By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Staff Writer
The short-handed Coyotes (7-9, 3-3) struggled in their Saturday tournament matchup with the Simi Valley Pioneers (12-6, 7-3).
Simi Valley pulled off rally after rally and had multiple five-run innings to put this game away early. The home team was led by Aiden Nykoluk, who batted 2-4 with a grand slam.
Sophomore Gabriel Veltri got the start for Castaic and looked like he was on his way to a quick first inning after retiring his first two batters.
However, the Pioneers exploded for a five-run first inning to take a commanding lead.
The Coyotes couldn’t respond and the Pioneers’ left-handed pitcher Kyle Alderete gave Castaic nothing in his four-inning start.
Alderete got in some trouble early but kept Castaic scoreless with timely outs. The lefty stranded five runners in his first two innings.
“We have guys that have to step up and produce when you have three or four of your better guys that are hurt right now,” said Coyotes head coach Darrell Davis.
Castaic would be without their injured one and two hitters Matt Airhart and Kyler Freude, as well as missing captain Ethan Silva.
In the Pioneers’ first-inning run, wild pitches from Veltri would continuously advance and score Simi runs.
Coyotes’ shortstop David Cailotto struggled in the first and had a couple chances to end the rally. The sophomore bobbled a couple of ground balls and Simi feasted on both errors.
Veltri’s first inning finally ended after 38 pitches and five runs scored.
The Pioneer pitching staff would grill their opposing offense and hold the Coyotes to just four hits through seven innings.
Simi eventually chased Veltri off the mound in the third, bringing in Castaic relief pitcher Brayden Lester.
Lester needed just one out but walked his first two batters, allowing one run to score before Pioneers’ outfielder Aiden Nykoluk launched a two-run triple.
Alderete had Castaic’s back to the wall and finished his day with a perfect 1-2-3 inning in the fourth.
Simi Valley would go through their order again in the bottom of the fourth, getting the bases loaded for Nykoluk to highlight his special day.
Nykoluk finished with 6 RBI.
Castaic wouldn’t score until the fifth inning when right fielder Joji Sakata brought in Aaron Gonzalez with an RBI single.
Sakata was the one ray of light for the Coyotes, batting 2-3
Simi Valley’s defense never let up and even registered a smooth 3-4-3 double play in the sixth.
Castaic has now lost six in a row and will need some big wins in their upcoming league series with Canyon.
Canyon has struggled in league thus far but, unlike the Coyotes, the Cowboys picked up some solid non-league wins over their spring break.
“At the end of the day, league is everything for us,” said Davis. “We have two big games against Canyon. We must win those games. The goal is to make the playoffs.”
Castaic and Canyon will play back-to-back days on Wednesday and Thursday starting at Castaic High School at 3:30 p.m.