After just two hits through three innings of play, Valencia Vikings baseball exploded en route to victory and another Foothill League championship on Tuesday.
Valencia went 1-for-8 in the lineup’s first run through the order against the hosting Hart Indians before exploding for back-to-back five-run innings.
The Vikings won the game, 11-1, after a scoring frenzy through the fourth and fifth innings. Zach Andrews led the Vikes at the plate, going 3-of-4, including a three-run homer to cap off the fourth inning.
“It feels amazing,” Andrews said. “It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had playing baseball. Job’s not done, though. We’re going to go in on Thursday and we’re gonna win this thing.”
Andrews nearly outhit Hart by himself, as he and third baseman Lance Mittelman each finished with three-hit days. The pair were two of seven Vikings to reach base twice.
Hart struck first in the second inning when junior Taj Brar hit an RBI single to score pinch runner Scott Morris.
Brar led the Indians with two hits.
Valencia ace Ricky Ojeda went the distance on the hill. The senior pitcher threw a gem of a game, allowing five hits and two walks along with five strikeouts. Ojeda felt redemption after the win, as he returned to the field where gave up the league-winning run last year, but this time he delivered a championship.
“It feels great,” Ojeda said. “Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this all year and that end to the league championship game last year. I just wanted to come back here and show that we could win. The offense got it done today, too.”
Valencia head coach Brad Meza was also crushed after last year’s extra-inning loss to the Indians. However, the skipper knew in the summer he could return to his alma mater at Hart and win a league championship.
“We told the guys about nine months ago, ‘Hey if you take care of business and you buy into what we’re trying to accomplish, you’re gonna be back in that series at the end of the year and battling it out for the championship again,’ and they did just that,” Meza said. “We’re really proud of them and really proud of all the work they put in. A lot of guys have come a long, long way. So, it’s good to see.”
Meza notes his everyday nine-hole hitter Andrews as one of the most hard-working guys in the group.
“That’s another guy that has worked his butt off to get where he’s at and earn a starting spot,” Meza said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked of him and he’s having a phenomenal senior year.”
Hart starting pitcher Mikey Rogozik held the Valencia offense down before the fourth-inning run.
Rogozik was perfect through two innings and fanned three Vikings before getting into some trouble finding the zone, which quickly loaded the bases.
The Vikings went through the order again in the fifth, where they chased two more Indian pitchers off the mound. Valencia found serious rhythm and had six straight batters get on base.
The Indians finally stopped the bleeding with junior righty Ian Edwards on the mound. Edwards allowed one run and struck out three Vikings in his 2.1 innings on the hill.
The Vikes clinched at least a share of the Foothill League crown thanks to Castaic taking down West Ranch on Wednesday. If Valencia sweeps Hart on Thursday and can get enough runs past Hart flamethrower Troy Cooper, the championship belongs only to the Vikings.
“It’s a league championship but we don’t want to share it,” Meza said. “We have to take care of business. Cooper has a great arm and he’s a great talent. But I think if we stick with our plan on one pitch at a time, one play at a time, who knows what can happen? We just gotta go take care of our business.”
Valencia returns home to host Hart at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
“The job’s not done,” Andrews said. “Thursday, we’re going to come out and win it in our yard this year. We couldn’t do it last year, but it’s senior year for a lot of us, so we’re going to get that dogpile on our field. That’s what we’re playing for.”