Last week was the second week of the Southwestern League’s three-game per week baseball series’ and there’s really no telling who the strongest team is just yet in this parity driven beginning. Although, Murrieta Valley is the sole leader in the standings as of March 28.

The Chaparral Pumas (10-5, 3-3) were the first team to two wins this week after they took a commanding series lead with walk-off heroics. It was the magic swing of Masaki Brey, blasting the ball over the left field fence, that etched the final score of 3-2. Chaparral’s Ethan Udell took the win in the final inning where he delivered a hitless, scoreless inning, striking out two. Temecula Valley’s Chase Hilt, unfortunately, bore the brunt of the loss despite only allowing a single run.

The following game on Tuesday saw the Pumas exhibit their offensive strength, prevailing 6-4 over the Golden Bears. Mikey Ong emerged as the night’s standout, driving in four crucial runs. His hits in both the second and sixth innings were pivotal in solidifying the Pumas’ grip on the game.

Temecula Valley’s Stone Tucker slides into second base as Chaparral shortstop Darin Osterloh makes a play in the infield. Valley News/Time Stood Still Photography

While the Golden Bears (8-4-1, 3-3) found themselves trailing by five runs early on, they made a valiant comeback attempt. Yet, Chaparral’s Jonas Ballesteros was a bulldog on the mound, allowing just two runs across almost five innings of work. Though the 12 hits accrued by the Pumas underlined their potent offense, perhaps the most noteworthy performance was that of leadoff hitter Caleb Udell, who achieved an impressive four hits out of four at-bats. Temecula Valley’s offense wasn’t silent either, with Hilt leading their charge, successfully batting in a run, and both Stone Tucker and Taden Krogsgaard securing multiple hits.

There would be no series sweep for the Pumas as the Golden Bars pummeled Chaparral’s pitching for 14 hits in their 8-4 game three victory. Connor Christie led Temecula Valley with three hits in four at bats with 2 RBIs as Cody Liscio picked up the win on the mound with 8 strike outs and two earned runs in his three innings of pitching.

Rams and Nighthawks try to best each other for top spot

The Murrieta Mesa Rams (11-3, 3-3) and Murrieta Valley Nighthawks (13-5, 4-2) delivered a riveting set of games by splitting the series before their final showdown.

The suspense hung heavy in the closing moments of the dramatic first face-off, as the Murrieta Valley Nighthawks snatched a walk-off victory from the clutches of defeat, edging out the Murrieta Mesa Rams 6-5. The Nighthawks faced a two-run deficit at 5-3 until a seventh-inning rally changed the fate of the game.

Jesiah Generoso of the Nighthawks shone brightly at the plate, going an impeccable four for four, helping to steer his team to victory. Yet, it was Grant Harrison’s crucial single in the seventh that brought the scoreline to a climax, driving in the decisive run to claim victory.

Josiah Giron of Murrieta Mesa picked up the game two win over the Nighthawks with seven shutout innings. Valley News/Andrez Imaging

The pitching showdown witnessed Charlie Black of the Nighthawks and Jameson Minnett of the Rams in a tight duel. Minnett fell to a loss despite a valiant stretch over six innings. Black held strong to secure the win, shutting down Rams hitters in the final decisive inning. Landon Anderson also made headlines for MV, delivering three RBIs from the number seven spot, proving that every position in the lineup can turn the tide in crucial moments.

Seeking redemption, the Murrieta Mesa Rams, who have not lost at home all season, turned the tables on the Nighthawks with a solid 4-0 win, evening out the series on Tuesday. The Rams charged early with a CJ Moran RBI double in the first inning igniting the scoreboard. The Rams continued to build on their lead with an additional run in the third and two more in the fifth. On the mound, Josiah Giron of Murrieta Mesa had seven shutout innings that saw him relinquish only two hits, leaving the Nighthawks lineup baffled and scoreless.

