The Valley Christian Lions of Roseville got the hits they needed in the late innings and exploited Millennium’s mistakes to claim the 6-5 win in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII championship baseball game Monday at Zupo Field in Lodi.
It’s the fourth division title in a row for Valley Christian (23-8, 14-0 Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League), and the third time in four years that the Falcons (21-4, 10-0 Central California Athletic Alliance) have finished as runners-up after taking a loss in the final game.
It’s also the closest the Falcons have come to the title after Millennium held a 5-1 lead midway through the fourth inning.
The Lion bats came alive to tie it up 5-5 in the sixth, and game came down to the Valley Christian’s chance to win it in bottom of the seventh.
The Lion’s Micah Gunter walked and advanced on a passed ball and an error. With one out and the runner on third Millennium senior pitcher Manjot Atwal got a strikeout, but a pitch in the dirt got past catcher Steven Blackwell and Gunter dove safety into home plate to end the game.
“It’s all on me,” Atwal said. He said he still felt strong coming into the final inning in spite of the mid-day heat, but mistakes were costly. “We shouldn’t have been in that predicament. We outplayed them. We should have won this game but didn’t come through.”
Millennium coach Drew Reyes added that the Falcon batters were effective against Valley Christian pitcher Jeremiah Moore, who will play for the Sacramento State Hornets next year.
“There’s no question (Valley Christian) is a good team,” Reyes said. “We just needed to sustain things, and Moore got better as the game went on.”
Millennium held the early advantage. Atwal allowed just one hit through the first three innings and the Falcons scored first on senior Raymond Dela Rosa’s RBI double off the right field wall in the first inning.
A five-hit, four run rally in the top of the fourth was the high point for the Falcons.
Sophomore Steven Blackwell, senior R.J. McKee and senior Daniel Gutierrez got consecutive base hits, with Gutierrez batting in one run. Junior Eddie Diaz doubled to bring in another, and senior Giacomo Oliveri singled to right field to bring in two more.
After that the Falcons were unable to get more than one base hit in an inning.
Meanwhile, Atwal had a tough task ahead of him as the Lions continued to hit the ball in the late innings. Valley Christian scored two in the bottom of the fourth. Atwal and the Millennium defense got out of a one-out bases-loaded situation in the fifth inning, but couldn’t hold the Lions back in the sixth, when Valley Christian got two more runs to tie it up 5-5.
Valley Christian starting pitcher Jeremiah Moore got the win after he gave up nine hits five runs, four of them earned, and struck out 14 batters. Atwal got the loss, giving up six runs, five of them earned, and seven hits, while striking out five batters.
Millennium senior Giacomo Oliveri said it was a respectable showing against a strong team, including Moore.
“He’s a good pitcher and he’s going to go far in this sport,” Olivery said. “We felt like we had depth. We were feeling pretty solid if we had kept going.”
He added that even with a loss in the final this has been the best season yet for the Falcons.
“We had one of the most productive seasons in our school’s history. We had the most wins, we had the longest winning streak and just the stats for everybody,” Oliveri said.
Contact Bob Brownne at email@example.com or 830-4227.