After trailing visiting Ripon by three runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday, Angel Valdez capped a four-run Sierra rally with a two-run single to give the Timberwolves an 8-7 walk-off win in Valley Oak League action.
“He was throwing first-pitch strikes,” Valdez said. “I was thinking fastball and I saw it all the way.”
Valdez’s game-winner plated Austin Frisk and Zion Bell. Frisk had been hit by a pitch for the second at-bat in a row and reached base in three of his four trips to the plate.
“It was so important that we find a way to get on base,” Frisk said. “We were going into the last inning and we were down by three.
“With two runners on, coach told me we didn’t need one big swing, we just needed to pass the bat to the next guy. We kept doing that and it worked out.”
Brendan Rapisura led off the seventh for Sierra (4-3 VOL) with a walk. Following strikeout, Sante Duarte blooped a single to center and Frisk followed being hit by a pitch to load the bases. Zion Bell then hit a towering fly ball to the right-field fence. It was misplayed looking into the sun with a swirling wind, plating Rapisura.
Tommy Carrillo then singled in Duarte, setting up Valdez for the game-winner.
“Going into the seventh our mindset was that we needed baserunners,” Timberwolves coach Travis Thomson said. “We had to do whatever we could to get the next guy to the plate and I think our guys did that well.
“Angel (Valdez) is just a freshman. We changed our approach and were no longer taking that first strike and he was ready for the first good one. He is a good hitter and a good ballplayer. We are excited to have him for four years.”
The loss drops the Indians to 0-7 in the VOL and 2-8 overall. Ripon has had problems sustaining leads in the late innings.
“We’re competing,” Indians coach Bobby Swedberg said. “But we have to find a way to finish. We are young but that is no excuse.
“Tip your hat to them. They never stopped swinging the bat. They never stopped getting runs and they kept the pressure on us.”
Brandon Molthen started on the mound for Ripon and went five innings, striking out the side in the fifth and totaling eight strikeouts while allowing just two hits. He was victimized by two errors in the fourth inning which led to four Sierra runs.
Molthen was relieved by Nate Dorn in the sixth. Dorn threw a shutout sixth inning and with a one-out 7-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh and the bases loaded, Bell’s misplayed towering fly ball kept the Timberwolves rally going.
“Our ace (Molthen) kind of got high with his pitch count,” Swedberg said. “I thought he finished strong and I would have liked to run him another couple of innings but unfortunately we couldn’t.
“I thought Dorn did a great job for us. He is a freshman and that is a big role for a freshman to come in and get six outs in a league game against a good, well-coached program. That’s the way baseball is sometimes. It didn’t go our way today but nonetheless we competed our tails off.”
In the third inning, Indians leadoff batter Chase Stephenson hit a screaming fly ball back to the mound. Timberwolves pitcher Zach Fonseca somehow managed to get his mitt up and snag the line drive for the out.
“I just saw a black object coming toward me,” Fonseca said. “I was trying to get out of the way of the ball and catch it at the same time.
“I just put my glove up there.”