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Valencia baseball's season ends in second round

Posted: May 27, 2014 9:42 p.m.
Updated: May 27, 2014 9:42 p.m.

Valencia interim head coach Mike Killinger consoles Vikings center fielder Chris McCready after Valencia lost 6-5 to JSerra in San Juan Capistrano in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs.

 

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Blame was never an option.

That’s how far the Valencia High baseball team has come in a trying season.

So when a costly error in the bottom of the eighth inning made the Vikings lose their grip on a win against the No. 1 seeded JSerra Lions at JSerra Catholic School in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs, one of the first things the players and coaches did after the 6-5 loss on Tuesday was console center fielder Chris McCready.

With Valencia (18-10) up 5-3, JSerra had the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning when Ryan Pena singled to center field off reliever Andrew Hodges. McCready came charging in and overran it.

A Lions team that was aggressive all game scored the two runs that would have come in on the single regardless, but scored the winner on the miscue.

“Keep your head up. I love you,” Valencia shortstop and team captain Keston Hiura said he told his teammate after the game.

Valencia interim head coach Mike Killinger, who took over the lead of the team after head coach Jared Snyder took a controversial leave of absence on March 21, hugged a distraught McCready after meeting with all his seniors.

“It’s tough. The game is the game, but you’re dealing with kids whose careers have just ended,” Killinger said. “To end that way, there’s not a lot you can say in the moment.”

Credit has to go to the Lions’ unwillingness to give in, though.

They scored the game’s first run on a Pena sacrifice fly in the second inning, but played comeback from there.

They trailed after Keston Hiura’s state-leading 14th home run of the season (a two-run blast) in the third inning, only to tie it up in the bottom of the third on a Jake Pries RBI single.

They trailed going into the bottom of the seventh after Chad Bible’s RBI single in the sixth.

They tied it up in the bottom of the seventh when Chase Strumpf singled to left field and Valencia’s Kyle Fleischman slipped, allowing the Lions to tie the score at 3-3.

When Valencia’s Anthony Lepre doubled in two runs in the top of the eighth inning to give the Vikings a 5-3 lead, they came back again in the bottom of the inning by taking advantage of a passed ball on a strikeout to get the rally going.

“That’s about the wildest game I’ve been a part of,” said JSerra head coach Brett Kay. “We, I, made mistakes that cost us. But our team showed character.”

The Lions (21-7) had runners on second and third with two out in the bottom of the seventh with their No. 3 hitter Pries up.

Kay called for a play where his runner on second would get in a rundown and hope his runner at third could steal home for the winning run.

Valencia didn’t fall for it and caught David Wendzel trying to steal home. Kay called it the stupidest thing he has ever done.

But he employed a lot of strategy in this game, using four pitchers and not one over 2 1/3 innings.

These two teams met on April 5 with JSerra winning 6-0, but knowing how deep Valencia’s lineup is, Kay wanted to keep throwing out different looks to the Vikings.

On the other side, Valencia was kept in the game by starter Dylan Thomas, who was removed after surrendering a single in the top of the seventh inning.

He allowed six hits, two earned runs, hit a batter and struck out two in an outstanding outing.

Hiura reached base all four of his at-bats, going 2-for-2 with three runs scored in one of the most incredible seasons ever by a Santa Clarita Valley baseball player.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Hiura said. “All the adversity (we went through), everyone down the line, everyone contributed. It’s tough to see it end.”

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