Los Angeles Preps: AJ Balta

Corona shuts out Valencia in wild-card round

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
12:01
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VALENCIA -- Corona starter Daniel Pena showed no fear going up against Valencia, one of the best-hitting clubs in high school baseball.

Pena tossed a two-hitter and held the top-four hitters in the Valencia lineup to one walk and no hits in a 3-0 shutout in the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 baseball playoffs on Tuesday.

Trey Williams, Keston Hiura, Brian Mundell and AJ Balta combined to go 0-for-11 with four strikeouts against Pena.

“We have a ton of respect for those guys,” Corona coach Andy Wise said. “Coming in, we knew what we were dealing with. At the same time, Pena has outstanding stuff. It’s not like we were going pitch around these guys, try to trick them or anything. We were going to come right after them and challenge them with Pena’s stuff. It worked out in our favor. He put it to them a little bit.”

Balta was the only one of the four to reach base against Pena. He drew a lead-off walk in the second inning. Designated hitter Kyle Sanchez followed with a bunt single to put runners on first and second with no outs. But Valencia (19-9) squandered the scoring opportunity and Pena struck out Cody McAfee and Johnny Ives to end the threat.

“Baseball’s not a forgiving game,” Valencia coach Jared Snyder said. “We didn’t have many chances. That kid pitched so well, we didn’t have many chances. The chances that we did have, we just did not execute. We didn’t execute.”

Corona scored all three of its runs in the third inning. Cole Young delivered a two-run, two-out single. Adrian Marmolejo put Corona on the board with a run-scoring single.

Valencia starter JD Busfield gave up only four hits and had five strikeouts in five innings. Chris Gimenez came in to relieve Busfield in the sixth and pitched two shutout innings. But they were no match for Pena.

“The kid just three pitches for strikes all game long,” Snyder said. “What do you do? The kid threw a two-hitter. He would have two-hit anybody today. I’m proud of my two pitchers. My two pitchers pitched great too.”

Corona (15-14) will play Camarillo on Friday, another long road trip for the Panthers.

“We’ve been fantastic on the road,” Wise said. “We’ve struggled mightily at home and we’ve done great on the road. We were actually happy to come on the road today. Not that we were looking forward to playing Valencia, they are a quality program and we knew we were going to have our hands full, but we really like going on the road. We’re really looking forward to going out to Camarillo.”

The L.A. North baseball nine

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
6:13
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The high school baseball season started a couple weeks ago with a few area teams beginning league play last week. The L.A. North region has some talented teams, including the reigning City Section champions at San Fernando High School. Harvard-Westlake has one of the most dangerous pitching staffs in Southern California. Valencia has one of the most potent offenses. Here is a look at the L.A. North nine, in alphabetical order, the teams to watch in the 2012 season:
  1. Alemany (7-1-1), ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 poll, has an ace in Cody Thompson and will challenge Harvard-Westlake for the Mission League championship. Thompson threw five shut-out innings against Dos Pueblos in a 3-0 win on Tuesday. He has given up one run in his first 22 innings.
  2. Buena (8-1), ranked No. 10 in the Southern Section Division 2 poll, is coming off a 6-5 win over Santa Barbara. Senior shortstop Corey Dodge is hitting .680 with five doubles and seven RBIs in the first nine games of the season.
  3. Harvard-Westlake (7-2-1), the fourth-ranked team in the Southern Section Division 2 poll, swept Crespi in Mission League play last week. Starter Max Fried, who had 10 strikeouts in his team’s 3-1 win over Crespi on Friday, will be expected to carry the load for Harvard-Westlake after fellow starter and equally touted Lucas Giolito will have to sit out the season with an injured elbow.
  4. Malibu (7-1), the No. 7 team in the Southern Section Division 4 poll, won its first seven games of the season, including a doubleheader sweep of Channel Islands on March 10. The team is batting .388 and five players are hitting .444 or better. Senior infielder Jordan Simons leads the team with a .567 batting average.
  5. Newbury Park (6-1), the No. 9 team in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, has won four games in a row including its first two in Marmonte League play against Moorpark. Starter Luke Eubank is 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 21 innings.
  6. San Fernando (6-2), the reigning City Section champion, has found an ace in sophomore Alonzo Garcia. He threw a one-hitter against Banning and improved to 3-0 last week. Garcia has a 0.73 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 24 innings.
  7. Simi Valley (6-1), the No. 8 team in the Southern Section Division 1 poll, has possibly the best player in the Marmonte League in senior shortstop Cody Ramer. He hit .470 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in 30 games as a junior.
  8. Valencia (5-1), ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, has won four Foothill League championships in a row. The Vikings started league with a dominating, 13-5, win over Golden Valley, but lost to West Ranch, 2-1, on Friday. Valencia has three of the top hitters in Southern California in Trey Williams, AJ Balta and Brian Mundell. Balta, a junior, hit .425 with 11 home runs and 25 RBIs in his sophomore season.
  9. West Ranch (5-1-1) already has a few signature wins early in the season. The Wildcats drew first blood against Foothill League rival Valencia, 2-1, on Friday. Starter JC Cloney shut down the potent Valencia offense, giving up only three hits and striking out 11. West Ranch also beat Alemany, 4-3, in the Easton Tournament, and Chatsworth, 7-6.

