Despite having a four-run lead thanks to Dorian Asher’s third home run of the season, Valley could not keep the Cougars at bay, dropping the season series 2-1.
By Nicholas Orozco, Special to the Star
A high-scoring bout in game three of Valley College’s series against College of the Canyons ended in heartbreak after the Cougars overcame each comeback attempt.
Splitting the first two games on Tuesday and Thursday, the Monarchs (12-7, 1-2 WSC South) found themselves in position to take game three against the Cougars (8-10, 2-1 WSC South) late into the contest. Valley held a lead heading into the eighth, however, the conference foes battled back and forth and Canyons eventually came out victorious, defeating the Monarchs 12-9.
“We knew it was going to be a tough one and we knew they could swing [the bat],” said coach Dave Mallas. “Their numbers are as good as anyone’s in the state. They handed us a few opportunities offensively and we just returned the favor.”
Forced to use the bullpen early after sophomore lefty Isaac Amador was chased from the ballgame, the Monarchs relied upon freshman pitchers Xavier Dubon, Josh Eigenbrodt, Edric Rodriguez, Andrew Howe, as well as freshman outfielders Jackson Lapiner and Joshua Wood to clean up against the Cougars.
Canyons took an early lead against Amador as consecutive hits drove in a solo run in each of the first two frames. In the top of the third, the left-hander walked in a run with the bases loaded, allowing Canyons to take a 3-2 lead. Freshman righty Xavier Dubon relieved Amador following the run-scoring walk to try and limit damage. Dubon struck out two batters and induced a ground out, only allowing one more run – also from a walk.
Valley’s Saturday starter hurled only 2.0 innings, striking out one batter while allowing four hits, four earned runs, two walks and two hit batters in his brief stint on the mound.
After falling behind in the first two innings, the Monarchs quickly battled back into the affair.
Freshman third baseman Lee Brandzel began his day with a single in the top of the second. He was brought home when freshman right fielder Josh Wood hit a bloop single that dropped between the third baseman and outfielders in left field.
Keeping the line moving, freshman left fielder Dorian Asher hit a single through the left side, scoring Wood to tie the game at two.
Down 4-2 in the bottom of the third, freshman second baseman Manolo Taffola reached first on a single and stole second thereafter. The Cougars’ battery was not on the same page, causing two wild pitches and allowing Tafolla to score, shrinking the deficit to one.
“Put up a crooked number,” coach Dave Mallas said to the bench while acting as first base coach.
With bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, the Monarchs did just that.
Tying the game at four with a Brandzel single to left field, Wood joined the action and continued the rally with an RBI groundout to first base, giving Valley the 5-4 advantage over Canyons.
Asher topped off the inning with a bang and Mallas received his wish, when the righty lifted a three-run home run well over the scoreboard in left-center, making the score 8-4. With the no-doubter, the Monarchs’ left fielder had his third home run of the season.
“I am just trying to help my time as much and however I can,” said Asher. “Going into the at-bat, there were two strikes on the count. I tried to not let the moment get away from me. [The Cougars’ pitcher] hung a curveball and I made good contact on it.”
However, the Cougars did not give up, tacking on runs through RBI groundouts in the sixth, seventh and eighth, and scoring two more runs on bloop singles that evaded the reach of Tafolla in short-right field. Canyons’ three-inning rally pushed the Cougars ahead 9-8 entering the bottom of the eighth.
Valley promptly tied it up when freshman pinch-runner Cary Thames took second on a wild pitch, and later scored on a groundout.
Despite Valley’s late efforts, Lapiner moved from center field to the mound in the top of the ninth and could not find an exit to the frame. The righty struck out one batter, but allowed three runs on two singles and a double — giving the Cougars a 12-9 lead and the eventual victory.
The Monarchs will next play Citrus College in a three-game series starting with an away game Tuesday at 2:30.
— Contributions by Sports Editor Benjamin Royer