HS Baseball: Wildcats win second straight I.E. Classic title, beat Rams 5-1

The Paloma Valley Wildcats defeated Murrieta Mesa 5-1, winning the 2020 Inland Empire Classic Friday, Feb. 28, at Elsinore High School. Courtesy photo.

Unbeaten Paloma Valley hands Murrieta Mesa first loss of the season

Henry Proger, who went 2 for 3 with a homerun and 3 RBI’s, collected the win for Paloma Valley, striking out 11 batters over his six innings on the mound. Valley News/JP Raineri photo.

ELSINORE – 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 Wildcats and the Murrieta Mesa 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 (Murrieta Mesa) and Henry Proger (Paloma Valley) kept the game scoreless and hit-less 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.

Senior catcher, Dylan Moynihan, steps in the box for Paloma Valley in the final game of the I.E. Classic, hosted by Elsinore High School. Valley News/JP Raineri photo.

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.

Paloma Valley first baseman, Cesar Guzman, holds Murrieta Mesa baserunner Jack Kelley close to the bag. Valley News/JP Raineri photo.

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.

Caden Byers is one of two Mesa players that collected a hit in the final game of the 2020 Inland Empire Classic baseball tournament Friday, Feb. 28, at Elsinore High School. Valley News/JP Raineri photo.

Proger was the winning pitcher for Paloma Valley. He lasted six innings, allowing one hit and one run while striking out eleven. 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 Wednesday, March 4, in Ivy League play, and Murrieta Mesa heads to Vista Murrieta Thursday, March 5, in Southwestern League action.

*Stats provided MaxPreps and Game Changer.

The Valley News Sports Department can be reached via email at sports@reedermedia.com.