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Foothill League baseball: Showtime Cloney

West Ranch pitcher shuts down Valencia’s potent lineup

Posted: March 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch pitcher J.C. Cloney delivers against Valencia during Friday’s game at Valencia High School. Cloney threw a complete-game three-hitter and tied a career high by striking out 11 Viking hitters.

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Every time J.C. Cloney froze a Valencia hitter with an offspeed pitch or induced a swinging third strike, he seemed more and more comfortable on the mound.

In a battle between Valencia — full of top hitting prospects — and West Ranch — billed as the Foothill League’s top pitching team — Cloney stole the show.

The senior went the distance and struck out 11 batters to tie a career high in West Ranch’s 2-1 win over Valencia on Friday at Valencia High School.

Cloney was locating all his pitches, getting ahead in counts and managed to work out of a few tricky situations in a seven-inning, three-hit, one-run performance.

“I just wanted to keep my team in the game and keep getting outs,” Cloney said.

For most of the game, Cloney needed a near-perfect outing to keep his team alive in what turned out to be a pitcher’s duel.

Valencia starting pitcher Luke Soroko also turned in a strong day and escaped out of multiple jams early on. Soroko gave up two runs on seven hits and stuck out five before giving way to Chris Castellon after 5 2/3 innings.

The Wildcats (6-1-1 overall, 2-0 Foothill League) finally got to Soroko in the sixth inning when Jake Miura plated Tyler Woldanski with a sacrifice fly to right field to break up a scoreless tie.

Woldanski, who got aboard with a double, just got by the tag of Valencia catcher Brian Mundell at home to make it a 1-0 West Ranch lead.

Tony Slauson moved to second base on the sac fly and advanced to third on Soroko’s balk.

The very next batter, Gabe Peralta, drove an RBI-single into left field to score Slauson for the eventual game-winner.

“This win is a big one for us to show that we can beat big teams,” said West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill. “We can beat the three-time defending league champions. It gives us a lot of confidence.”

With West Ranch spotted a 2-0 lead, the Vikings (5-2, 1-1) put together their best rally of the day.

Mundell knocked in Valencia’s only run of the day when he knocked a 3-2 pitch up the middle for a lazy grounder, scoring Johnny Ives from third.

It was one of two hits in the inning and the only time Cloney was in any real trouble against Valencia’s usually potent lineup.

“We just didn’t put together the quality at-bats that we have been lately,” said Valencia head coach Jared Snyder.

Cloney retired the first 11 batters he faced in the game and he held the top of Valencia’s order in check.

On the other side, Soroko allowed West Ranch to load the bases in the first inning and had runners on first and third in the second, but made enough pitches to get out of each situation unscathed.

“He would be the guy that we expect to get these games,” Burrill said of his left-handed ace. “He wants the ball and he wants to go out there.”

For now, it’s the Wildcats that take the very early upper hand in a very young league season.


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