Like any of the eight coaches taking their teams into the 54th Coachella Valley Rotary Baseball Tournament this week, Shadow Hills’ Teg Diffey wanted to come away with a title.
Wednesday morning, though, the Knights ran into a more disciplined Fountain Valley squad, hailing from the top division in the Southern Section, but there were no tears shed and few long faces as Diffey’s crew waltzed through the handshake line after a 5-2 loss to the Barons.
They had competed, and though it’ll go down as a loss in the record book, Diffey is much more concerned with the bigger games down the road.
“Our goal was to win it, and you always want to play up against tougher competition, but when we got to this game, we knew we were going to have our hands full to try and come out on top,” Diffey said. “They beat us, and hats off to them, but for us to play like that against a good Division 1 squad like that, it just makes us better.”
With a cleaner game, the Knights certainly could have come away with a win or pushed the championship into extra innings, but two passed balls with runners on third directly created two runs, while a botched fly ball that could have ended the sixth inning allowed a Baron to cross the plate on an RBI single the next at-bat.
The only one of Fountain Valley’s first four runs they truly earned came just three batters into the game, after Trent Sievers connected with a single to left off Shadow Hills pitcher Alex Lopez. A sacrifice bunt moved Sievers to second base before Justin Mazzone sailed a double to right field, scoring Sievers with ease.
Shadow Hills tried to keep pace the next inning, as Kevin Morden got a leadoff hit before Sean Roby sent him in off his infield single two batters later.
But in the next three innings, Fountain Valley pitcher Travis Burleson got into a rhythm, retiring 10 consecutive batters, including three strikeouts.
“He (Burleson) was shutting it down and stuffing it in there pretty good. It wasn’t that he was tricking us, but he was just an overpowering guy,” Diffey said. “They had a good scouting report on us, especially our middle of the lineup. They knew how to pitch us.”
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Shadow Hills junior Alex Bejjani put perfect contact on a fastball up and in to send it over the left field wall for a homerun to bring the Knights within 3-2, but mistakes in the next two innings widened the margin.
Still, up until the last out in the seventh, the Knights were still grinding, including Chuckie Bautista whose hustle on contact in the infield, along with a Fountain Valley error, got him on base to hopefully start a rally.
“The good thing about this club is they don’t quit,” Diffey said. “They don’t go in the tank. You could see in the seventh inning, they were as hyped there as they were in the first. It didn’t happen, but with this club that’s what I like ‘cause they don’t quit.”
Shadow Hills: Sean Roby, Kevin Morden, Hunter Torres, Alex Lopez
Indio: Mikey Munoz, Dominic Huerta
La Quinta: Jacob Mesa, Trey Ladner
Coachella Valley: Nate Delgado
Xavier Prep: Alan Ferrer
Desert Christian Academy: Ryan Percy