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No margin wide enough

Valencia shrugs off an early eight-run deficit and hammers its way to win over Hart

Posted: April 22, 2009 10:26 p.m.
Updated: April 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Valencia's Scotland McKenzie (5) is greeted by his teammates after hitting a grand slam during the fourth inning of Wednesday afternoon's game against Hart at Valencia High School. The Vikings rallied from an eight-run deficit to defeat the Indians.

 
For a couple of innings, Hart baseball looked like it was back atop the Foothill League.

But then Valencia struck back with an inning that was anything but typical to open up a lead en route to 17-10 victory at Hart Wednesday.

Hart opened an 8-0 cushion, keyed by a seven-run second inning, which featured the school’s first grand slam in nearly six years, but the Vikings (13-6, 6-2) answered with an 11-run fourth with a slam of their own to overtake the Indians.

“Sometimes it can be a good thing to get down early,” said Valencia head coach Jared Snyder. “We never got down on ourselves and having such a big hole to dig out of made our guys focus. We knew we had plenty of outs left, and we have a team that can put up runs.”

Hart built its early lead with a sacrifice fly from starting pitcher Trevor Brown in the first and a pair of home runs in the second. Patrick Valaika unloaded a grand slam and Devin Rodriguez followed three batters later with a three-run shot to left field to chase Valencia starter Nick Rivas.

“Sure, you could say we scored 10 runs and swung the bats well, but I don’t see anything positive out of today’s game,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella. “We play these games to get wins, and today we did not play a winning game.”

Snyder called upon Jake Roberge to cool Hart’s hot bats.

The sophomore, making only his second varsity appearance, responded with five innings, allowing no walks and only two runs to pick up the win.

“Roberge was great,” Snyder said. “He throws strikes, and that’s what we needed.”

Valencia started its comeback in the third inning when a pair of walks opened a three-run rally.

Control was an issue all day for Hart (10-8, 4-4). The Indians walked 10 batters and hit two.

“We can’t give a team with an offense like that free baserunners,” Ozella said. “We didn’t play well in the field either, so we were just giving them 90 feet way too often.”

The Vikings’ big inning came in the fourth when 12 consecutive batters reached base with two out, pushing 11 runs across against three Hart pitchers.

The big blows of the inning were a grand slam from designated hitter Scotland McKenzie and a three-run triple from Dylan Jones, who led the team with five RBIs on the day.

“We knew even when we were down that we were in the game,” Jones said. “That’s how our team is. We don’t let ourselves get down, and we pick each other up.”

The 11-run inning was the second time in school history that Valencia has had a double-digit frame against Hart.

The Vikings also pushed across three runs in the fifth to stretch their lead to nine and force Ozella to call upon a fourth pitcher.

“I thought we had the right guy on the hill today,” Ozella said. “You only get so many chances in life and in baseball. Today we had a chance against these guys for the second time this year, and we let it slip away.”

The win maintains the Vikings’ hold on second place in the Foothill League.

“I can’t say enough about this team,” Snyder said. “Their character is very impressive. We were able to execute today, and string together hits.”

kdamore@the-signal.com

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