Two red-hot teams battled on Friday when Valencia Vikings baseball hosted the West Ranch Wildcats.
The game was tight until West Ranch broke the game open in the fifth inning and extended its lead. Senior Josef Brosche sacrifice-bunted to bring in the first run of the inning before first baseman Aidan Buntich hit a booming RBI double to right field to spark the first of two three-run innings for the Cats.
West Ranch won the game 8-1, snapping the Vikings’ five-game win streak, while coincidentally bumping its own win streak up to six games.
The Wildcats pitching was solid through all seven innings. Junior Ben Cushnie earned the win for West Ranch (11-3, 5-0) in his five-inning start. Cushnie allowed two hits, one run and fanned seven Vikings en route to the victory. The junior pitched with the lead in hand after the second inning, when senior Bret Potter delivered the go-ahead run with an RBI double bringing in sophomore Landon Hu.
Cushnie’s lead was threatened multiple times as Valencia kept finding ways to get runners in scoring position. However, the pitcher was unfazed and shut the door on any potential momentum swing. Cushnie stranded a plethora of Vikings and got out of two one-out, two-on jams.
“I just know I have the confidence to go out there and shove,” Cushnie said. “I know that my team’s got my back.”
West Ranch head coach Ryan Lindgreen was pleased with his junior’s performance on the mound.
“I guess practice makes perfect,” Lindgreen said. “He does get himself into some of those jams but he seems to be able to keep making pitches and stays the course even if there’s some runners on base, and so we’ve been really happy with the way that he’s been able to kind of execute in some of those big moments.”
Valencia (10-3, 4-1) saw a quality start from pitcher Matt Sherwood. The 6-foot, 5-inch righty threw 5.2 innings, allowing five hits with three walks. Sherwood had a two-hitter going into the fifth inning before the Wildcats sparked and at one point held Valencia hitless for 11 straight at-bats.
The pitcher left it all out there, but Valencia’s offense just couldn’t find any rhythm and was held to its lowest scoring output in a Foothill League game in two years.
Senior Andrew Greenberg closed the game for West Ranch and showed no signs of losing Cushnie’s win. Greenberg threw two innings, allowing just two hits while striking out a pair of Vikings.
“Bottom line for us today is nine strikeouts in seven innings doesn’t cut it,” said Valencia head coach Brad Meza. “I just told our guys that our pitchers are gonna do what they do and if we can’t give them run support, you can’t expect them to be perfect, every single time. You can’t expect shutouts every single game. You have to be able to put runs together.”
Meza and the team had a long talk after the game and the coach is hoping for a quick turnaround as the team is set to play again, less than 17 hours after their Friday matchup ended.
“We’re just looking for some redemption and hoping to put together some more quality at bats. We’ve got Ricky (Ojeda) on the mound, and we’ll let him do his thing but at the same time like I said, we can’t expect him to be perfect every single time so we have to put together some at bats and put together some runs… We had a long talk out there about being competitive and being good teammates, but now it’s up to them. We put them in positions to be successful. Hopefully what we said kind of hits home a little bit and they come ready to play.”
Foothill League teams will typically battle in two-game series on Wednesdays and Fridays. However, with the sport combatting the rain over the last few weeks, the Vikes and Cats are suiting up for game two on Saturday at West Ranch.
Reigning Foothill League Pitcher of the Year Jackson Banuelos is set to start for West Ranch while Valencia’s Ricky Ojeda will look to continue his hot streak opposite Banuelos.
Valencia will look to even the series on the road on Saturday at 11 a.m. when the Vikes head to West Ranch.