Sophomore right-handed relief pitcher Isaac Amador's 2.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen helped contain the Falcons' scoring during Thursday afternoon's game.
By Benjamin Royer, Sports Editor
Starting the windy afternoon with a 6-0 deficit, the Monarchs battled back and overcame the stingy Falcons thanks to freshman shortstop Dorian Asher’s heroics.
Tied at six in the bottom of the seventh, the bases were loaded and Asher stepped up to the plate. Folsom’s right-handed reliever grooved a fastball up the middle and Valley College baseball’s (5-1) three-hole hitter took advantage - smoking the ball into the right-center wall and clearing the bases. Asher’s hit earned the Monarchs a 9-6 lead over Folsom Lake (2-2) on Thursday afternoon, their only lead of the game, as well as the victory, as Valley held on 9-8 in the first of the three-game series against the Falcons.
“Man, it felt amazing,” said Asher about his game-winning hit. “That was my first extra-base hit of the season. I have been struggling a little bit so far, so to do what we did today, it just felt great.”
Freshman starting pitcher Josh Kim started the contest with two clean frames for the Monarchs, but in the third inning, baserunner turmoil ensued. Folsom Lake had a chance to capitalize with the bases loaded and one out. Conceding one run on a groundout, the Falcons had two runners in scoring position with two outs, itching for a chance to get more on the scoreboard.
The frame seemed to come to a close when freshman first baseman Tyler Olivas made an acrobatic diving play to prevent a run-scoring base hit, but Olivas threw the ball wildly, flying away from Kim who was covering first base. Both runs scored and the Monarchs found themselves behind 3-0 in the top of the third.
Kim experienced identical trouble with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. A pair of singles, one of which scored a run and a two-RBI triple, doubled the Falcons’ lead to six.
Valley responded in the bottom of the fourth. An error allowed freshman right fielder Joshua Wood to get on base. Freshman left fielder Elvis Park singled and freshman second baseman Manolo Tafolla walked to load the bases. Needing a run to stay in the contest, freshman catcher Robert Velasco delivered. Hitting an RBI single to right field, the Monarchs cut the deficit to five runs. Back to the top of the order and the bases still loaded, Olivas lasered a ball to the shortstop, who turned a double play to end the inning and left Valley with a chance they would hope would not bite them back later in the game.
Velasco made his impact felt further in the top of the fifth - gunning down a runner attempting to steal third base and later in the inning, catching a second runner trying to steal second base.
“I am just trying not to panic," said Velasco. "In those moments, I am just playing catch [with the infielder]."
Exiting the game in the top of the fifth, Kim had his least effective start of the campaign so far. Allowing six earned runs, Kim struck out four and walked three, an opposite showing compared to his five scoreless innings in the season opener against Oxnard.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Monarchs came back in an inning begun and ended by freshman center fielder Jackson Lapiner. Tripling to start the sixth, Lapiner then scored on a wild pitch in the next at-bat.
The triple from Lapiner made it five out of six games in which he has earned an extra base-hit this season.
Another missed opportunity for the Monarchs seemed on the way as two outs followed the center fielder crossing the plate, but just the opposite occurred. Freshman third baseman Lee Branzel doubled and scored on a line drive from Wood that was called an error. Park singled, Tafolla reached on an error and with bases loaded in the upcoming two at-bats, Velasco and Olivas walked to bring in a run each. Folsom Lake coach Rich Gregory called on a left-hander to take on the left-handed hitterLapiner, but Falcons’ pitcher Will Jacobson twitched on the mound after entering the field of play - forcing home the game-tying run on a balk.
Lapiner struck out on a perfectly-placed 3-2 count curveball, but a new game had begun with the score tied at six.
Sophomore left-hander Isaac Amador entered for Kim in the top of the fifth and gave coach Dave Mallas scoreless innings of work. In the top of the seventh, Amador pitched the first 1-2-3 inning of the afternoon - striking out two batters and screamed with emotion, celebrating back in the dugout.
“I think this year, the strength of our team is our pitching, said Mallas. “From the starting pitching to the back of our bullpen, and then, Isaac coming out and just giving us a great outing [today], it shows it all.”
Amador threw 2.2 scoreless frames while striking out four, walking two, allowing two hits and earning the win in a much-needed showing out of the bullpen for the Monarchs.
The momentum had officially swung in the Monarchs’ direction.
Asher’s aforementioned base-clearing double in the bottom of the seventh gave Valley their first and only lead of the game at 9-6.
In the top of the eighth, freshman right-hander Xavier Dubon entered and threw a scoreless inning. After the Monarchs went scoreless in the bottom of the eighth, right-handed reliever Danny Veloz came out of the bullpen to try and complete the comeback. Veloz started the ninth in immediate trouble, allowing a triple and a double in quick succession, shrinking Valley’s lead to two. He induced a flyout, but on the next play, the Falcons hit an RBI-single, making it a one-run game.
Two down, two on base in the top of the ninth, Veloz needed one more out.
Making soft contact on a grounder, the ball was hit straight back at Veloz, who bobbled, but then collected himself to grab the final out. Earning his first save of the season, Veloz released the stress off his shoulders and embraced Velasco following the final out.
“We need to come out and continue to have quality at-bats,” said Mallas. “[Freshman right-hander] Steven Miller is going to be on the mound for us to start tomorrow. So, we are going to look for a quality start from him. We had a few errors today, so we are also trying to get a zero in the column as well.”
The Monarchs will play their second game of the series against Folsom Lake, Friday at 2 p.m.