Updated: May 3
Monarchs coach Dave Mallas has returned to the postseason, heading to Southwestern College for a do-or-die contest to try and advance into the First Round.
By Benjamin Royer, Sports Editor
The Monarchs are headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2012, earning the final seed in the 18-team regional.
After sweeping West LA College to end the regular season, Valley College baseball (26-14, 12-9 WSC South) has been selected for the Play-In Round of the 2022 CCCAA Baseball Southern California Regional. The No. 18 seed Monarchs will travel to No. 15 Southwestern College in Chula Vista, CA for the single-elimination contest — Tuesday at 2 p.m.
If Valley triumphs over Southwestern, the Monarchs will advance to face No. 1 Saddleback College for a first round, best-of-three series beginning Friday.
“This year we could have been seeded a little bit higher if we had finished one game better,” said coach Dave Mallas. “But on paper — we said it from the get-go — this team was really good and it’s going to be exciting to see what we can do in the postseason.”
Valley finished tied with College of the Canyons — who made the Play-In Round as the No. 16 seed and LA Mission College for second place in the Western State Conference South. However, the Monarchs held better overall records than their conference foes.
Freshman shortstop Maddox Latta was named the 2022 Western State Conference Player of the Year Sunday afternoon, and as Valley’s batting leader will lead the Monarchs into the postseason.
“It means a lot,” said Latta about winning the conference honor. “I have been working towards it but trying not to focus on it — just focus on the team standpoint. But it came out and it all went the right way.”
Throughout the regular season, freshman center fielder/pitcher Jackson Lapiner has been a reliable option for the Monarchs — hitting back-to-back with Latta in the lineup. Last week, however, Lapiner was unavailable to play.
Lapiner’s positive COVID-19 test kept him off the field for the three games against West LA, but on Monday morning, the utility player returned to Monarch field and was among the groups working out in preparation for Tuesday.
Mallas confirmed to The Star Monday that Lapiner will take the mound to start the postseason campaign. The Calabasas native has started three games for the Monarchs this season with varying success, but the righty says he is ready to go for the big game atmosphere.
“I just got word from coach Mallas that I am not looking to go as deep [into games] as I have been trying to,” said Lapiner. “He basically told me to just go in there and look for one inning at a time, air it out and get guys out — knowing that I have got a lot of guys ready to go and well rested behind me.”
Rested pitchers include freshman righties Daniel Parra and Xavier Dubon, as well as freshman left-hander Josh Eigenbrodt and sophomore lefty Isaac Amador.
But freshman starting pitchers Kyle Ayers and Danny Veloz — who have been workhorses through the final stages of the regular season — will be on short rest against Southwestern after pitching on Thursday and Friday respectively.
Both right-handers have been made available for the contest, but may only be able to pitch one or two innings each.
“Usually I have a bullpen two to three days after a start, so [Tuesday] actually falls on my bullpen day,” said Veloz, who is coming off of 7.0 scoreless innings against West LA. “I am all for [pitching],
anything for the team to win… Hopefully I can get us to Friday if I do come in.” The bus trip to Southwestern, located near San Diego, will be the farthest distance traveled for Valley at around two hours and 30 minutes. But the Monarchs claim to be ready for the challenge that comes with traveling far from home.
Latta expects his team to supersede the low seed given by the CCCAA and play beyond Tuesday.
“We are going to try to do whatever we can,” said Latta. “It starts — first of all — with the pitchers and being able to get shutdown defense behind them. We’ll put up some runs and I think we’ll do what we’ve done all year.”