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Valley Christian is back in search of a third title

Lions peaking at right time for postseason run
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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A slow start to the season has given way to a red-hot finish for the Valley Christian Academy baseball team. The Lions have caught fire at the right time, and ran the table in Sacramento Metro Athletic League play on their way to this week’s opening of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII tournament. VCA is the two-time defending champions of the tourney, but coach Brad Gunter sees this year’s field as a bit more challenging. “This year there are four leagues combined into two. That makes things a little more difficult to win in the first round,” Gunter said. “Usually I would start somebody other than our ace, but not this season. We have to get to the next round and so (Ryan) Cordell will throw on Wednesday night.” As the champions of the SMAL and the defending champs, the Lions enter these playoffs as the favorites, and they are strong at the top of the pitching rotation. Senior Ryan Cordell has been here before and he has been dominant on the bump again this season. The revelation for Valley Christian has come in the form of a 6-foot-3 freshman southpaw, Jimmy Shaw. The newcomer has stepped up to the No. 2 starter role for the Lions and his performance will be key to their postseason hopes. The good news is that he has already proven himself in big games, including out-pitching Bradshaw Christian ace Brady Dragmire last Friday in the league title-clinching victory. Valley Christian opens up with Millennium of Tracy, the fourth place team from the Harvest Christian League. Gunter doesn’t know much about the Falcons. “It looks like they have at least five solid hitters in the line-up as far as average and the other guys seem to have decent stats that say they know how to handle a bat,” Gunter said. “I am not sure if they are a small ball team or not though and that always concerns me when you have a do or die situation.” While he expects the run to be tougher, Gunter is confident that his team is well prepared for the challenge. “Our overall schedule is the toughest in this division and I am hoping that pays off starting Wednesday,” Gunter said. “We have traveled a lot this season and have played rather well on the road. I am hoping that we can pull from al those positive moments and use them to our advantage in the tournament.” The opener is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday night at Galt Community Park, with the winner moving on to a best-of-three series that will begin Saturday at the same location.