June 20, 2024
Valley Christian coach John Diatte after loss: 'We did great things today and we just came up short.'

STOCKTON — Valley Chrisitan players and coaches stood in the dugout in silence after two-seeded St. Mary’s-Stockton walked off the San Jose school in the 10th inning of the CIF NorCal playoffs on Tuesday. 

The Warriors did everything they could but in the end, the Rams made just enough plays to beat No. 7 Valley Christian 4-3 and advance to the regional semifinals where they will face another San Jose West Catholic Athletic League school – No. 3 Archbishop Mitty – on Thursday. 

“We did great things today and we just came up short,” said Valley Christian coach John Diatte. “We had an opportunity to win the game and couldn’t close it out. … St. Mary’s has a great team and they’re having an amazing year. ” 

Valley Christian catcher Jordan Ortiz had a two-run homer. Pitcher Quinten Marsh struck out five, and allowed three hits and a run.

The Rams put the first run on the board in the fifth inning when Brady Errecart’s sacrifice fly brought home Rolen Reyes. 

Valley Christian responded in the sixth after Nathan Choi was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, bringing home Tatum Marsh to tie the game. 

With the score tied at one after seven innings, Valley Christian’s offense found life in the ninth inning. 

The Warriors had one on and one out when Ortiz stepped to the plate. On a 2-0 count, the junior crushed a pitch then went far past the left field wall, giving Valley Christian a 3-1 lead and a gigantic momentum boost. 

“I saw it was a fastball and got my timing down,” Ortiz said. “I thought it was the pitch to hit and took my best swing.”

Valley Christian’s defense started the bottom of the ninth well, retiring the first batter of the inning. 

But St. Mary’s bats got hot at the right time.

Errecart knocked in center fielder Brayden Wilson to cut the deficit to a run. In the next at-bat, Michael Quedens scored Reyes on an RBI single to tie the game. 

But even with the momentum on the home team’s side, the Warriors had a golden opportunity to put more runs on the board in their half of the 10th inning. 

Valley Christian loaded the bases with one out, but failed to convert when relief pitcher Dax Hardcastle retired two straight batters to end the inning. 

In the bottom of the 10th, St. Mary’s catcher Tyson Reis hit a lead-off single. He would eventually get to third base on a passed ball, setting up Tanner Groves to knock in the game-winning run.

Groves did just that. 

The junior first baseman laid down a bunt on an 0-1 count to score Reis and win the game for the Rams.

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“Once I got that first strike over to me, then I knew the squeeze play was going to be on,” Groves said. “I knew I just needed to get it to the first base side to get the job done and help out my team.”

St. Mary’s (29-5) will continue its playoff run when the Rams host Mitty at home on Thursday. Mitty defeated No. 6 Granite Bay 8-2 on Tuesday. 

With the loss, Valley Christian ended its season 27-6. Diatte said he was proud of what his team accomplished this season, which included returning to the NorCal Regional for the third consecutive season and winning the WCAL Tournament title.

“I think this group did a lot of great things,” he said. “I felt like we overachieved a little bit and we battled in some situations. We won the WCAL regular season and tournament title, so those are things we can hang our hat on and look back to say this was a great year.”

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