San Marcos baseball’s defense picked off multiple Valencia Viking base runners throughout Thursday’s extra-inning contest on the road, including the game-saving play.
Valencia had three runners on with two outs in the bottom of the seventh after Junior Blake Henzie reached first on an infield error. The bobble at second base gave a small window for Vikings catcher Aiden Voyles to race home to win the game. However, the Royals’ defense recovered and Royals catcher Owen Estabrook made the tag at the plate, ending the inning.
Neither team could cross the plate until the Royals found a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning behind a 2 RBI double from Brendon Cekeda. The Vikings forced a walk in the bottom of the eighth but couldn’t get the tying run on base and fell, 2-0.
Cekeda was the only Royal batter who finished with multiple hits as Valencia’s pitching yet again carried the team through a tough game.
Senior Ricky Ojeda got the start for the Vikings (13-6) and blanked San Marcos (12-5) through five innings on the hill. Ojeda finished with seven strikeouts and allowed just three hits.
Valencia senior Jeremy Cruz continued to control the game from the mound as the reliever and Ojeda combined to retire 12 straight Royals batters.
“Our pitching helps us out a lot,” Valencia head coach Brad Meza said. “Unfortunately, today we couldn’t give them any run support. All we needed was one. Their pitchers did the same thing. They went out and went right at our hitters.”
The Vikings struggled to get on base as the top of the order was held hitless. The bottom six of the lineup mustered up six hits on the day and were led by Voyles, who hit 2-of-3.
San Marcos showcased its depth, utilizing five arms on the mound as no Viking faced the same Royal pitcher more than once.
Meza was hoping to see better at-bats, after being no-hit on Tuesday by San Marcos’ ace Cole Schoenwetter. The UC Santa Barbara commit struck out 14 Valencia batters en route to the 5-0 win on Tuesday.
“Yesterday we talked a lot about shortening up the swing, getting it off the bat, and putting the ball in play,” Meza said. “We only had four strikeouts so it was definitely a positive plus on our part, minimizing the strikeouts. Sometimes you have to tip your hat off to them. They’re a quality baseball team that didn’t quit, they didn’t give up.”
The win marked three straight wins for San Marcos while coincidentally the Vikings dropped their third in a row.
Valencia is still looking like a strong contender in the Foothill League. The Vikings have won three straight league games with a total of 33 runs in that span. Valencia is one of three teams with only one league loss on the year, so a winner may not be decided for the second straight year.
Both teams return to league action next week as the Royals head to Oxnard on Monday while Valencia will host Golden Valley on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. However, Meza knows his guys are itching for another shot at the Royals somewhere down the line.
“To take a team like that to extra innings, it’s a big deal for us,” Meza said. “I’m glad to see our guys play through it. At the end of the day it was a battle and tough grind. Hopefully we see them again in the playoffs.”