By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
No. 1 Sierra Canyon (18-0, 8-0) remains perfect on the year after beating the Valencia Vikings (9-9, 6-2) in their Saturday non-league matchup.
The Trailblazers were led yet again by starting pitcher Jaden Noot. The LSU commit pitched five strong innings while batting 2-3 with 2 RBI.
Sierra Canyon broke open the game in the second inning with a five-run rally, after Valencia starting pitcher Jake McMillan threw a perfect first inning in his first start this season.
First baseman Julian Areliz hit a sacrifice fly to score Noot for the first run of the game. Two bats later, Darren Yoon and leadoff hitter Andrew Cisneros hit back-to-back RBI doubles to gain a comfortable 4-0 lead. A McMillan wild pitch would score one more run before Valencia got out of the inning.
The Vikings were able to answer immediately. Outfielders Noah Nichols and Scotty Pieper both jumped on Noot’s pitches early and got on base.
A crafty move from the Blazers’ ace got Pieper caught in a rundown, leading out just too far. However, Pieper’s speed managed to elongate the chase and allow Nichols to score for Valencia.
Later in the inning, Kaden Shields hit an RBI single to score the Vikings’ second and final run of the game.
Shields was a solid 2-3 at the plate on the day.
McMillan would get so close to keeping the game tight but with two outs, he walked his last batter before being pulled for relief pitcher Mathew Sherwood.
Sherwood walked his first batter, loading the bases to bring up an 0-1 third baseman Eddie Mgdesyan. The infielder nearly cleared the bases with a 2 RBI single to hike the score up to 7-2.
The Vikings again would get so close to turning this thing around. Yet again, Pieper and Nichols got the best of Noot and registered base hits.
Pieper finished a game-high 3-4.
Valencia second baseman Kyle Rosenfeld then also got on with a base hit, but the big arms of the Sierra Canyon outfield kept the runners at bay.
Noot had three on, no outs and had the big bat of Jose Mariano due up, who has eight homers on the season.
The LSU commit was the least amount of bothered and got through the inning all by himself.
“As soon as it happened, I just flipped a switch,” said Noot. “Everything changed, I locked in.”
Noot struck out two straight Vikings, starting with Mariano before Asher Frye lined out to the pitcher, stranding all three Valencia runners.
“They’re No. 1 in California for a reason,” said Valencia head coach Brad Meza. “We have to execute better.”
Sherwood threw a perfect inning to keep the Vikings afloat but Valencia could not jump back in the game after the gut-wrenching inning.
Areliz came in to pitch in the sixth and started off with his own perfect inning. The sophomore struck out two before retiring his last batter.
Valencia couldn’t get a hit off Areliz and fell with just two runs on the day after scoring 44 runs in their last five games.
“Pitching and defense is what we’re about,” said Blazers head coach Jerry Royster. “When we can combine that with an offense, we’re pretty lethal.”
The Vikings are still in a good spot in the Foothill League, currently in third. Meza hopes to see his team keep up their competitive fire into the last few weeks of the season, as the race for the league title will most likely come down to the wire.
Valencia will now get the rest of their spring break off before returning to league action Wednesday, April 13, at Golden Valley. Sierra Canyon will host Crescenta Valley on Tuesday.