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PRESS ROW: Valley Christian baseball continues momentum with wild card victory

By Loren Kopff

EL MONTE-For Valley Christian’s baseball team, there was literally no margin for error back on Apr. 29 after a 13-3 road loss to Heritage Christian. It was at that point that the Crusaders were sitting at 6-11 overall and 1-8 in the Olympic League.

Needing to win its final three league games, then sweep Norwalk in the final week of the regular season just to apply as an at-large representative in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division V playoffs, V.C. began to put together its best play of the season and it continued this past Wednesday with a 7-2 wild card win at El Monte. The Crusaders travel to top ranked Santa Ynez today.

“When we were at our down point, I told the boys that we’re not out of this,” said V.C. first-year head coach Michael Dunk. “I know winning five games in a row is a long shot. But knowing the talent that we have, just getting them to believe in themselves and to believe in their ability…the opportunity was there for us to take. In their game plan, they’ve become a lot more aggressive and we’ve been seeing success being aggressive.”

The Crusaders, who moved above the .500 mark for the first time since they were 2-1, struck early with three runs in the top of the first inning. Senior center fielder Cody McKittrick doubled and sophomore right fielder Jarod Trader reached on a fielder’s choice when the throw to get McKittrick out at third was not in time. Two pitches later, junior third baseman Jack Struiksma singled in the first run and that was followed by a run scoring single from senior first baseman Brian Bischoff.

After the Crusaders went three up and three down in the second, they batted around for the second time in three innings and added four more runs to their total. With the bases loaded and none out, senior designated hitter Troy Craddock hit a deep fly ball to right field to plate Bischoff. Two batters later, Johnny Alvarez walked junior second baseman Nathan O’Toole and McKittrick, the latter bringing in junior shortstop Kevin Sainz. Then Trader doubled to left to drive in junior catcher Aaron Kirchner and O’Toole.

That was more than enough support for junior pitcher Tyler Radecki, who worked six innings, scattering seven hits and giving up one earned run.

“Tyler is phenomenal,” Dunk said. “Tyler has been pitching exceptional. He’s been riding on a hot streak at the end of our season and in league. He knows he’s not a strikeout pitcher but he’s a very good pitcher to pitch to the zone.”

Radecki is normally the No. 2 pitcher but Dunk wanted to save his ace, Bischoff, for today’s game and had his mind set on who to use in both games when the brackets came out based on matchups. Dunk added that Radecki matched up better against El Monte.

If V.C. pulls off the upset against the Los Padres League champions, who have lost one game all season long, it will face the winner of the Sultana/Campbell Hall game on Tuesday.

“It’s always a challenge,” Dunk said of today’s game. “It’s like us being the NCAA Tournament’s 16seed going against the No. 1 seed. We might be counted out towards Santa Ynez as a walk-though game for them. But I think we’re peaking at the right moment.”

In other baseball playoff action, Gahr blasted Beverly Hills 11-0 this past Wednesday in a Division III wild card game. The eighth ranked Gladiators (20-10-1) will visit unranked Garden Grove today with the winner facing the victor of the Temescal Canyon/San Gorgonio on Tuesday.

In Division II action, John Glenn saw its season come to an end following a 4-2 wild card loss to host Righetti. The Eagles, who lost four straight games to end the season, finished one of the program’s better campaigns at 18-11.

SOFTBALL

Pitching was the name of the game for two local schools but the results were different in the first round of the playoffs this past Tuesday. Gahr’s explosive lineup, which had entered its playoff opener against Fontana batting .404, was held to a season low two hits. But one of those hits was a two-run home run from junior Sabrina Quarles in the bottom of the third inning as Gahr escaped with a 2-0 win in Division III action.

With two outs, junior shortstop Deja Portillo doubled before Quarles launched her second home run of the season. Junior pitcher Destiny Vasquez was stellar in the circle, yielding six hits and striking out 11. Fontana pitcher Alyssa Burk struck out 13 batters as every Gahr starter except for Portillo fanned at least once. Gahr (17-9) travelled to second seeded and defending Division III champion Righetti on May 22.

Across town, Cerritos junior pitcher Jennifer Iseri was hooked up with Westlake hurler Meehra Nelson but a scoreless contest ended when the visiting Warriors pushed across two runs in the top of the eighth and stunned the Suburban League champions 2-0. Cerritos wraps up its season at 20-4.

Both pitchers yielded four hits with Nelson, who has committed to Oregon State University, striking out 15 batters and Iseri, bound for the University of Hawai’i, fanning 13 Westlake batters. It was the second time all season that the Lady Dons had been shutout, the other time coming in the season opener against Mater Dei.

Valley Christian, co-Olympic League champions, fell to host Ocean View in a Division IV first round game this past Tuesday. The Lady Crusaders, who had lost 13 straight games at one point this season, ends the 2014 campaign at 8-16 and on a three-game losing streak.

SWIMMING

It was double the pleasure for the Cerritos boys and girls swimming teams last Friday as both captured the CIF-SS Division IV championship. The boys, who won their third divisional championship and first since 2002, easily distanced themselves from runner-up Citrus Valley 299-217. The boys also won the 2001 championship.

The boys won the 200-yard medley relay while junior Angel Alcala took first in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 51.43 and in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 50.79, which is a new division IV meet record.

For the girls, it was much easier winning their second straight championship. After edging Orcutt Academy by three points last season, the Lady Dons set a Southern Section record with 449 points as they beat Orcutt Academy by 127 points. The girls won the 200-yard medley relay, the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay. In addition to those three races, junior Kiri Harvey set a meet record in the 200-yard IM with a time of 2:05.13 and in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:59.12.