The West Yosemite League standings are officially one big mess.
After the first of two rotations through the WYL schedule, five of the seven teams are within a game of each other.
The only logical forecast for the final WYL picture is that there is a very high likelihood that one or two Visalia teams will be declaring themselves league champions when it’s all over with.
The Mt. Whitney Pioneers created this traffic jam atop the WYL with a 5-3 win over the Redwood Rangers Wednesday night at Mt. Whitney High School.
Mt. Whitney (16-11, 4-2), Redwood (10-14, 4-2) and El Diamante are each 4-2 in league, and Golden West and Hanford West are just a game behind with 3-3 league records.
“This was a key win,” Mt. Whtiney coach Ryan Miller said. “It was a pretty intense game. We competed for seven innings, and I was proud of that.”
Mt. Whitney wasn’t short on standouts.
Dillon Kelley drove in three runs on two hits, including a two-out, two-run triple in the fourth that proved to be the difference-maker. Senior right-hander Tucker Mendonca recorded the win with a six-inning start, and left-hander Nate Wyatt had a 1-2-3 seventh inning to earn the save.
Redwood struck first, though, with Chris Viscarra lacing a two-out, opposite-field double to left-center that scored Eric Charles in the top of the first.
The lead didn’t last long.
Kelley drove in Mendonca with a two-out single in bottom of the first. After advancing to second on Paul Fierro’s walk, Kelley took off to third before Redwood left-hander Jacob Labogin was able to realize what was going on behind his back. It was too late for Labogin to nab Kelley off third base, but he attempted to any way and an errant throw allowed Kelley to score to make it 2-1 Pioneers.
Kelley took over the hero role again in the fourth. He hit a squibbler down the right-field line — just base the infield dirt — that went for a triple, allowing Mendonca and Gaige Chacon to score to extend Mt. Whitney’s lead to 5-2.
Mendonca had to deal with baserunners in each of his six innings, but managed to limit the damage to three single-run rallies. Redwood was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Facing the top of the Ranger lineup in the seventh, Wyatt induced two harmless infield pop-ups for the first two outs in the seventh, and then struck out Austin Orisio on a 3-2 pitch for the game’s final out.
“We have a lot of good pitchers. There is some good depth to this pitching staff,” Miller said. “Usually you just need two guys when you’re in league, but we’ve got a few more guys who could really contribute if needed. Nate did a great job [Wednesday] in a closer situation. We have some pitching.”
Redwood has reason to lament this loss: The Rangers squandered several scoring opportunities, and fueled a couple of Mt. Whitney scoring rallies with shaky defense.
Redwood had a one-out, bases-loaded threat in the third that was squelched with the Pioneers turning a double play. The Rangers couldn’t muster a hit with runners in scoring position. And four Redwood errors led to the first three Mt. Whitney runs.
The next two games are crucial for Mt. Whitney. The Pioneers host Golden West on Friday, and visit El Diamante on April 24. Redwood takes on the WYL’s three Kings County schools before wrapping up the regular season with three straight games against fellow Visalia schools, starting with El Diamante on May 1.