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Valdez keeps Kofa's playoff hopes alive with win over Crims
The old baseball coach must have looked down with a smile.
On the night Kofa High School named its baseball park after the late Dean Stout, the Kings defeated rival Yuma High 8-1 Tuesday night.
Pitcher Matthew Valdez tossed a six-hitter and struck out three for the win.
“It was cool because there was a lot of history going on before the game and it was a big stage for me. And this would help us go to state, so I knew I had to step up,” Valdez said.
Coming into the game, Kofa (11-7) was ranked No. 26 at Division I. With 24 teams making the state playoffs, the win over the Criminals in the season finale didn't hurt the Kings' chances.
“Now it's a waiting game. We have to see how it turns out. I don't think anyone understands those (Arizona Interscholastic Association Power Points) so we're hopeful we can get in,” said Kofa coach Richy Leon.
In a poetic coincidence, Miguel Rosas, the player who wore the same No. 10 that Kofa retired in Stout's honor, went 2 for 4 with a two-run home run to left field in the top of the fourth — just feet from the sign on the fence with Stout's name and number. Valdez also went 2 for 4 with a triple, and shortstop Angel Sanchez and designated hitter Cole Fritz each had two hits for the Kings.
After an hourlong celebration of both senior night for the Kings and the dedication of Dean Stout Ballpark, Yuma High (6-12) looked like it was ready to spoil the party. Krystian Lekan led off the game with a triple to right center and scored on a passed ball.
Kofa came back to tie the game in the bottom of the first when Valdez ended on third base from a pair of Yuma High errors and scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by Sanchez. The Kings added two more in the bottom of the second with the help of three errors by the Criminals and another run in the third when Fritz scored from first after a throw by third baseman Josh Morales went into left field.
Valdez led off the fourth with a triple, and Rosas followed by hitting a fastball for a home run to left.
“I was looking for a deep fly ball to score the run and when I hit it, I was thinking it was a double,” Rosas said.
Kofa finished off the scoring by adding two insurance runs in the sixth: one from a sacrifice fly by Alexis Ortega and another from an RBI double by Manny Camacho.
For Yuma High, it was a disappointing end to a disappointing season by being shut down by Valdez. After the first inning, the Criminals got a base runner on second base only once — in the top of the seventh.
“Valdez pitched a good game and kept us off balance,” Yuma High coach Judd Thrower said. “We could never get a rally going in our favor.”
But on Dean Stout's special night, it seemed fate lent its hand to the Kings.
“Call it what you will. I believe in signs,” Leon said. “A kid hits a home run and what number is he wearing? Ten.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 539-6881. Find him at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson