Unbeaten Paloma Valley hands Murrieta Mesa first loss of the season
The final game of the 2020 Inland Empire Classic baseball tournament took place Friday, Feb. 28, under the lights at Elsinore High School. For the second straight year it was the Paloma Valley High School Wildcats and the Murrieta Mesa High School Rams that went the distance to get to the final game of the tournament, and for the second straight year, it was a well fought game that went the way of the Wildcats.
It was a heated battle on the mound for both teams as senior pitchers Craig Hunter of Murrieta Mesa and Henry Proger of Paloma Valley kept the game scoreless and hitless in to the fourth inning. Paloma Valley (5-0) opened things up in the fourth inning on a bobbled ball in the infield that got a runner on base, then a single by Proger, a walk to sophomore Bryan Hernandez and a double by Dylan McEvers gave the Wildcats a 3-0 lead as the dust settled that inning. Junior reliever, Jack Kelley, who started the game at third base, would come in to relieve Hunter in the top of the fifth, throwing a scoreless inning.
Murrieta Mesa (6-1) would get on the board in the bottom of the fifth and break up Proger’s no-hitter when Caden Byers led things off with a single to right field and then eventually scored on a wild pitch. The top of the sixth saw Kelley face off with Proger, who would come up again with Hernandez on base, but this time the Lane College commit launched a ball over the right-centerfield fence that gave the Wildcats the breathing room they would need.
Junior reliever Matt Gaunt took the mound to close things out for Paloma Valley. With two outs, Gaunt would give up just the second hit of the day for Murrieta Mesa. Sophomore pinch hitter, Derek Hurtado, lined a single up the middle before they would get that third and final out to keep the Rams at bay. With the win, the unbeaten Wildcats handed Murrieta Mesa their first loss of the season.
Proger was the winning pitcher for Paloma Valley. He lasted six innings, allowing one hit and one run while striking out 11. Hunter took the loss for the Rams. He allowed two hits and three runs over four innings, striking out two. The Wildcats racked up six hits on the day as Proger and McEvers each had two hits apiece. Both teams begin league play next week as Paloma Valley heads to Temescal Canyon High School Wednesday, March 4, in Ivy League play, and Murrieta Mesa heads to Vista Murrieta High School Thursday, March 5, in Southwestern League action.
*Stats provided MaxPreps and Game Changer.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.