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OLYMPIC LEAGUE BASEBALL: Defense ruins another strong outing by Bloom, Valley Christian edged by Whittier Christian

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


Valley Christian High’s baseball team was trying to keep a steady trend going against Whitter Christian when the two Olympic League rivals met this past Saturday. The Heralds had won the past two games against V.C., which had won the previous three straight meetings.

That streak came after a four-game losing skid to W.C. and before that, both teams had alternated two-game winning streaks since 2014. So, the Defenders should have reversed the trend and begin a new winning streak against W.C. But a costly two-out error in the top of the fifth inning led to a pair of unearned runs and helped the visitors to a 3-2 victory.

“I don’t think it’s that hard,” said V.C. first-year head coach Matt Dahlenburg of the loss. “We’re still growing, and these guys are going to figure out…every game we’re going to play is going to be close. I just told them right now we’re right there; we just have to turn the knob. Once we turn it, we’re going to be really good.”

Early on, senior pitcher Ryan Bloom was on fire, retiring the first six batters he faced, striking out four of them, plus getting a groundout and a lineout. Meanwhile, the Defenders opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning when junior third baseman Brayden Garner and Bloom each singled. After a double play, Garner came home on a base hit from sophomore catcher Matthew Bean which just got under the outstretched arms of W.C. shortstop Aledys Parra.

The Heralds tied the game in the next inning when Parra singled in Eric Morrison with one out. But V.C. would regain the lead in its half of the inning. With one out, senior shortstop James Stirton tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly from junior center fielder Ryan Lasiter. Stirton barely got home as he barreled over Elijah Camarena who was blocking Stirton’s path to the plate.

The out would be the beginning of eight straight batters retired by W.C. starter Chad Green. Meanwhile, the Heralds threatened to score in the fourth, but Bloom found a way to get out of danger. Wes Ruiz and Green each led off with singles, but after an error allowed Green to advance to second, Ruiz was tagged out at third for the first out. Bloom then retired the next two batters.

In the fifth inning, and with two outs and Parra on first, Anthony McCuller singled to left. Then after a nine-pitch battle, Matt Pritchard hit what would have been a routine inning-ending groundout. But an error allowed Parra to score and keep the inning going. On the first pitch to Ruiz, McCuller scored the game-winner on a double steal.

Ruiz would strikeout, as did the first two batters of the sixth and by this time, Bloom had thrown 98 pitches. That drew a visit from Dahlenburg but immediately, Bloom would walk Ryan Helvin on four pitches to signal the end of Bloom’s day.

“Bloom’s a competitor,” Dahlenburg said. “That’s why I kind of left him in there [in the sixth inning]. He has the stuff and he has that mentality if a guy gets on, it doesn’t matter. He’s going to get out of it. His stuff is so good.”

Bloom has started four games and is 2-2. He is slated to be the Friday pitcher during league competition and prior to the game, had a team-high earned run average of 1.81 with 17 strikeouts in just over 19 innings.

Senior right fielder Brett Evenhouse replaced Bloom and finished the game with four straight outs on eight pitches, Meanwhile, the Defenders had opportunities to tie or win the game in the final two innings. Stirton reached on an infield single and stole second to lead off the sixth inning. After a strikeout, senior first baseman Wyatt Keller was intentionally walked. But a pair of groundouts ended that threat. In the final inning, V.C. had runners on first and second with two outs, but a fielder’s choice would end the game. The Defenders had eight hits with Stirton and Bean each collecting a pair. But the Defenders stranded five runners on base,

“I didn’t think we had a good offensive day,” Dahlenburg said. “We’ve been struggling the last couple of games at the plate. James had one timely hit, but we had many chances to score. It was the same against Village Christian; we left the bases loaded twice. We talked about it after the game that we have to get better in the box.”

On Mar. 1, the Defenders rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie Village Christian High in the bottom of the fourth inning before falling 5-2 after the Crusaders scored three times in the seventh inning. After a 10-1 win over St. Michael’s Prep this past Tuesday, the Defenders improved to 7-3, however, Dahlenburg believes could have been 9-1. They will visit Maranatha High tonight before hosting Heritage Christian High on Tuesday.

“Coming in and taking over the program, I knew it was going to be a work in progress and these guys have flipped it in one year,” Dahlenburg said. “But I told them we still have work to do. The league games…they’re both kind of are sore because we were in both games and we had a chance to win both games. But it’s a growing process. It’s a pain and we’re going to take it and take our lumps and move on.”