Serrano stops Raiders title quest
By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
The Sonora baseball team’s playoff run came to an end against Serrano on Friday afternoon falling 4-0.
The Raiders offense faltered against one of the top pitchers in the division, RJ Peace who threw 11 strikeouts without giving up a run on three hits.
“I’m feeling really good, I could have gone out there and thrown a couple more innings,” Peace said.
Peace seemed to get stronger as the game went on, and struck out the side in the seventh inning.
“I took a deep breath in that last inning, and just went after them,” Peace said.
Peace got his team started with a leadoff double in the first inning and eventually came around to score.
Meanwhile, Peace kept the Raiders off the bases, with no runner advancing past second base.
In the first inning, Eli Villalobos reached first on a hit by pitch, but once he reached second, the Raiders next two batters were sent down.
“You need your three, four guys to produce, and we didn’t get any production,” head coach Pat Tellers said, “tip my hat off to (Peace), he’s good.”
For Sonora, JP Sarro took the mound but was getting hit hard early.
In the third inning, with runners on first and second and one out, the Raiders missed a chance to escape without any damage.
A hard grounder was hit to second baseman Matt Schmidt who bobbled the ball loading the bases.
Austin Taylor followed the error with a 2 RBI single to right. The Diamondback’s fourth run scored on a sacrifice fly from Saxon Andross.
“They didn’t make mistakes and we did, they had the pitching, they had the offense and they had the defense, they do three things right, and we maybe had one and a half,” Tellers said.
Sarro was able to get one out in the fourth before being replaced by Dylan Villalobos who was able to keep the Diamondbacks off the scoreboard.
Despite Villalobos’ pitching effort, the Raiders were unable to find an answer against Peace.
“We’re not going to be able to power the ball out of the field with these long swings, you’ve got to stay short and compact, you’ve got to try to be quick to the ball,” Tellers said.
The Raiders will expect a new roster with 11 players graduating.
The success that Tellers has seen from Villalobos will be a building block moving forward, along with a handful of other bright spots.
“As a sophomore, we’re looking highly on him to be possibly our number one starter next year,” Tellers said about Villalobos.
The Raiders outfield should look very similar with Junior Jason Clayton and Sophomore Wilem Drozdowski having successful ends to their season. Clayton began to flash his premium athleticism as the season progressed and Drozdowski’s bat was heating up.
Chandler Koontz continued to show off his defensive skills down the stretch, including a leaping grab in left field which saved extra bases against Serrano.
“Kootz’ play in the outfield kind of saved us, if he doesn’t make that play and it’s seven to nothing and it doesn’t look good,” Tellers said about Kootz’ bases loaded catch.
With this season in the books, and next season on the horizon, the Raiders focus remains on winning league titles. That goal will be tough as La Habra, Sunny Hills, and Troy are expected to be very similar.
“We always shoot for a league title and 20 wins, and we got that,” Tellers said. “We got to the quarters, we just didn’t have it to get to the semis.”