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Prep baseball: Return to the race

Valencia reliever, bottom of lineup help Vikings bring Hart back to pack

Posted: April 28, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 28, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Valencia pitcher Chris Gimenez throws a pitch on Friday at hart High School. Gimenez earned the victory on the mound going 4 1/3 innings in relief, striking out six batters and allowing just two hits. Valencia won the game 6-2 and is now one game back of first place.

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It came down to the Foothill League’s two best relief pitchers.

In the end, it was Valencia’s Chris Gimenez who wouldn’t blink.

Gimenez-led Valencia defeated Hart 6-2 on Friday at Hart High, winning the season series and bringing the Indians back to the pack in the Foothill League.

Hart (13-9 overall, 8-3 Foothill League) is now tied with Saugus and West Ranch for first place in the Foothill League with Valencia trailing by one game with four to play.

Gimenez was better than Hart’s consistent reliever Ricky Torres when the game was on the line.

The Valencia senior pitched 4 1/3 innings of relief, striking out six batters, allowing two hits, one walk and an unearned run.
Torres let the bottom of the Vikings’ lineup get to him in the top of a sixth inning that saw Valencia score four runs to take a 6-2 lead.

“I was trying to keep them off-balance and my pitches were moving great today,” Gimenez said. “That helped my success today.”

Gimenez entered the game after starter Nick Talmo went 2 2/3 innings.

The plan for Valencia (15-8, 7-4) was to ride Talmo as long as it could and then pass the wheel to Gimenez.

The Vikings scored in the second inning with an RBI double by Johnny Ives, but Baggio Saldivar answered in the third with an RBI single off Talmo.

Gimenez then entered the game and lived on the outside half of the plate for four-plus innings with an off-speed pitch that tailed away from right-handers.

“I think they realized we had trouble hitting the outside corner,” Saldivar said. “Bringing him in, they went to our weakness.”

Valencia took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth on an A.J. Balta RBI single, but Hart answered in the bottom half with an RBI groundout by Saldivar.

In the top of the sixth, the usually reliable and hard-throwing Torres walked the seven and eight batters in Valencia’s lineup — Cody McAfee and Ives, then hit pinch-hitter Michael Fischbach with a pitch to load the bases for the dangerous Trey Williams.

Hart went to the bullpen and gave the tough task to Josh Bendig.

Bendig kept Williams in the infield with a ground ball, but Nick Valaika couldn’t come up with a throw as he re-aggravated a hamstring injury.

Valencia scored on the play, then tacked on another run on a following error.

Brian Mundell then knocked in two more with a line drive single to center field.

Gimenez closed it out from there.

After Valencia started league 1-3, head coach Jared Snyder said his team was out of the league title race.

Snyder insisted he wasn’t using reverse psychology to get his kids motivated.

Instead, he thought his team, which caught the injury bug early and was hitting the ball hard but at people, was just bitten by bad luck.

Yet Valencia has hung around.

On Friday, the seven through nine batters got on base five times in 11 plate appearances, scoring four runs.

“That’s what we’ve been waiting for,” Snyder said. “(They) really stepped up to get the top of the lineup up there.”

As for Hart, the Indians came into the week riding a five-game Foothill winning streak.

One of the younger teams in the Foothill League, confidence had a lot to do with the run.

It’s not shaken, said Saldivar.

“I think we had a test this week,” Saldivar said. “Now we have another test to see how we bounce back. Next week is huge.”

Hart gets co-league leader West Ranch twice next week. Valencia gets Saugus.

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