Murrieta Mesa’s Dylan Wicks (24) is picked off on the bases in a Southwestern League bout with the Murrieta Valley Nighthawks. Valley News/Andrez Imaging

Game three took place at Murrieta Valley, where the Nighthawks were coming off a mid-week non-league loss to El Dorado. That tune changed with a 1-0 victory over the visiting Rams on Thursday. Generoso started the game for Murrieta Valley and recorded 21 outs. He only surrendered three hits over seven innings, striking out seven and walking two. An early lead helped propel the Nighthawks to victory when they scored one run on a single in the second inning.

“Every win is a huge win in our league, and I love the people at Mesa and miss them tremendously,” says Murrieta Valley head coach, Bryn Wade. As the former head coach at Murrieta Mesa, who won the Division 1 championship with the Rams in 2016, Wade also says he is blessed to be a part of what is happening at MV. “It’s a beautiful thing to see Grace given from player to player. It’s also great to see a very difficult day for a player turn into something good.”

Jesse Bustamante took the loss for Murrieta Mesa. He went six innings, giving up one run on four hits, striking out three and walking two. Julian Treadwell led Murrieta Valley with one run batted in. The infielder went 1-for-2 on the day. Bear Bachmeier went 2-for-2 at the plate to lead the Nighthawks in hits.

Broncos reign supreme in series decider

In a week that saw the Great Oak Wolfpack (10-5, 2-4) and Vista Murrieta Broncos (8-5, 3-3) vying to get out of the bottom of the standings, the two teams locked up in a tightly contested series that left fans on the edge of their seats through the final out.

On Monday, the Wolfpack took the series lead with a convincing 4-0 victory over the Broncos. Right from the get-go, the Wolfpack stamped their authority with Reagan Ricken’s opening single bringing home the first run. Followed by the powerful swing of Wyatt Toth’s double which drove two more runs, and Jaxon Valenzuela’s skillful single adding another, the Wolfpack set a tone of domination.

Great Oak’s Roy Kim comes in for relief in the Wolfpack’s 4-0 win over Vista Murrieta on Monday, March 25. Valley News/Time Stood Still Photography

Kaysen Raineri commanded the zone for six and two-thirds innings, yielding zero runs and striking out four Vista Murrieta hitters. Toth furthered the Wolfpack’s cause with his 2-for-4 batting output, driving in two crucial runs, complementing Ricken as they gathered two hits each in a day of sturdy offense. Freshman left-hander Roy Kim would come in and complete the game, sealing the victory.

The drama heightened on Tuesday when the Broncos retaliated with a 6-4 win in a game that was a true testament to the unpredictability of sports. The early innings foreshadowed another close encounter with Great Oak jumping onto the scoreboard due to an error by the Broncos, coupled with Raineri drilling an RBI single. However, the climax of the showdown unfolded in the seventh inning. Critical plays by Brady Luyben, a costly error by the Wolfpack, and DC Ruth’s tactical sacrifice bunt allowed the Broncos to steal the lead and, ultimately, the game.

Even though Great Oak collected 13 hits to Vista Murrieta’s eight, they still fell 5-3 in their final matchup. Vista Murrieta took the lead in the bottom of the sixth thanks to singles by Ruth, and Logan Colmer. The Wolfpack were led by Dylan Fien, Valenzuela, and Toth as they each collected three hits. RJ Holmes led the Broncos with two hits in three at bats.

Vista Murrieta’s Ryland Duson. Valley News/Action Captures Media Group

Spring Break takes place next week, and only a few of the SWL teams have some non conference games (Although, Great Oak and Vista Murrieta appear to have a tournament game scheduled against each other on April 5th). Bragging rights and momentum will surely be on the line as all six SWL teams keep looking to leave everything on the field in pursuit of a league title when they get back to league action Monday, April 8.

Murrieta Valley will start off at home to take on Vista Murrieta, Murrieta Mesa will travel to Temecula Valley, and Great Oak will be at home for the first game in their series with Chaparral.

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JP Raineri
JP Raineri

JP is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and head of the Sports Department for the Valley News. Over his time in the Temecula Valley, JP, a former Southwestern League head baseball coach, was also an on-air radio personality at Q103.3, KATY 101.3, Hot 103.9, and was a television host for the Outdoor Channel. When not covering local, or national sports, JP also serves as an Associate Baseball Scout with NSR.