Photo by www.andrewfoulkphotography.com Paloma Valley's Ryan Edinger, pitches during their 10-1 winning game at Lakeside High School Tuesday.
LAKE ELSINORE Early in the season, the Sunbelt League appeared to be headed toward a suspenseful race down to the wire between Paloma Valley, defending champion Elsinore and Temescal Canyon.
It was not to be. Paloma Valley spoiled the party by winning the outright Sunbelt League baseball title with a 10-1 win at Lakeside on Tuesday.
The Wildcats (17-7, 12-1 Sunbelt) won the league in dominating fashion, outscoring league foes by a 100-38 margin through Tuesday with two games left to play.
Paloma Valley has played at such a high level that its largest margin of defeat was a 4-0 loss April 6, then the No. 10 ranked team in Division I.
“It’s been our solid team chemistry,” Paloma Valley coach Chuck Kemp said of his team’s formula to success. “It’s been all 20 guys focused on one goal. Doing what each and everyone can do to get us to that goal.”
Though the aggregate run-differential has been lopsided, the Wildcats have gone 3-1 in one-run games in league play and 5-1 in Sunbelt contests decided by two runs or less. All of those close games have occurred against rivals Elsinore and Temescal Canyon this year.
Earlier this season, after an 8-6 win over Temescal Canyon on March 26, Kemp was tutoring his infielders through the means of a postgame drill. It demonstrated the team’s reluctance to be satisfied even after a key victory over a rival.
“They want to continue to work,” Kemp said. “They are looking forward to the next opportunity. They are looking forward to getting better every day. That’s how they approach the game of baseball. It makes it so much fun to coach that way.”
“(Kemp) is a great coach,” said senior Dario Haro, who went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs in Tuesday’s triumph. “The most important thing, he’s a great teacher. He can teach you how to live in life and do the right thing. He’s a great mentor.”
Outside of Matt Orzech, who may play baseball while at Azusa Pacific on a football scholarship, the Wildcats don’t boast a roster chock full of college commitments. But that has hardly slowed the No. 7-ranked team in Division III.
Paloma Valley has excelled with an ace, Gabe Greenbank (5-0, 1.37 ERA), that is lucky to register 80 mph on the radar gun.
And Tuesday, the Wildcats called upon junior Ryan Edinger to start his first game since April 6. Edinger tossed a one-hitter, while striking out 10. The junior carried a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings before Lakeside’s Jacob Rasar broke it up with a single to left field.
“(My teammates) knew not to mention it,” Edinger said of his no-hitter. “We didn’t want make seem as such a high priority. We just wanted to win.”
In unusual circumstances, Lakeside coach Bryn Wade was forced to pluck five freshmen from the ongoing frosh game to field a full squad Tuesday. Most of his underclassmen were taking advanced placement tests at school during game start. The five freshmen played parts of 2-3 innings before the varsity players arrived.
“I think they were a little bit scared,” Rasar said.