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Valencia one-hits Shamrocks
San Luis starting pitcher Edgar Valencia struck out nine and allowed just one hit Monday against Yuma Catholic.
A perfectly executed trick play by Valencia and the Sidewinder defense made sure that leadoff hit in a scoreless game didn't turn into a Shamrock rally.
The 5A Sidewinders escaped the potential jam in the fourth, then rallied for five unearned runs in their half of the inning for a 9-0 win at Joe Orduno Park against the 2A Shamrocks.
Brendon Evans started the fourth for Yuma Catholic (5-3 AIA power points) with a single off of Valencia, who had retired the last eight Shamrocks and had six strikeouts at that point. With No. 3 hitter Eric Garcia at the plate. Valencia made a move to first base. Juan Ortiz and right fielder Alejandro Garcia acted as if the ball got away, with second baseman Antonio Mendoza pointing out the location of the ball down the line in right.
But it never left Valencia's hands. Evans took off, and Valencia threw to second to easily get the first out of the inning. He retired 11 of the next 12 batters. Only three runners reached all game, the other two on walks in the first and sixth.
"It's one of those things that you don't like to see plays like that. But it worked," YC coach Curt Foppe said. "They executed it perfectly. What they did well more than anything is I was over there (coaching third base) screaming 'Back! Back! Back!' but because they instruct their guys to yell in the dugout, and then you can't hear me yelling back. And our guy got suckered into it. It happens, and I think on their part it changed the game. That was the first leadoff runner we got on in an inning, and it may have gotten us a shot to start something. We wanted to score first, at that point is was 0-0, and it took our leadoff runner off base. I commend them for executing like they did."
Valencia said the play sparked the Sidewinders (5-1).
"We first started down, but that really changed us," Valencia said. "It gave us momentum."
San Luis coach Cesar Castillo said the players called the play on their own and was happy that it worked out well. He said that helped give the Sidewinders momentum after a first-inning play went against them. With runners at first and third and one out, cleanup hitter Juan Martinez ripped a grounder up the middle, but Shamrock shortstop Garcia made a diving play behind the bag, flipped to second baseman Tanner Mixon, who threw on to first for an inning-ending double play.
"Their guy dove in the first inning, that was a game-changer," Castillo said. "Momentum was going their way when their guy dives up the middle and turns a double play with our best hitters coming up. They showed they wanted to be here. They don't act like they're a 2A school. They can play and hang with any team in the city."
But the Shamrock defense slumped in the fourth, in which Juan Gamez reached second on a one-out error, then scored on a single by Fernando Cordova. After Aldo Munoz singled and Ortiz popped up, Arturo Cota reached on an error that would have ended the inning and allowed a run to score. Garcia followed with a double, then Antonio Mendoza capped the breakout inning with a two-run single. All five runs off YC starter Matt Koppinger that inning we unearned.
Koppinger went 5-1/3, nine hits and nine runs, although just two were earned.
"Part of it is we just played a better team. They're better than us right now. They just are," Foppe said. "Sadly I feel bad for Matt more than anyone because he pitched a good game. The game, I feel, should have been two, three maybe 4-0 at most. I don't feel the score is indicative of the way this game went."
The Sidewinders had a chance to end the game by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule in the sixth by getting a runner to third with one out, but couldn't bring him around. It didn't matter as Valencia retired the side in the seventh, his fourth perfect inning. He was making his third starter, the other two in tournament games.
"He was lights out," Castillo said. "They hit a couple on the button, but we played well behind him and he kept them almost to the minimum with two walks and the hit. Other than that, he was amazing. He knew how to pitch today. He was pitching backwards, on fastball counts throwing offspeed. He was great. It's great to know we have another one of those guys in the bullpen or even as a starter."
Valencia, Benito Garcia and Alejandro Garcia had two hits each for San Luis.
The win gives San Luis momentum going into today's 4 p.m. game against Yuma High, the Gila Valley Region opener for both teams. The Sidewinders came back from three down in the sixth on Friday for a home win over the Criminals.
"I just did my best to help the team," Valencia said. "Coach said that if we win it would help us tomorrow. We did our best and it will help us tomorrow."