A night after defeating defending champion Santa Barbara, Valley Center held Seattle scoreless for five innings before two realities appeared.
The first is that Seattle’s juggernaut offense can’t be held down for long. And the Studs’ four runs in Wednesday’s sixth inning temporarily suggested that Valley Center is just short of being one of the tournament’s traditionally elite teams.
Seattle used its big inning to defeat Valley Center 5-3 in the NBC World Series winners bracket championship at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Valley Center led 3-0 into the sixth inning and narrowly missed taking down a powerhouse for the second straight night.
Valley Center finished seventh last year and owns a fourth-place finish in 2011, but in a final six this year that includes Seattle, Santa Barbara, El Dorado and Liberal – all of which own championships since 2009 – the Diamond Dawgs are an outlier of sorts. For now.
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“Both teams are pretty much mirror images of each other,” Valley Center manager Pat Hon said. “Both teams are very scrappy. None of us have (major Division I) guys on our team, but we’re very scrappy. I knew it was going to be a battle.”
Most of Valley Center’s performance on Wednesday offered evidence that it belongs among the stalwarts. After depth starter Lucas Schauer shut out Santa Barbara late Tuesday night, Austin Gehle’s tournament debut saw him take a shutout into the sixth.
Gehle threw 23 combined pitches in the three innings before the sixth, taking advantage of Seattle’s aggressive approach. The tables turned in the sixth, as four of Seattle’s five hits came within the first three pitches of the at-bat.
Matt Becker’s two-run single ended Gehle’s shutout bid and his night. Nate Backes and Jose Ruiz followed with RBI singles against reliever Matt Peterson to give Seattle the lead.
The Studs boast one of the tournament’s best offenses and Becker didn’t envision them being held scoreless for long.
“The guy, (Gehle), he was shoving,” Becker said. “He was dealing, he was getting to us. He had a good fastball, he had a good slider that he would throw every now and then and kind of get us off-foot. But he loved his fastball, and that’s what we got to him.”
Valley Center’s one-out triple by Aaron Marshall in the sixth was the unofficial momentum-shifter, as the Diamond Dawgs failed to add to their lead before Seattle took it from them a half-inning later.
Valley Center produced two baserunners in the eighth without scoring, then allowed an unearned run in the bottom half, forcing a run home on a hit batter. Ill-timed mistakes and the inability on Wednesday to rebound from them quickly may be the final hurdles for Valley Center to reach elite status.
“When they scored four, it was the first time we’ve been behind the whole tournament,” Hon said. “It looked like it kind of took the air out of their sails.…They were kind of shocked what happened, because things have been go smoothly for us.
“All the teams left are going to be tough, but we have the pitching and we’re confident, so I still think we have a good chance.”
3 6 2
5 10 1
W — Viydo 1-0. L — Gehle 0-1. S — Godgion 1.
Valley Center batting—Devore 0-5, Gowing 0-4, Gates 0-5, Whisler 1-3, DeVinny 2-4, Harris 0-2, Couch 1-3, Marshall 1-2, Flax 0-1, Salas 1-3.
Seattle batting—Savage 3-5, Jordan 2-3, Holm 0-2, Boe 0-4, Becker 1-4, Backes 1-4, Ruiz 3-4, Sutherland 0-2, LaVelle 0-3.
Valley Center pitching—Gehle 5 2/3 IP-4 ER, Peterson 2/3-0, Rasure 1-1, McKay 2/3-0.
Seattle pitching—Watson 3 2/3-2, Viydo 3 2/3-0, Goodgion 1 2/3-0.
NBC World Series
When: Three games Thursday starting at 5 p.m.
Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium