Valencia pitcher Ricky Ojeda did what few have ever done in the game of baseball. The senior allowed no base runners in a win over the Taft Toreadors, throwing a perfect game for the first time in program history.
Ojeda, a UC Irvine commit, finished his seven innings of work with 12 strikeouts on 72 pitches and now a piece of CIF history.
The ace fanned Taft’s Dante Cioffi to clinch the perfect game, just before his teammates rushed onto the field to embrace their pitcher.
“It felt great coming off the field, the way everyone was happy for me and knowing that it was a team effort for the win,” Ojeda said in a phone interview.
The pitcher realized how well he started after the third inning, but didn’t think a perfect game would transpire after a second run through the Taft lineup.
Valencia head coach Brad Meza also didn’t realize how great his ace was throwing until the sixth. Once the skipper realized it, he looked for his pitcher.
“Usually in his starts, he sits by himself or with his pitching coach,” Meza said in a phone interview. “I look over in the sixth and he’s totally isolated. He was locked in and it’s nothing new from him. His attitude towards pitching, it’s indescribable.”
Meza’s expectation for Friday was just for a tune-up to prepare for league play next week. The Vikings needed extra time on the diamond with all the rain cancellations the team has to deal with. Needless to say, the team feels good now going into Foothill League action.
Ojeda felt confidence right away as he repeatedly retired the side and was hitting his marks.
“During the game, I felt confident in myself because I was consistently hitting my spots,” Ojeda said. “Though I did begin to get nervous in the last inning because I knew I had the perfect game going.”
Meza preaches to his pitchers to ignore everything else going on in a game and to just focus on the batter in front of them. However, even with some light nerves at the end, Ojeda delivered.
“We weren’t thinking about it,” Meza said. “A lot of what we talk about with our pitching staff is don’t worry about what’s going on in the game. Just go in and compete.”
Valencia went on to win the game 7-0 as the offense started cooking once they realized they needed to give Ojeda some run support. The team has jokingly called their pitcher “Clayton Kershaw” due to his dominance but lack of run support at times.
Meza praised Ojeda’s work ethic and is excited to see him continue to throw in his senior year before he heads off to Irvine.
“Ricky performed with flying colors,” Meza said. “It’s one of those things that couldn’t have happened to a better kid or a harder worker. He’s reached excellence and it was priceless watching it happen.”