LA North: Baseball notes

May, 12, 2011
5/12/11
9:24
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The Westlake baseball team won an extremely competitive Marmonte League with a 15-2 win over Agoura.

Westlake’s win, coupled with a Newbury Park 8-7 loss to Simi Valley, gives the Warriors a one-game lead in league with one game to play. The Marmonte League season finales are on Friday.

Luke Dykstra hit a grand slam to pace Westlake over Agoura.

Simi Valley scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Newbury Park, which came out of nowhere to be the biggest challenger to Westlake for the league title.

Nick Vigo homered and Dylan Alexander drove in three runs for Simi Valley, which wound up in second place in the Marmonte League standings.

Dane Tucker was 4-for-4 for Newbury Park. Simi Valley and Newbury Park have 9-5 league records, but Simi Valley holds the tie-breaker.

In other Marmonte League games, Thousand Oaks beat Calabasas, 8-5. Royal of Simi Valley beat Moorpark, 8-5, and won its school record 11th game in a row.

Foothill League: Valencia beat Canyon, 8-5, and won at least a share of the Foothill League championship. Trey Williams and AJ Balta each hit two-run home runs. Shane Zeile also homered and Alex Bishop had three hits.

Hart beat Golden Valley, 7-4, and is a game behind Valencia with one game to play in league. Garrett Gooding capped a five-run second inning for Hart with a bases-loaded double that drove in three runs.

West Ranch beat Saugus, 5-3.

West Valley League: Chatsworth won the league championship with a 6-2 win over Birmingham. But Woodland Hills Taft made a mess of the league standings with a 12-0 win over El Camino Real.

With the win, Taft created a three-way tie for third place in the league standings. Taft has wins over Chatsworth and El Camino. It will be interesting to see where Taft is seeded in the playoffs, certainly a team no one wants to face in the first round.

Taft starter Zach Friedman threw a three-hitter and was 3-for-3 at the plate against El Camino. Jerry Barrajas drove in three runs.

Chatsworth starter Angel Rodriguez went the distance against Birmingham, striking out seven. Steve Karkenny and Raul Camas each hit RBI doubles.

Granada Hills beat Cleveland of Reseda, 6-5. Kurt Mateko hit a home run. Cleveland, Birmingham and Taft are tied for third place in league. El Camino is a game ahead of those three teams in second place.

Valley Mission League: Granada Hills Kennedy stayed undefeated in league with a 3-1 win over San Fernando.

Kennedy starter Alberto Flores took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He gave up a lead-off triple to David Garcia that broke up the no-hitter. Flores struck out five and walked none to finish with a one-hitter.

Andrew Pacleb and David Gutierrez each had RBI singles for Kennedy. Brandon Ortiz drove in Kennedy’s other run with a squeeze bunt.

Kennedy (11-0 in league) has a one-game lead over San Fernando (10-1 in league), which lost its first league game of the season. Kennedy and San Fernando play again on Friday. All-City pitchers Ryan Cruz for Kennedy and David Lira for San Fernando are scheduled to start.

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