Paloma Valley's Bryce Macy steals second base ahead of the tag by Temescal Canyon's Eddie Ruiz during fifth inning action Tuesday. The Wildcats won 8-6 to move into sole possession of first place in the Sunbelt League.
MENIFEE With first place at stake in the Sunbelt League, two contrasting left-handed pitchers took the mound during a rare 10 a.m. start Tuesday.
Temescal Canyon went with Devin McKesson, a talented 6-foot-3 sophomore who is verbally committed to UC Riverside. But it was Paloma Valley's Gabe Greenbank, a crafty 5-foot-11 southpaw, who got the better of this matchup.
Over seven innings, Greenbank struck out nine batters to lift Paloma Valley to an 8-6 win. Greenbank kept the Titans (8-4, 4-1) off guard with an assortment of fastballs with screwball-like action and a curveball that he pinpointed for strikes.
"When he doesn't try to throw too hard, he just trusts his stuff and trusts his arm angle, (and) he's got great natural movement," Paloma Valley coach Chuck Kemp said. "The ball goes down. For a hitter, that's last thing you want to see is a ball that is a good belt-high fastball (that) by the time you get to the contact point, it's knee high. It just drives you nuts."
Greenbank, who improved to 2-0, has a 2.55 ERA in 35 1/3 innings this season. Not bad for a senior that threw on the junior varsity squad in 2012.
Greenbank was assisted by battery mate Bryce Macy, who went 3-for-4 with a RBI, a run scored, a walk and three stolen bases.
During a two out, bases loaded jam in the third, Greenbank fanned Temescal Canyon's Sean Trimble with a breaking ball in the dirt, but the ball rolled to the backstop. Macy hustled to pick up the ball and threw back to Greenback to retire J.T. Brown at the plate, who attempted to score from third.
Macy also gunned down Brown on a basestealing attempt in the first inning.
"People do feed off his energy ," said Greenbank of Macy. "He's our leadoff hitter for a reason. He gets a base hit and the next batter is probably going to get a base hit and it's a chain reaction."
Macy led off the bottom of the first with a single off McKesson, he stole second base and was driven home on a hard hit double by Billy Downtain. Paloma Valley led 2-0 after one inning and never relinquished the lead.
"I like batting leadoff," Macy said. "It sets the tone for the entire game. You get a base hit, it sets a good tone for the rest of the team."
The Wildcats' offense kept up the pace for three consecutive innings, sending at least six batters to the plate in each frame.
The Wildcats chased McKesson after only three stanzas, leading 6-1. McKesson allowed six hits and three walks, but only three runs were earned.
Downtain and Nick Salazar led Paloma Valley with a pair of RBIs.
The Titans made a late comeback attempt, scoring three runs in the seventh inning, which was highlighted by Grant Gooselaw's two-run homer to left-center. But Greenbank struck out Billy Haysom looking, vaulting the Wildcats (7-4, 4-0) to sole possesion of first place in the Sunbelt League.
"Our attitudes are going in the right direction," said Temescal Canyon's Josh Cohen, who went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk. "We just have to put the ball in play and the rest will take of itself."