Highlanders roar past Valley View for third win of Lion’s Tourney
By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
La Habra took a one-run lead into the final inning against Valley View (Moreno Valley), before the offense posted five runs of breathing room on the board to end the game with a comfortable 8-2 victory.
Today’s win brings the Highlanders record to (3-1) in the 2016 Anaheim Lions Tournament, which consists of 80 teams from California, Nevada and Utah.
Michael Borg got the seventh inning rally started when he laid a perfect bunt down the third baseline, beating the throw to first and advancing Mun Pak to second. The next batter, Isaiah Castillo followed with an identical bunt to load the bases. After collecting two walks, a single and a hit batter- the Highlanders had batted around and Pak added the final dagger with an RBI single.
The Highlanders had runners in scoring position and less than two outs in each of the first two innings, but failed to convert a run. Both innings were undone by a ground ball double play.
“I was a little frustrated early because we were getting to the pitcher, but couldn’t capitalize,” Head Coach Jon Sothern said.
La Habra finally broke through for a run in the third inning. A leadoff single and stolen base for Pak set the table for Castillo to single him in.
The Highlanders kept pressure on Valley View in the fourth inning as well. Braxton Hutcherson led off the inning with a walk and was moved over on a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt from pinch hitter Cameron Sciacca. Michael Walters drove in Hutcherson with a line drive double to the gap in right-centerfield.
As frustrated as he was early on, Sothern was ultimately pleased with his team’s ability to continue pushing forward and execute the little things.
“We found ways to get guys on, move them over with bunts and found ways to score guys,” Sothern said. “Ultimately I was pleased we got three [runs], I wanted to add on a little earlier than [the seventh inning], but it was a good time to separate ourselves.”
The Highlanders executed some impressive defense in the third inning to keep their narrow lead intact. Valley View had runners on first and second with no outs, with the runners going catcher Drake Flores threw out the lead runner at third. The next batter, Christian Alvarado hit a hard grounder to Hutcherson at third, who caught the lead runner drifting too far off second base for the force out, effectively erasing Valley View’s rally.
“That is something we preach tremendously, look for outs, you can’t give a team extra outs and then you have to always look for outs,” Sothern said. “I mean they had runners on first and second with no outs and we eliminated them, that’s what I mean, there are outs to be had if you stay poised and look for them.”
The Highlanders allowed one run in each the fourth and fifth inning.
Flores, who switched from catcher to reliever in the fourth inning picked up the win, going 3 innings with an earned run and a strikeout.
Valley View starter Michael Solorio took the loss, going 4 innings with 2 earned runs and a strikeout.
The Highlanders (6-6) will wrap up the Anaheim Lions Tournament on Wednesday back at their home field. The opponent and game time have not been announced yet. Entering Tuesday’s games, there were still 14 teams with a perfect record, including three from the Freeway League- Buena Park, Sonora and Fullerton.