MURRIETA -- A year ago, Vista Murrieta's baseball players watched as Murrieta Valley celebrated clinching a share of the Southwestern League title on their field.
This time, the Broncos made sure the only celebration was their own.
Senior captain Joe Ortuno's run-scoring, walkoff single in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted Vista Murrieta to a Southwestern League title Wednesday as the host Broncos edged the Nighthawks, 2-1, for a thrilling, clinching victory in Kurt Ruth's first season as head coach.
"We wanted to get it done today," said Ruth, who took over for founding coach Dave Legg this season -- Legg remains as an assistant on Ruth's staff. "We just wanted to come out and take care of it on our home field."
That the Broncos (19-4, 11-1) did, but not before a valiant effort from the Nighthawks (13-10, 7-5), who overcame several miscues and played with vigor in pushing the Broncos to the end.
"This is a great group of young men, and they were going to give me everything they had," Nighthawks coach Scott Widner said.
The game came down to a 1-1 tie in the seventh, which set the scene for Ortuno' s heroics.
Senior and No. 9 hitter Jagade Snyder singled to right center to lead off the frame, and Nighthawks lefty reliever Phillip Jones then hit leadoff hitter Jeff Moberg to put runners at first and second with no outs.
But Jones, as Widner said the senior has done all season, bore down.
Pinch-hitter Chase Bacon sacrificed the runners to second and third, and Jones got Holger Robalino to pop out to short for the second out.
Widner elected to let Jones pitch to Ortuno, the cleanup hitter. He got two strikes before Ortuno lined the game-winner to center field, scoring Snyder and sparking a Broncos' celebration in front of the home dugout.
"I think I was smiling (during the at-bat)," said Ortuno, who said he had never won a league title before as a varsity player. "I like the pressure."
Asked if he considered putting Ortuno on first with the empty base, Widner said: "We did, but we also had two outs. It was one of those things -- Jones was throwing well and we got the (Robalino) out, so we were going to go after him.
"I guess he made me pay for it."
Murrieta Valley, which is still in sole possession of second place, overcame four hit batters and two passed balls, but couldn't get the last out.
Moberg (1-0) wound up with the win with a perfect seventh inning of relief.
Starter Anthony Datil pitched well for Vista Murrieta, as he held the Nighthawks to one run on four hits -- no walks -- with four strikeouts in five innings. Tyler Russell pitched a scoreless sixth.
"I think Anthony really gave us a quality start today," Ruth said, "and that kind of got lost in the shuffle a little bit."
Jones took the tough-luck loss after nearly escaping the jam. He allowed just one run in the two innings despite six baserunners allowed.
Contact staff writer Landon Negri at 951-676-4315, ext. 2632.