By John Honell
San Dimas clinched the Valle Vista League baseball championship and probably improved its seeding for the upcoming CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs that begin next week.
The Saints got a two-run walk-off home run by Elias Orona in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 3-2 win over Northview on Tuesday in a game that finished under the lights.
The junior’s line drive over the left-field fence brought home Daniel Milwee, who had walked ahead of him.
“I thought it was going out,” Orona said. “The excitement got to me right away. I was running out of the box and I tried to soak it in this time. It was a high fastball but I got on top of it.”
“That was a great stroke,” Saints coach Mike Regan said. “That was a huge at bat by Milwee (to get a walk) and Eli was the guy we wanted up in that spot. Winning the title feels good.”
The Saints (21-6, 10-1) also got another good pitching performance from their ace, Jimmy Lambert, who improved his record to 10-1 by throwing a four-hitter and giving up two unearned runs in the second inning.
“My pitches felt good,” Lambert said. “After the second inning I felt like I settled down a little bit and got ahead of the hitters. I didn’t have many strikeouts (two) but my defense was making the plays. It took awhile to get our offense going but we got Eli at bat and he got the walk-off.”
Lambert set down the next 13 batters to keep the Saints in the ballgame. Anthony Amaya doubled leading off the seventh to break the string, but a line drive out to third resulted in Amaya being doubled off second to end the threat.
“Jimmy was just fantastic,” Regan said. “When you don’t score runs it’s hard to stay in a game but he kept making big plays. He had a perfect game against Pomona a couple of games ago. He’s a strike thrower and he’s tough.”
The bottom of the Vikings batting order came through with back-to-back clutch hits to give the Vikings a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
With two outs, the No. 8 hitter, Dom Baca singled to drive in the first run and number nine hitter Zach Rojo doubled off the left-field fence for another run but Lambert got the final out.
“We’ve been in so many close games we just tell the kids, it’s not over ’til it’s over,” Regan said. “We finally won the big one.”
The heartbreaking loss ruined the Vikings’ chances for a league title.
A two-game sweep over the Saints this week could have given the Vikings (20-7, 8-3) the outright title but now have to beat the Saints today to hold on to a second place tie with Baldwin Park.
“It’s a shame,” Vikings coach Darren Murphy said. “That one mistake cost us the ballgame but Niko (Casteneda) has had a great season and he threw a great game. When you hold San Dimas to three runs, that’s a good ball game.”
The Saints entered the game in the No. 6 spot in the CIF-SS Division 4 poll with the Vikings ahead of them in the fourth spot.
“We’re the top seed from the Valle Vista,” Regan said. “I certainly hope we get a top four seed.”