MENIFEE – An early lead helped Paloma Valley defeat Temescal Canyon 14-6 Wednesday, May 26, which also lead to an Ivy League title for the Wildcats. Three weeks ago, Paloma Valley was sitting in the middle of the standings at 3-4, and that’s when head coach Jason Berni challenged his team.

“We had our backs up against the wall,” said Berni. “When we were losing games, it would by 1-run or so, but we were playing good baseball. Not great baseball, but good baseball. We did not get our normal year, obviously. No weight room workouts, no classroom days. I really did not think we would play this season.”

The Paloma Valley Wildcats won the 2021 Ivy League title with a 14-6 win over Temescal Canyon. Valley News/JP Raineri photo

Bernie said they combated the things they could not do on school grounds by getting the boys to train with the staff at Dynamic Fitness in Temecula in the off season, and our coaches and players rarely took any days off when we got the green light to start practicing.

When it came to how they would end the regular season, Berni said, “I challenged our boys to dig deep and focus on taking things one pitch at a time. If they could win five straight, they would be league champions.”

Paloma Valley coach Jason Berni and his players celebrate winning this year’s Ivy League title. Valley News/JP Raineri photo

In their final league game, Paloma Valley (14-8, 8-4) put up two runs in the first inning and had to rebound quickly after Temescal Canyon put up five runs in the top of the second. Temescal Canyon’s big inning was driven by a single by McGarvey, a sacrifice fly by Gamez, and an error on a ball put in play by Connor.

For Paloma Valley, a walk by Wyatt Bush, a sac fly ball by Matt Gaunt, and a grand slam by Juni Rodriguez helped take the wind out of the Titans’ sails.

The bottom of the Wildcats lineup was the difference maker in this game. The final three batters in the order had seven hits in eleven at bats and scored eight of the fourteen runs. Every starter reached safely at least twice and, at one point, 14 of 16 hitters reached base.

Starting pitcher, Matt Gaunt, delivers a pitch against Temescal Canyon Wednesday, May 26. Valley News/Scott Wickerd photo

Senior Matt Gaunt pitched Paloma Valley to victory, allowing six hits and six runs over five innings, striking out six and walking one.

“It feels so good,” winning pitcher Matt Gaunt told the media. “This has been something we focused on for four years. It means a lot to win it with these guys because many of us have been together since we were kids.”

Diego Castillo and Angel Barrientos entered the game out of the bullpen and helped to close out the game in relief.

Herbert was on the hill for Temescal Canyon. The pitcher allowed nine hits and eleven runs over two and two-thirds innings, striking out two. Paloma Valley had two home runs on the day with Cesar Guzman hitting the other round tripper in the sixth inning.

Paloma Valley senior, Cesar Guzman, launches a homerun in the sixth inning. Valley News/Scott Wickerd photo

The Wildcats racked up 13 hits on the day. Kobe Gomez, Ryan Shubert, Guzman, and Steven Gallegos all managed multiple hits. Gomez led Paloma Valley with three hits in four at bats.

Temescal Canyon tallied nine hits in the game. Connor and Gonzales each managed multiple hits for the Titans, who got a tune-up for the playoffs with a non-league loss Friday, May 28, against Arlington.

“We took away some pluses from this game against Paloma Valley,” Temescal Canyon coach Neal Post told the media. “We got a lot of guys to the mound and got them that big-game experience, which is going to be important in the playoffs.

The Titans will be going into the playoffs as a third-place team, Canyon Springs took second place and Paloma Valley will be a No. 1 seed. The Wildcats finished their season with an 8-6 win over Ramona Friday, May 28. Regular season Ivy League action came to an end this week and playoff brackets will be announced Sunday, May 30, at www.cifss.org.

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