Home runs from Lee Brandzel and Jackson Lapiner were the bulk of Valley's offense, but late pitching miscues allowed Cerritos to take the win.
By Benjamin Royer, Sports Editor
The Monarchs squandered five innings of one-run baseball from freshman pitcher Kyle Ayers, falling victim to the Falcons' eighth-inning comeback.
With scouts in attendance to see the Monarchs' starting pitcher, Valley College baseball (8-5) battled Cerritos College (4-7-1) for the second time this season. Holding a single-run advantage through the seventh inning, the Monarchs fell apart and were unable to reclaim the lead, losing 6-5. Ayers had his longest and most efficient start of the year, gliding through the Falcons’ lineup.
“It’s disappointing to take away Ayers’ great start,” said coach Dave Mallas. “It was probably his best start of the year for him. He left with the lead and we were not able to play routine baseball.” Through the first four innings, the Monarchs’ right-hander mixed his hard fastball with his breaking pitches, striking out the side in the second inning and collecting six strikeouts before entering new territory – the fifth inning.
In four starts this season, the 6-foot-2-inch hurler had only pitched four or fewer innings in each appearance, marking Friday’s start as Ayers’ first venture into the fifth frame.
Errors hindered the frame when freshman shortstop Maddox Latta and freshman left fielder Grant Rasmussen allowed both runners to reach with a wild throw to first base and a dropped flyball, respectively. Ayers battled through the difficult situation, striking out hitters for the first and second outs of the inning – his seventh and eighth of the game. A nifty bunt single from Cerritos' right fielder Jason Givens scored a run for the Falcons, but Ayers stayed composed and forced weak contact to the second baseman for a groundout to end the frame.
The scouts in the Monarch Field stands left as soon as Ayers walked back into the dugout. The Monarch righty’s day was done and so was theirs after watching Valley’s starter toss.
“I felt good the entire time,” said Ayers about Friday’s start. “It was the deepest I’ve gone in a game this season. Everything felt good and my arm feels good. It brings my confidence up and makes me feel really good heading into my next start.”
Run scoring was hard to come by on Friday, but both teams refined their hitting approach late in the game.
The Monarchs jumped out to a quick lead in the bottom of the second courtesy of freshman third baseman Lee Brandzel. After freshman right fielder Joshua Wood hit a sinking line drive for a single, Branzel hit him home, launching a high-arching flyball far beyond the left-field fence for his first home run. Valley led 2-0.
Five innings later, freshman left-handed pitcher Josh Eigenbrodt conceded a run that let Cerritos tie the game at two. After balking the runner to second in the top of the seventh, Falcons’ catcher Daniel Mariscal Jr. lifted an RBI single into right-center to knot the game up.
Tying the game brought all momentum to the visitors. Freshman right-handed relievers Edric Rodriguez and Danny Veloz both pitched during the top of the eighth. The latter, inheriting three runners, could not contain the men Rodriguez left on base.
Cerritos’ shortstop Andy Vega crushed a pitch into the right-center gap, clearing the bases. The Falcons then tacked on one more run and jumped to a 6-2 lead.
Through seven innings, Valley’s only two hits came from Wood and Branzel in the second, but freshman center fielder Jackson Lapiner supplied a deficit shrinking third in the bottom of the eighth.
With freshman first baseman Tyler Olivas on first, the left-hander uppercut a fastball over the right-field wall for the Monarchs’ second home run of the game, cutting the lead to two.
Lapiner’s third home run of the campaign made matters close late, but the Monarchs could only scratch home one more run in the bottom of the ninth and fell to the Falcons.
On Saturday, Valley will try and avoid losing three straight when they host Pierce College at 11:00 a.m.