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Two in a row - Valley Christian wins D7 baseball title

Lions battle through adversity for another championship
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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It was clear long before the game started that the run to a repeat section title for the Valley Christian Academy baseball team would not be as smooth as its first ride, one year ago. With its school vandalized Sunday night, and its first baseman in the hospital with a staph infection in his leg, the news was not good as Valley Christian made its way to Tony Zupo Field in Lodi for Monday’s Division VII title game rematch against Brookside Christian. “It seemed that everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong,” said VCA coach Brad Gunter. “We had to fight our way through it and it wasn’t pretty, but its ours now. The gave us the banner and we get to keep it.” Despite pitcher Ryan Cordell battling through one of his rougher outings of the season, the Lions did just enough to knock off Brookside 7-6 to take home the section title flag for the second consecutive season. “I didn’t have my best stuff today,” Cordell said. “I had some nervous moments, but they just pushed me to go harder.” The junior right-hander has been sensational in all of the big games this season, and expectations were high heading into this title tilt. Valley Christian manufactured a run for Cordell in the first inning, as David Risucci reached on an infield single, stole second, advanced on a fly ball out, and then scored on Cordell’s sacrifice fly. A pair of Lion errors and two Knights hits allowed Brookside to take the lead with two in the home half of the inning. The Knights stranded two runners in the stanza, a theme that would hold throughout the contest, as Cordell pitched out of the stretch almost all day long. Brookside innings ended with two aboard five times and with the bases loaded once. “We did not get the best Cordell today,” Gunter said, “but we got Cordell the competitor. We rarely let a pitcher throw 130 pitches, but for the section championship we made an exception today with Ryan.” Gunter nearly lifted his ace more than once, including during the Knights’ seventh-inning rally. Brookside scored two in the final frame to pull within one run. “Coach told me I was pitch-to-pitch,” Cordell said. “I had to get people out and avoid walks to stay out there.” “I was going to take him out that last time,” Gunter said. “He looked at me and said ‘give it to me coach’ and I decided to let him finish it off. VCA used its speed to create a three-run third and unleashed the power to tally three more in the fourth as it scored the runs it would need to hold off Brookside’s run. As he has been all season long, Risucci was in the middle of both outbursts. His infield single and stolen base set the stage in the third as he scored on Cordell’s base hit. Cordell then stole second and scored when his steal of third resulted in an errant throw into left field. The Lions ran on Brookside at every opportunity. “Their issue in stopping us from stealing bases was not so much the catcher as it was their pitchers not holding runners on base,” Gunter said. “We have them scouted from prior years and other times we have seen them play and knew we could run on them.” Doubles by Risucci and Junior Casas were the big blows in the fourth, and then Valley Christian held on as Brookside pecked away at the advantage. Cordell struck out eight in his complete game performance, and despite battling through it all day long, had his biggest pitches when he needed them most. Even the final out of the game did not come without adventure, as a ground ball to Casas at second base took a bit of a rough final hop. The sophomore stuck with it, and took the ball to his bag for the force out the delivered its second straight section title to Valley Christian.