Big fifth inning sparks Valley win over Seaside
What started as a comparative whimper of a fifth inning for Valley Catholic, culminated in a thundering roar.
Trailing Seaside 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth on Monday, the Valiants' first two batters were quickly retired in order. To that point in the Cowapa League clash, Valley's bats had been rather quiet, a single here, an extra base taken there.
But with two outs on the board and a two-run deficit in front of them, Valley erupted. Porter Agnew and Diego Robison both walked, then moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch. Daniel Pruitt brought home Aggson with an infield single to make it 3-2. And with runners in scoring position, James Baglai belted the deciding shot, sending a two-run double to the gap in left-center to give Valley a 4-3 edge.
Valley scored once more and freshman relief pitcher George Eisenhardt and the Valiant defense did the rest, sealing a big 5-3 comeback win over Seaside at Valley Catholic High School.
"We have to jump on teams earlier in the game, but our guys did a great job of bouncing back," Pruitt said. "We're a really young group and I think it shows a lot of character and shows we have guys who want to make it happen and want to come out and work. Down 3-0 we were still looking for good pitches, still trying to grind the game out."
"We have a don't give up mentality," Baglai said. "At the end of the day, we knew we were better than we played at the start of the game. We just need that focus from the get-go."
With the top of the order due and Valley's best hitters coming up, one could've guessed a hit or two was on the horizon, maybe a run that drew the Valiants closer as the game wore on. But to flip a game with two outs so suddenly speaks to Valley's potential offensive explosiveness as a team. Even with their backs against the wall, Valley proved it's resourceful enough to pull off a usurping of a satisfactory squad.
After Agnew and Robison reached in the fifth, Pruitt pulled a shot to the Seaside third baseman who gloved the ball, but couldn't get Pruitt at first, Robison at third or Agnew at home to put Valley's second run across, 3-2. Then Pruitt stole second with Baglai at the dish to set up ducks on the pond.
Baglai said he was simply trying to keep the inning alive in any way possible, whether it was fouling off pitches or putting the ball in play with a line drive. And when Seaside threw the sophomore southpaw a fastball right down the pipe, Baglai loaded up early and let the swing go, pounding a triple to the left-center gap that plated Robison and Pruitt to give Valley a 4-3 lead. Baglai then scored on a wild pitch to give Eisenhardt a bit more cushion, 5-3.
Eisenhardt retired the side in order in the sixth. Seaside loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh but hit a grounder to William Schultheis at short who made the short throw to Robison at second for the game-ending forceout.
Agnew got the start on the bump and gave Valley a shot to hang around by allowing just three earned runs. Then Eisenhardt came on in relief in the fourth and struck out six in four innings of work. Schultheis made a nice scoop-and-throw on a ball that took a funky hop on the infield dirt. Agnew, who moved to center, laid out for a fly ball in front of him for the second out of the fifth. And Eisenhardt fooled a Seaside hitter with a curveball that ended the top half of the fifth.
"It was just one great pitch after another," Baglai said. "They let it loose, threw what they needed to throw. Even though they were down in a couple of counts, they just kept pushing through."
Valley is one the youngest teams in the state, a squad that's heavily reliant on promising players such as Pruitt, Robison, Baglai and Eisenhardt. Agnew is the only senior on the team. Usually, such youth is a detriment when it comes to the postseason seeing that most of these young players haven't played deep into May yet. However, Pruitt and company don't see their inexperience as an excuse. Their goal is the same as it's always been at Valley: win a league title and be one of the last two Class 4A teams standing at Volcanoes Stadium on June 2.
"This league is wide open, even if we are young," Pruitt said. "We've taken the challenge and we're ready to keep moving forward. There are some good teams out there, but we're pretty good, too. I have a lot of pride in this team and I think we're going to go a long way. We're going to shock some people."
"We want to go all the way," Baglai said.