Sports

Heralds squeeze out a league win over Heritage Christian

Whittier Christian's Mike Rafter (shown against Crean Lutheran) scored the Heralds' first run in the first inning during Whittier Christian's 3-2 walk-off win over Heritage Christian, Tuesday afternoon.
Whittier Christian’s Mike Rafter (shown against Crean Lutheran) scored the Heralds’ first run in the first inning during Whittier Christian’s 3-2 walk-off win over Heritage Christian, Tuesday afternoon.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Despite falling from his job as a starter at first base, Whittier Christian senior Dakota Veltkamp knew that he needed to stay ready in case his number was called for a pinch hit late in a ball game.

The senior’s preparedness paid off for the Heralds as he executed a squeeze bunt to give his team a much-needed 3-2 walk-off win over Heritage Christian, Tuesday afternoon at Whittier Christian High.

“I was waiting for my chance to get a hit, I was in a bit of a slump,” Veltkamp said. “Coach gave me the squeeze play and I couldn’t say no to him, I had to sell out…. I needed a boost, I was back in the bullpen taking dry hacks waiting for an at-bat and Coach told me to be ready. It worked out in our favor.”

Veltkamp’s bunt was pushed back to the pitcher as Cooper Hughes came home from third base to cap a two-run seventh inning for the Heralds.

The Warriors (8-13, 1-4) had no shot at beating Hughes to the plate.

“We had a bunch of opportunities, but couldn’t get it in,” said Brent Lavoie, Whittier Christian head coach. “Offensively we got a little stagnant and left a bunch of runners on base. We needed multiple runs in the first inning, we got one but then we lined into a double play. We left a few opportunities out there.”

Joseph Cobian also played a factor late, plating the game-tying run with a double to right-center field.

The big hit was preceded by two fielding errors by Heritage Christian, which put runners on first and second base with one out.

Cobian earned the win, pitching in relief of Jake Rivera, who gave up two runs on two hits in five-and-two-thirds innings. Rivera struck out three batters, walked three and hit one batter.

“Jake pitched really well for us today,” Lavoie said. “I feel bad that he didn’t get the win, he certainly deserved it.”

Equally as effective was Heritage Christian’s freshman pitcher Benji Foyle, who gave up three runs, only one of which was earned, despite giving up eight hits. The freshman allowed a first-inning run, but held the Heralds in check until the final frame.

“Three weeks ago, we made the decision that we needed to rebuild, so we called up a couple freshmen pitchers,” said Bobby Bell, Heritage Christian head coach. “Benji’s thrown really welly for us, I’m extremely proud of the kid.”

Foyle was given the lead in the sixth inning after the Warriors brought home two runs on a squeeze bunt by Anthony Aragon and a double steal attempt in which Aragon was caught between first and second base.

In the seventh inning, the Warriors threatened for more with runners on second and third base and nobody out.

The Warriors attempted another squeeze play, but Cobian’s pitch went behind the batter, which started a long series of throws that ended with tags of both baserunners.

“We had to go that route, their pitcher was doing a great job of keeping us off balance and we weren’t hitting the ball well,” Bell said of the small-ball approach. “When you’re not doing that you have to somehow apply pressure and we got it done. It didn’t work with the double play they executed in the seventh inning.”

With one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Mike Rubio and Hughes both reached on bad throws, which set the stage for Cobian and Veltkamp’s heroics.

Earlier in the ball game, Cobian popped out to end the fifth inning with the bases loaded.

“In the previous at bat, after popping up, my mentality was that I needed to make an adjustment and get on top of something,” Cobian said. “It was a little nerve-wrecking to see the ball falling and two outfielders closing in on it, but when it fell, it was a big relief.”

Whittier Christian (11-9, 3-4) scored its first run before it recorded an out in the first inning. Mike Rafter and Brian Rafter started the inning with back-to-back doubles.

The Heralds threatened later with runners at first and second base, but Hughes lined into a double play and Cobian struck out to end the threat.

Whittier Christian hit into three double plays on the day, one of which prevented a run from scoring in the fourth inning.

On the other side, the Heralds were good defensively, only allowing one runner to reach via throwing error after making a few switches in recent weeks.

“We’ve had some good pitching, but we’ve had some defensive miscues,” Lavoie said. “Moving Rubio to third and Cobian to first base really cleaned us up. When you pitch well you have to take care of the ball defensively.”

The Heralds will close out their three-game set with Heritage Christian with a road game at the Mission Hills Senior League field in North Hills, Friday at 3:15 p.m.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.