A pair of marquee Foothill League left-handed pitchers dueled it out on Friday as the Castaic Coyotes baseball hosted the Valencia Vikings.
Vikings ace Ricky Ojeda and Castaic pitcher Kyler Freude were lights-out in their performances.
Ojeda took the win with six innings of work with six strikeouts while allowing just three hits. It was a rather routine day for the UC Irvine commit but Ojeda’s shutout was saved in the bottom of the fifth inning, when the momentum of the game swung quickly in favor of Valencia.
Castaic first baseman Tyler Hawn, who had two of the team’s three hits on the day, managed to get to third. Hawn had a perfect window to score after a potential sacrifice fly by Coyotes left fielder Jacob Bond.
Valencia right fielder Sutton Simonian made the routine pop fly catch but sent a rocket to home plate where catcher Aiden Voyles pick off Hawn, preserving Valencia’s third shutout in league play.
“We practice that throw in practice all the time so it was pretty routine, especially with our coaches hitting good fly balls during practice,” Simonian said. “It really pumped me up, especially going into that at-bat. I think I got our guys going.”
The momentum swung from there and those two Vikings opened up the scoring in the sixth inning. Simonian led off the four-hit inning with a single before being brought home by an RBI double from Voyles.
“The momentum started with Sutton’s throw to home,” Voyles said. “I got lucky and got a pitch that I could hit and then hit it down the line.”
Voyles was also brought home from an RBI single off the bat of Valencia first baseman Noah Jaquez. Suddenly, a game that was scoreless for nearly two hours was a multiple-run lead for Valencia.
Freude allowed seven hits and two earned runs, with three strikeouts. The senior pitcher had a run where he held Valencia hitless for 11 at-bats.
Coyotes head coach Darrell Davis was proud of Freude’s performance on the mound.
“Kyler is a great pitcher,” Davis said. “He was second-team All-Foothill League last year. We know what he can do, so when we put the ball in his hands, he’s a bulldog. He’s going to pitch and he’s going to come right at you. He has multiple pitches. So, we feel pretty comfortable when we put him on the mound.”
Castaic came out of the inning ready to answer as second baseman David Cailatto hit a leadoff single to start the bottom of the sixth. However, Ojeda shook off his third allowed hit of the day and retired his next three opponents.
The Vikes tacked on one more run for comfort in the seventh but it was almost much worse. Valencia had two runners on with one out with San Francisco commit Lance Mittleman due up to bat. Castaic elected to intentionally walk the 2-for-3 Mittleman, loading the bases for Voyles.
Voyles grounded into a long double play but not before senior Zach Andrews tacked on the final run of the game in Valencia’s 4-0 win.
Senior Jeremy Cruz closed the game for Valencia (9-2, 3-0) and preserved the team’s sixth shutout of the year.
The Vikings have stormed into league play and are feeling good about the pace they’re on, with all eyes on what could be their first league title in four years.
“Our pitching and defense, we pride ourselves on that,” Voyles said. “Our pitchers, Sherwood and Ricky, have been doing very well. So, I know we’re going to ride them for the rest of the season. I think we have a chance to win league this year and hopefully just get right back into the playoffs and go as far as we can.”
Davis is not worried about his team’s season and hopes for the same script as 2022, when Castaic split games with the Vikings with each team winning on the road. However, he has aspirations for a better finish than last year.
“We’ve got quite a few seniors so we have that senior leadership, which is huge,” Davis said. “Last year, they played some very big games but unfortunately, we came up short a couple of times. We threw them in the fire this fall, and we played against some really tough teams. I think we have gotten past the hump of we’re just going to be close but we may not win. We expect to win when we play. They want it. They want to get in the playoffs and they and they feel if they can get in the playoffs, we can make some noise.”
Both teams return to action on Monday when Valencia hosts game two of the league series at 3:30 p.m. Hawn is set to start for the Coyotes while the big 6-foot, 5-inch Matthew Sherwood will get the ball for the Vikings.