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VCA works overtime to win key playoff contest

Lions battle through tough spots in search of section title
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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In a back-and-forth affair at Galt Community Park Saturday, the Valley Christian Academy took the opener of a best-of-three seriers with Stone Ridge Christian. It took extra innings, but the Lions managed to pull out a thriller 8-7 in the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII tournament. "What a game," said Valley Christian coach Brad Gunter. "Not the way you want it to go, but at this point of the season I will take it." VCA scored two in the first frame, but found itself down 3-2 after three stanzas as Stone Ridge got to freshman southpaw Jimmy Shaw for one in the first and two more in the home half of the third. Things changed in the Valley Christian fourth, thanks to junior Junior Casas. Casas blasted a two-run home run to right field to put the Lions on top, and then the added another tally in the inning to take a two-run advantage. Valley Christian added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh courtesy a trick play and a run-scoring bunt in a first-and-third situation. "We thought the four run cushion was plenty," Gunter said. "Momentum quickly swung in their favor and everything that could go wrong did. Balls off their bat found holes in the field, and a costly miscue at third base cost us an important second out. Before it could escape the home half of the seventh, Stone Ridge had scored four runs to tie the game and Gunter had made the move to ace Ryan Cordell as his fourth pitcher of the day. Cordell had tossed a complete game just three days earlier. Cordell was touched for two quick hits, and with runners on second and third and just one out, in danger of losing the game, the Lions intentionally walked the bases loaded and then turned to their ace right-hander. Cordell did the job, and pitched his way out of the situation, sending the game to extra innings. Cordell was the center of attention in the eighth as well, as his one-out triple turned into a run on a throwing error. With the lead in his hands, the senior set down the top three hitters in the Stone Ridge lineup in order in the home half to seal the victory. Cordell had a double and triple among his three hits on the day. Donovan Allen also had three hits for the Lions. Casas, with his long ball, and Paul Finnell with a triple also pitched in with extra-base hits. VCA had a ton of chances in the game, as it also drew eight walks and had two batters hit by pitches. The series continues at 4 p.m. Tuesday. If Valley Christian can win that game, it will advance to the section title game on Memorial Day. A Stone Ridge victory will force a winner-take-all third game immediately following that Tuesday encounter.