YUCCA VALLEY — The Yucca Valley High School baseball team lost to the Rialto Knights 6-4 Tuesday in the second round of CIF Division 5 playoffs, but the Trojans shouldn’t be too upset — it was the farthest they’ve advanced in the postseason in at least 20 years.
“It was a good game, we just didn’t come out on top,” head coach Josh Griswold said.
“They (the Trojans) played well; they didn’t make a lot of errors. The seniors had a great showing.”
Yucca Valley got its Division 5 second-round home game thanks to a dominating 7-3 victory over the Rolling Hills Prep Huskies in San Pedro Thursday.
Both the Huskies and the Knights were ranked far above the Trojans by the MaxPreps system. Rialto was ranked 404 in state and Yucca Valley 744. Yet the Trojans gave the Knights a run for their money Tuesday, leading until the final inning.
“I think they came together as a team,” Griswold said to explain how the boys did so well against better-ranked players.
“That was our message all season. This team is the most talented we’ve seen for years and when we come together, we do really well.”
The scoreboard was empty until the third inning, when Rialto scored on a hopper into left field.
The Yucca batters answered back quickly, starting when senior Hayden Higgins hit a single and junior Jesse Meza took a walk on a full count. The Trojans’ starting pitcher, senior Brandon Goodpaster, strode into the box and hit a grounder to left field.
“Drop it, drop it,” his dad muttered from the stands, and the Rialto fielder must have heard him; he fumbled the ball and Goodpaster got to first base, driving in a run by Higgins and getting Meza to third.
Goodpaster then distracted Rialto by stealing second, giving Meza the chance to score the Trojans’ second run.
Rialto tied the score 2-2 in the top of the fourth, but with sophomore Noah Morones on second base, Higgins hit a bouncing ball into left field that had the Knights scrambling. Morones put on the burners and rocketed from second to home, just beating the throw to put Yucca up 3-2.
Trojan senior Clay Smith made one of the plays of the game in the next frame when he made a leaping catch deep in the outfield to prevent what almost surely would have been an out-of-the-park home run.
With the Knights’ batting stifled in the fifth inning, they changed their pitcher when the Trojans returned to bat. It didn’t work; fresh off his big catch, Smith hit a home run to put Yucca Valley up 4-2.
Rialto notched another run in the sixth inning, but the Trojans were still ahead 4-3 when they entered the seventh frame. That’s when the first three Rialto batters loaded the bases and the fourth hit deep into the outfield to send two of his teammates home. Just like that, Rialto was winning.
With Meza taking over on the mound for the Trojans, the inning ended with the Knights ahead 6-4.
Yucca Valley could still see themselves pulling out a win. Smith sprinted to second and stole third to get into scoring position, but the Trojans couldn’t quite pull it off, and the game ended with Rialto celebrating.
Griswold said the Trojans have a lot to be proud of.
“It was a great run,” he said, looking back at the season. “The senior leadership was strong. A lot of these kids matured a lot through the year and that’s all you can ask for.”