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Once and future Vikings

Infusion of young baseball talent has Valencia atop the Foothill League

Posted: May 9, 2009 9:55 p.m.
Updated: May 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Valencia shortstop Christian Lopes fields a grounder Friday at West Ranch High School. The Vikings have a young nucleus in the infield that figures to keep them atop the Foothill League for some time.

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It was an exclamation point on a season when a group of underclassmen led Valencia to the head of the Foothill League.
It happened when Friday’s game against West Ranch ended and the scoreboard read “Visitor 22, Home 6.”

Valencia’s dominating road win over West Ranch put the Vikings atop the Foothill League standings and established a young nucleus of stars that have elevated Valencia to the highest level of the league.

After losing its opener, the Vikings have stormed their opponents with an unrelenting offensive attack.

“Everybody on our team can hit,” says second baseman Quincy Quintero. “The coaches have let us be us, and I think that’s how we really started playing our game.”

And the rest of the Foothill League will have to get used to the potent Valencia lineup.

The Vikings’ entire infield is set to return next year, and most of its pitching staff also will be back.

Sophomore shortstop Christian Lopes sparks the offense, batting lead off and slugging 11 home runs this season. He is supported by fellow underclassmen Quintero, Scotland McKenzie, Kyle Eaton and Trey Williams, who all anchor one of the most dominant infields in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“It’s an honor to get to coach a group like this,” says Valencia head coach Jared Snyder. “Each one of them brings something different to the table. Scotland is the kind of hitter that you know can hit the ball out of the park at any time, and Christian is capable of carrying this team when we need it. Trey knows how to handle the bat so well for a freshman. I really can’t say enough about how talented any of them are.”

While the Vikings’ young infielders have talent beyond their years, it is their work ethic that has helped them reach the next level.

“We all are focused on working our hardest and practicing to get better,” McKenzie says. “It’s great to be in a lineup where everyone picks up everyone else and to play with guys that I know have my back. It’s the kind of situation where I know that I can just pass the rope to the next guy and we can string something together.”

Twice in critical league games the Vikings have strung together double-digit rallies, batting around against Hart to come back from an eight-run deficit and pushing 10 runs across against West Ranch to move into first place.

“Our offense and our lineup has been a big reason for our success,” Eaton says. “Knowing that we can get back in a game when we are down means we know no matter what the score, we are always in it. I think that we are capable of doing a lot of things to win games though. As a first baseman I get to see what our guys can do defensively out there too, and we all work hard to improve on that.”

The Vikings’ defense has been a key to backing a young pitching staff.

Valencia played error-free ball in its win over West Ranch Friday.

“I have enjoyed both years I have been here so much,” Lopes says. “We want to come to practice, and we want to take ground balls, and I really cherish the fact that there isn’t a single guy on this team that ever takes a day off.”

The Vikings have also evolved into a close-knit group, welcoming freshmen like Williams onto the team, while also feeding off of senior leadership. Williams, who debated attending another school, is pleased with his choice to go to Valencia.

“My first year here has been great,” Williams says. “I mean, I was kind of worried because you figure you have to put a lot of work in as a freshman, especially if you want to be a starter, but the guys have all been great, and they’ve show me how to do well on this team and reach the goals we have.”

At the beginning of the year, each member of the Vikings was asked to fill out a goal sheet by Snyder. The responses came out virtually the same.

“Every guy put down that they wanted to make the playoffs and win the league,” Lopes said. “We didn’t set any individual goals, and I think that shows how much we are a team. We don’t care about personal stuff. We are like a family.”

If the Viking were a family, Lopes would be like the big brother, even though he is only a sophomore.

His teammates see him as a catalyst to their offense, setting the tone out of the lead off spot.

“Christian is a vital part of our offense,” McKenzie says. “When he hits a homer or doubles to start the game then it makes us feel like we can get runs against any team.”

Snyder chalks the team’s success up to their work ethic, and consistent efforts in practice, which has led to a steady improvement for Valencia.

“I learned a lot from my players,” Snyder says. “I’m not a coach who thinks he knows everything, and I think these guys showed me how they needed to practice. We went with what they wanted to do, and now they have owned it.”


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