Ojeda stays hot, one-hits Saugus in league opener  

Ricardo Ojeda (13) of Valencia pitches against Saugus High at Saugus High on Wednesday, 030823. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Five days after throwing a perfect game, Valencia ace Ricky Ojeda remained dominant on the mound.  

Ojeda led the Valencia Vikings baseball team into Foothill League play with a one-hit, 19-strikeout performance, in a 7-0 win over Saugus (1-5). 

“I’ve been feeling good,” Ojeda said. “Coming out after a perfect game, I was on a kind of a higher point. I felt good.” 

Ojeda, a UC Irvine commit, dominated in each go-around with the Saugus lineup on his way to a new program record in strikeouts. The ace retired his first nine Centurions before Arizona commit Zach Plasschaert was walked. Ojeda’s no-hitter reached the bottom of the sixth where it promptly ended on his first pitch. Freshman Matt Carta drove a base hit to center field and ended the day as the only Centurion with a hit. 

Vikings head coach Brad Meza was in awe of his pitcher and the tear he’s been on. 

“Oh, man. I’ve never seen it personally,” Meza said. “It’s remarkable. He’s getting what he put into it. He’s getting exactly what he put into it and that’s just its success. He’s put in the work to be successful.” 

Valencia’s offense got to work long before Ojeda took over the game. Two Vikings got on base via walks before Valencia third baseman Lance Mittleman cleared the bases with a towering home run to left. 

Lance Mittelman (17) of Valencia is tagged out by Saugus third baseman Justin Rankin (34) in the second inning at Saugus High on Wednesday, 030823. Dan Watson/The Signal

“It’s been great,” Mittleman said. “I’ve been crushing the ball to start off the year and I’m glad to help out the team and just solidify my spot as one of the better hitters in this league.” 

Mittleman continued to mash balls at the plate, outhitting and outscoring Saugus. The San Francisco commit finished 3-for-3, and a triple shy of the cycle. 

It was Valencia’s first and only home run of the season until four at-bats later, when Vikings senior Phil Jeong hit another dinger off Saugus pitcher TJ Cataldi. 

Phil Jeong (2) of Valencia celebrates as he heads for third base after hitting a 2 run RBI home run in the first inning against Saugus High at Saugus High on Wednesday, 030823. Dan Watson/The Signal

Valencia went up 5-0 in the first inning and added another run in the next frame, off of a Mittleman RBI double. 

The day still belonged to Ojeda, who consistently hit 90-mph pitches on the corners of the zone. Going into the fourth with the pressure on of being perfect through his previous 10 innings of work, the UCI commit was dominant. Ojeda displayed some solid pitching last year but looks like a whole new man on the mound. 

“This offseason was just a lot of working out, going to the gym, eating healthy and really practicing with the team,” Ojeda said. “They’ve put in so much work and it just shows today with two bombs on the first day.” 

Saugus had a pitching gem of its own. Junior Shane Lemmond entered in the fourth inning and blanked Valencia for the rest of the game. The reliever allowed just two hits and fanned four Vikings in his four innings on the mound. 

It was too late for the Centurions but head coach Carl Grissom was pleased with his pitcher’s Foothill League debut. 

“Shane Lemmond really came in and kind of established what needed to be done,” Grissom said. “He threw strikes, got their guys and put up some zeros. It was exactly what we needed. So, if I’m looking for bright spots, that’s a bright spot for us.” 

Lemmond is the fourth brother to play for Grissom and looks to be yet another Lemmond who can shove on the mound. 

“Oh, that’s a fantastic family,” Grissom said. “He just came in and he was what the doctor ordered because that game could have really gotten out of hand.” 

Saugus won’t have much time to dissect Wednesday’s loss as round two with the Vikings was moved up a day to Thursday, to try to beat the weekend rain. Grissom still likes the team’s chances heading to Valencia, where they’ll face another pitcher. 

Abe Shelofsky (37) of Valencia gets a base hit in the fourth inning against Saugus at Saugus High on Wednesday, 030823. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Vikings will look to stay hot as winners of six of their last seven games. Valencia was set to start Matt Sherwood in Thursday’s 3:30 p.m. league matchup with the Centurions. 

Ojeda will return to the mound potentially over the weekend and likely for next week’s series with the Castaic Coyotes, where he’ll look to continue his hot streak. 

“[Ojeda] pitched really well,” Grissom said. “There’s a reason why he’s a Division 1 commit and he showed it today. He dominated and that’s just the way it is. Sometimes you’re going to face guys that just kind of have it and he had it today. It’s too bad that we’re not going to get to face them again. But you know, that’s baseball. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow and have a better effort and play well.” 

Derek Hughes (33) of Saugus makes the stop on a ground ball at short stop in the third inning at Saugus High on Wednesday, 030823. Dan Watson/The Signal

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