Valiants bow out Banks, bow to rebound in posteason
Valley Catholic drops Cowapa League title, still after state crown
Maybe the grand stage of a de facto league championship game spooked the young Valley Catholic baseball team or perhaps Banks lived up to its hyped billing as one of the Class 4As state title favorites.
Whatever the case may be Valleys 8-2 home loss to the Braves on Wednesday at Valley Catholic High School wasnt much more than an eye-opener to what postseason action is going to resemble in a week or so. The Valiants beat Banks 5-4 two weeks on the Braves homefield behind the right arm of Alex Hyland and the spectacular defenders behind him. The distance separating the two squads isnt as vast as Wednesday's score might suggest. A single loss, albeit a relatively important one, wont derail this Valiant squad thats won 16 games this year and has loftier ambitions.
Valley, though it had it eyes set on a league crown, is still No. 3 in the all-important 4A power rankings and will most likely host postseason contests through the quarterfinals at least, if it can stay alive in the playoffs
We definitely had a league championship in our sights, said Valley Catholic senior catcher Jakob Pruitt. But the aspirations to go far in the playoffs havent gone away. Those dont change at all. Its a bump in the road and were guaranteed second place in the toughest 4A league there is by far. Were still proud with where we are. We just have to get back at it and keep pushing.
And, though Banks clinched its first Cowapa League championship in 19 years thanks to a tremendous 4-for-4 day from Jake Evans who ripped opened the game with a three-run homer down the left field line against Hyland in the top of the third Valley said theres no need for fret.
Banks played really well, you have to give them credit, said Pruitt. They took advantages of mistakes we made. They hammered the ball. We hit some balls hard right at some of their guys. It was just one of those days. Another day couldve been totally different.
After Banks Trevor Thiessen and Donny McClean got on with back-to-back singles trailing Valley 1-0, Evans pulled Hylands curveball just inside the leftfield foul pole that traveled a country mile out of the park, but at first glance appeared to sail into foul ground. Evans wasn't sure initially if the ball was fair or foul either that is, until the home plate umpire raised his right index finger and swung it around his head like a helicopter, signaling the go-ahead three run jack that gave Banks a 3-1 advantage.
I didnt throw many bad pitches today, but that was one of the few, said Hyland. He capitalized on it, but we felt we could still comeback.
Banks added two more runs with two outs in the fifth. Evans brought in a score with a RBI double to right with two outs on a ball that got lost in the sun, and dropped in the grass. Then, Gunnar Pintar drilled an RBI single to keep the two out rally alive and extended Banks' edge to 6-1. Banks starting pitcher David Schorn gave up an RBI single to Valleys Chris Rapp in the bottom of the first, but didnt allow a Valiant runner to get past first base until the fifth inning.
It felt like they wanted it a little bit more than us today, said Hyland. Our energy was a little bit down and theirs was up. They came out swinging hard and playing good defense while we came out the other way around.
The loss will serve as sort of motivational teaching tool, Pruitt suggested. No team likes seeing an opponent celebrate a league title on its homefield and dunk Gatorade on its skipper as Banks did dousing head coach Bob Smith after the win. If Valley has its way and makes it deep in the 4A playoffs, a rubber match with Banks would be just fine. The Braves were simply on the hunt for payback after getting upset by Valley and fought with a pounding potency.
Banks is absolutely a hungry baseball team, no doubt, said Pruitt. They played with a lot of energy and we tried to play with a lot of energy. We have to have some younger guys step up and be in the moment and not let it overtake what theyre thinking out there. We just have to get back to playing our baseball. Well be fine.
They came out prepared and we werent mentally focused, said Valley senior infielder Ethan Cape. They wanted to win and they did. The talent on both teams is about the same. We just have to focus better.
Pruitt said Valley has a larger group of younger players who havent been in big spots with a lot of bearing. The catcher explained its on the seniors to diffuse the situation and calm everybody down when the heat of the moment escalates.
When we play loose we play great baseball and were hard to beat, said Pruitt. We just have to learn to power through adversity. Thats one thing with a young team like we have. We just have to bring the guys up and keep the intensity up through adversity.
In the sixth Cape singled, moved to second on a fielder's choice, and then Alex Tranquill drove him in with a single down the third base side to pull within 7-2. Tranquill had two hits for Valley, as did Makoa Nakamura. Hyland had triple and scored on Rapps base hit.
We know what its like to play in a big game like this now, said Hyland. Last year we werent even close to the league championship and this year we were playing for it today. Well learn how to play in a tense situation.