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Jackson Lapiner’s second-inning grand slam lifts the Monarchs to an 8-7 victory, sweeping the Lasers

Down 3-0 in the second, Valley looked behind the curve as they had to move to the bullpen, but efficient relief and a grand slam from freshman center fielder Jackson Lapiner propelled the Monarchs to an 8-7 triumph.

By Benjamin Royer, Sports Editor

Monarchs' freshman center fielder Jackson Lapiner reaches home after hitting a grand slam during Thursday's game against Irvine Valley College. (Luis Flores / The Valley Star).

Jackson Lapiner stepped up to the plate — the introduction to the Monarchs’ offense for a freshly minted arm on the mound, ready to hit with the bases loaded, down two runs with a chance to break the game open.

The ping of the metal bat against the cowhide ball was heard across the stadium as Lapiner hit his first collegiate grand slam to power the Monarchs to an eventual 8-7 victory.

Valley College baseball’s left-handed hitter provided enough of an offensive threat to separate the Monarchs from their pesty foes. Lapiner’s quick and compact swing met the fastball of Irvine Valley’s righty Ryan Barlow and soared the pitch over the right field wall, into the trees. The Monarchs (11-5) jumped to a 5-3 lead courtesy of the center fielder’s grand slam and never relinquished their advantage, defeating the Lasers on Thursday.

“We have the bases loaded and they bring in a righty for a lefty, which is much more comforting to me,” said Lapiner. “I get to a full-count, not expecting anything else except a heater, I got a chance to hit it – he came back with another heater and I just took a nice [and] easy swing. It jumped off my bat. It felt nice.”

Two days after their 14-5 win over the No. 14-ranked Lasers (11-6), the Monarchs are rapidly making a case to join the upcoming edition of the CCCSIA State Top 25 Baseball Poll.

Despite the positive result, the contest began under squeamish circumstances for the Monarchs.

Freshman starting pitcher Kyle Ayers could not escape the top of the second, creating a bullpen game early for Valley. The right-hander allowed three hits and four walks, while balking in a run and allowing two additional earned runs before getting relieved by freshman pitcher Josh Kim.

Monarchs' freshman right-handed pitcher Josh Kim pitches during Thursday's game against Irvine Valley College. (Luis Flores / The Valley Star).

Down 3-0, the right-handed reliever calmed the storm, holding the Lasers at three and contributing to a scoreless 4.1 innings from the Monarchs’ bullpen. Sophomore lefty Isaac Amador replaced Kim in the top of the fourth and twirled three scoreless frames to keep Valley ahead.

The Monarchs’ offense resumed scoring in the third with their second home run of the game. Freshman second baseman Manolo Tafolla got ahold of a pitch over the plate and deposited the ball over the left field wall, giving Valley a 7-3 lead.

Freshman left fielder Dorian Asher led off the bottom of the fifth with a single and advanced to third after a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly. With two outs, freshman third baseman Bryant Colon hit a ball to the edge of the infield and beat out a throw from short to reach first, scoring Asher on the play.

Irvine Valley cut into the lead in the top of the seventh, shrinking their deficit to four thanks to a sacrifice fly off of freshman reliever Edric Rodriguez.

Lapiner moved from the outfield to the mound in the top of the ninth, trying to close the game.

The righty allowed three runs, cutting the Lasers’ deficit to one, but settled down and struck out two batters with high fastballs to end the affair.

For the third consecutive game, Valley tallied nine or more hits. Lapiner carried the brunt of the force, hitting 3-4 and earning four RBIs, boosting his season total to 21.

“Jackson [Lapiner] could be the most talented player at this level in California,” said pitching coach Josh Goossen-Brown, who acted as head coach in the absence of coach Dave Mallas. “What he can do on the mound and at the plate is pretty incredible. We don’t see guys that can do both like that in [junior college].”

Valley returns to action Tuesday at Monarch field to begin their conference slate with a three-game set against College of the Canyons.

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