn’t the only pitcher to have an incredible game since league play began. West Ranch’s Scott Bauman put in work in his first varsity start in a Foothill League game. He struck out a whopping nine batters, including the leadoff hitter, and only allowed two hits. 

“After that first batter, it really helped everything because I was wondering how I’m going to do, how my pitches are going to work,” he said of his first Foothill League start. “I threw three different pitches to that one batter and just to have them all execute was really just a nerve-calmer.”

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