Valencia baseball left-hander duel defeats Kastaic

A pair of the best pitchers from the Foothill League went head-to-head on Friday when the Castaic Coyotes hosted the Valencia Vikings.

Vikings ace Ricky Ojeda and Castaic pitcher Kyler Freude were impeccable in their performances.

Ojeda took the win, earning six innings with six strikeouts, allowing just three hits. It was a pretty normal day for a UC Irvine commit, but Ojeda’s shutout was saved in the bottom of the fifth inning when the momentum of the game quickly turned in Valencia’s favor.

Castaic first baseman Tyler Hawn, who had two of the team’s three hits on the day, managed to get to third. Hawn had the perfect window to score after a potential sacrifice by Coyotes left fielder Jacob Bond.

Valencia right fielder Sutton Simonyan made a routine fly catch but sent a rocket to home plate, where catcher Aiden Voyles brought down Hawn, saving Valencia’s third shutout in league play.

“We practice this shot all the time in practice, so it was pretty routine, especially since our coaches were hitting good volleyballs during practice,” Simonyan said. “It really cheered me up, especially in this fight. I think I got our guys moving.

The momentum swung from there and the two Vikings opened the scoring in the sixth inning. Simonyan led the pitch with four hits from a single before being brought home by an RBI double from Voyles.

“The momentum started with Sutton’s home run,” Voyles said. “I got lucky and got a pitch that I could hit and then hit the line.”

Voyles was also brought home from an RBI single at bat by Valencia first baseman Noah Jaques. Suddenly, a game that had been scoreless for almost two hours was a multiple advantage for Valencia.

Freude allowed seven hits and two earned runs with three strikeouts. The senior pitcher had a run in which he held Valencia hitless for 11 balls.

Coyotes head coach Darrell Davis was proud of Freude’s performance on the mound.
“Kyler is a great pitcher,” Davis said. “Last year he was second team in the All-Foothhill League. We know what he is capable of, so when we put the ball in his hands, he is a bulldog. He’s about to file, and he’s about to come right at you. He has several steps. So we feel pretty comfortable putting it on the embankment.”

Castaic came out of the inning ready to respond when second baseman David Caillatto hit the first single to start the bottom of the sixth. However, Ojeda saved his third legal strike of the day and retired his next three opponents.

The Vikes made another run for comfort in the seventh, but it was almost much worse. Valencia had two runners, one of whom was out, and San Francisco obligated Lance Mittleman due to a bat. Castaic deliberately chose Mittleman 2-for-3, loading the bases for Voyles.

Voyles started a long double play, but not before senior Zach Andrews bid for the game’s final streak in Valencia’s 4–0 win.

Senior Jeremy Cruz ended the game for Valencia (9-2, 3-0) and saved the team’s sixth shutout of the year.

The Vikings have burst into league play and are doing well at the pace they are at and everyone is looking at what could be their first league title in four years.

“Our serve and defense, we’re proud of it,” Voyles said. “Our pitchers, Sherwood and Ricky, are doing very well. So I know that we will ride them until the end of the season. I think we have a chance to win the championship this year and I hope we get back in the playoffs right away and go as far as we can.”

Davis isn’t worried about his team’s season and is hoping for the same scenario as in 2022, with Castaik splitting games with the Vikings and each team winning on the road. However, he is aiming for a better result than last year.

“We have quite a few seniors, so we have this top management, which is huge,” Davis said. “Last year they played some very important games, but unfortunately we lost a couple of times. This fall we threw them into the fire and we played against very strong teams. I think we have overcome the hump, we will just be close, but we may not win. We expect to win when we play. They want it. They want to make the playoffs and they feel that if they can make the playoffs, we can make a fuss.”

Both teams return to action on Monday when Valencia host the second game of the league series at 15:30. Hawn is set to start for the Coyotes and big 6ft 5in Matthew Sherwood will get the ball for the Vikings.

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