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Valley Christian lacking the basics in setback to Whittier Christian

OLYMPIC LEAGUE BASEBALL
By Loren Kopff

The pressure of being the defending Olympic League champions hasn’t gotten to the Valley Christian baseball team, yet. And there didn’t seem to be a hangover of losing to Heritage Christian by three runs on Mar. 22 despite pounding out a season-high 16 hits.
At least those two factors, in the eyes of head coach Sean Buller, are not why the Crusaders fell to Whittier Christian 8-2 this past Tuesday night in the first home game under the lights. V.C. had a plethora of chances to move runners over and score more than the two runs it left on the scoreboard. In contrast, the Heralds made the most of their opportunities even though they stranded eight runners.
“That’s a problem that we have,” Buller said. “When we get base runners on, we run and we score. When we can’t get base runners on we can’t steal bases. That’s a serious issue.”
The hosts (3-8 overall, 2-2 in the league) struck first as senior catcher Tyler McLurg doubled with two outs in the bottom of the first and came home on senior first baseman Clayton Granch’s double one pitch later. After Whittier Christian tied the game in the second, V.C. regained the lead as junior center fielder Aaron Kirchner beat out an infield hit and came home on a two-out single from sophomore second baseman Nathan O’Toole.
But after junior left fielder Cody McKittrick singled to put O’Toole in scoring position, senior shortstop Patrick Avila struck out and the Crusaders would be held hitless the rest of the way.
The Heralds tied the game in the third and took the lead for good in the fourth. It wasn’t until the sixth that they added two runs to put the game away at that point, 5-2. But again, V.C. had three minor threats in the middle innings. In the third with two outs, Colin Ashworth walked senior pitcher Nico Morandini before striking out junior right fielder Brian Bischoff. One inning later, Ashworth walked Kirchner but he was doubled up when a bunt from sophomore third baseman Jack Struiksma was caught by Whittier Christian catcher Cooper Hughes, who threw to first to get Kirchner. Another leadoff walk in the fifth resulted in an inning-ending double play.
“We still have a tendency to play selfish, where a team like Whittier is selfless and they take pride in giving themselves up for at-bats like that,” Buller said.
To make matters worse, V.C. committed a season-high seven errors which led to three unearned runs. Morandini, who went the distance for the second straight time, allowed six hits and fanned four batters. V.C. travelled to longtime rival Ontario Christian on Mar. 28 and will host San Jacinto on Saturday, St. Bernard on Monday and Baldwin Park on Tuesday in the St. Paul Tournament.
“We just stay locked in for seven innings,” Buller said. “We just lose focus in the games. Simple fundamental baseball just doesn’t seem to be able to be played for seven innings for us.”

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