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The unlikely champion: Canyon High baseball shares title

Posted: May 9, 2013 10:18 p.m.
Updated: May 9, 2013 10:18 p.m.

Canyon pitcher Max Weinstein pitches against Valencia on Thursday at Valencia

 

 

Canyon baseball, the doormat of the Foothill League for the last decade, pulled the mat from underneath the Foothill League’s teams this year and in heart-in-your-throat fashion defeated Valencia 3-2 at Valencia High on Thursday.

With the win, Canyon (18-9 overall, 10-5 Foothill League) claimed a share of its first Foothill League championship since 2002.

“I can’t tell you how good it feels,” said Canyon senior Max Weinstein. “It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been kicked around. We’ve been the doormat. But we had the drive and we had the passion.”

In most people’s eyes, this was completely unlikely.

Since 2008, Canyon’s best Foothill finish was fourth-place in 2011 and it hadn’t made the CIF-Southern Section playoffs since 2007.

All that is history.

Yet, Valencia (16-11, 8-7) almost made it not so.

Weinstein had been superb on the mound for six innings. He stranded a pair of runners in the first inning, left the bases loaded in the third and again left two on in the sixth.

In the top of the seventh inning he fouled a ball off his left ankle, but took the mound in the bottom of the frame.

He had trouble landing. Then things snowballed.

Weinstein gave up a lead-off home run to Chris McCready, then he hit Keston Hiura with a pitch.

With Weinstein’s pitch total at 115, Canyon head coach Adam Schulhofer visited him at the mound.

“Me and my coach have a good relationship. He knows when I’m out of gas, but I’m not going to tell him that,” Weinstein said. “He said, ‘I don’t need to ask. Do I?’ I said, ‘Coach, I’m battling. I’m a little gassed. But I still want it.’”

Schulhofer then took the ball from Weinstein and sent him to play second base.

He called steady left-handed sophomore Blake Leidholdt to pitch.

Leidholdt immediately hit Valencia’s Chad Bible with a pitch.

After a sacrifice bunt and with runners on second and third, Anthony Lepre hit a sacrifice fly to center field, which cut the score to 3-2.

Leidholdt delivered three straight balls to A.J. Balta with a runner on second base.

Then he got one over for a called strike.

He then delivered a looping off-speed pitch that Balta popped to center field.

“I was like, ‘God, I hope (Chris) Serrano’s there,’” Leidholdt said.

He was, and he caught it.

Canyon celebrated.

It was a tough pill for Valencia to swallow, as the Vikings had an outside shot of winning its ninth Foothill title since 2002 — the year the Vikings shared it with Canyon.

The Vikings needed to win and Saugus needed to beat West Ranch for the Vikings to win a championship.

Neither happened and now West Ranch shares the title with Canyon.

“It’s not about pitching for us. It’s about getting hits with runners in scoring position,” said Valencia head coach Jared Snyder. “This isn’t about the seventh inning. It’s about the first six innings. The offense didn’t step up.”

Luke Soroko went the first four innings.

He surrendered a solo home run to Christopher Jenkins in the first inning and an RBI single to Jason Rowe in the second.

Canyon added a third run when reliever Quentin Daniels threw a wild pitch and Rowe scored.

It proved to be a huge insurance run.

Maybe the biggest run Canyon has scored in a decade.

With Canyon losing the season series to West Ranch, it will draw the No. 2 seed from the Foothill League in the CIF-SS Division I playoffs.

Both Canyon and Valencia find out who they play on Monday.

“You can expect the same heart. The same drive. The same passion,” Weinstein said of the Cowboys in the postseason.

 

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