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Foothill League baseball: Unlikely hero for ’Cats

In his varsity debut as a starter, West Ranch pitcher throws a three-hitter to knock off Valencia

Posted: April 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

West Ranch baseball hoped for nothing more than a solid three or four innings from starting pitcher Avery Ortiz.

What the Wildcats got was a whole lot more.

In the senior’s first career start as a varsity player, he almost completely shut down a tough-hitting Valencia team, allowing three hits in 6 1/3 innings in West Ranch’s 6-1 win on Friday at Valencia High School.

“I’m not going to lie, I was so nervous coming into this game,” Ortiz said with a grin. “I haven’t started since sophomore year.”

And that was with the JV team.

Leading up to Friday, Ortiz had pitched just 7 2/3 innings in six appearances this season.

With West Ranch ace J.C. Cloney out due to a left wrist injury, Ortiz’s number was called this week.

Though not even Wildcats head coach Casey Burrill expected a performance like this.

“We thought we were going to throw out six arms today. We really did,” Burrill said. “Obviously Avery had something different planned for us.”

West Ranch (12-7-1 overall, 6-3 Foothill League) backed up the right-hander by manufacturing four runs in the third and adding insurance runs in the fourth and seventh.

The win clinches the season series for West Ranch, which is now tied for second place with Saugus in league, two games behind Hart.

Valencia (12-7, 5-4) falls back to fourth place after struggling to produce much offensively after the first inning.

Vikings senior Trey Williams led off with a double in the first and the next batter, Keston Hiura, brought him home with a single to right field.

That was about as much as Valencia could muster at the plate.

“We’re good one day and we kind of wonder what we’re going to do the next day,” said Valencia head coach Jared Snyder. “We’re just not playing with a whole lot of consistency right now.”

Ortiz was rarely threatened in the game, as he struck out seven thanks to a consistently located change-up and curveball that induced several ground ball outs.

“I knew I had to keep my pitches down,” Ortiz said. “You can’t leave your pitches up against this team.”

Trailing 1-0, the Wildcats strung together a five-hit rally in the third inning against Valencia starter Chris Castellon.

During the inning, Casey Gahan knocked in a run with a double, Josh Heinz hit an RBI single and both Justin Hovis and Tyler Woldanski picked up RBIs on a pair of fielder’s choice ground balls.

Heinz added another RBI single in the seventh to cap off a 2-for-4 day and Hovis finished the game with two RBIs.

“Their balls found the holes and got us in bad position,” Snyder said. “That’s baseball.”

Castellon went four-plus innings and allowed five earned runs on eight hits.

After the first inning, the best chance for Valencia came in the seventh when Ortiz came out of the game after hitting a batter and walking another one with one out.

Cody Bennett took over on the mound and, although he walked another batter to load the bases with two out, he struck out Williams to end the game.

League play continues on Wednesday when Valencia hosts Hart and West Ranch hits the road to face Golden Valley.

661-287-5535

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