The bottom line for the Orcutt Academy baseball team Friday was that they entered the win column for 2019.

Marc Valdez doubled twice in Orcutt's 16-hit attack and drove in two runs, Connor Adams and Alex Sutton had two RBIs as well, and the Spartans beat Pioneer Valley 9-5 at Pioneer Valley.

The Spartans are 1-5. The Panthers are 1-9.

"We had been in some tight games. This (win) will lift our momentum for sure," said Adams.

The Spartans likely felt they were due for some good fortune. One of their losses was by a single run, one was by two runs and three more were by three.

"We've been right there," said Orcutt Academy coach Hank Muro.

"The hitting was good (it was particularly good on Friday). We've struggled some on defense, and that's hurt us. The defense is tightening up now."

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Orcutt Academy's Devin Black pitches against Pioneer Valley.

Orcutt Academy committed two errors Friday, but only one led to an unearned run.

Though the teams are rivals in the inaugural Ocean League after both moved from the CIF Southern Section to the Central Section, the game was a non-league one. The Ocean League campaign is due to start March 26 when league teams begin home-and-home series against each other.

"With the early start (to the baseball season) and so many guys on league baseball teams playing deep into the winter sports season for their winter teams, the (league) coaches felt it wouldn't be fair to those teams to start the league season earlier," said first-year Pioneer Valley coach Cody Smith.

"I agree with Cody on that," said Muro. "A lot of teams in our league have guys who played winter sports. We need those multi-sport guys."

Muro said after the game that he liked the way his defense is trending and, after Angel Rincon pulled the Panthers within 7-5 with a two-run single in the sixth, Orcutt first baseman Adams saved two runs when he leaped to snag a line drive for the third out.

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Pioneer Valley's Anthony Murillo throws home as Orcutt Academy's Alex Sutton (30) reaches first, but the runner scores.

"It was just anticipation," Adams said. "I knew when to jump."

After Rincon's single, the Spartans scored twice, on Valdez's second double and a ground out, in the seventh.

Muro said he liked the way Devin Black has been pitching in long relief, and Black got the job done in that role Friday.

Adams, Orcutt's starting pitcher, struggled with his control in the second inning. He switched positions with starting first baseman Black with one out in the second after Adams walked in two runs.

The Panthers took a brief 3-2 lead on a dropped fly ball off the bat of the first batter Black faced. The Spartans did get a force at second on the play for the second out, and Black did not give up another run until the two-run Rincon single in the sixth.

Tyler Zafiris came in from center field and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to close out the win for the Spartans.

Adams and Dean Samuel had three hits apiece for the Spartans. Valdez and Black both had two. The Spartans out-hit the Pantehrs 16-4.

Though his team is 1-9, "We're getting there," said Smith, who guided St. Joseph to a playoff berth last year. The Knights won a wild card game before losing in the first round.

"We have a good mix of veterans and younger players. They're battling. You saw that in the sixth when we got those two runs."

Muro said, "Cody is doing an excellent job with that program."

Orcutt Academy will host Mission Prep at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Elks Field. Pioneer Valley is home against Morro Bay at the same time.

Arroyo Grande 5, St. Joseph 4

The Eagles nipped the Knights on Ethan Royal's walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh off St. Joseph reliever Noah Skarda.

Arroyo Grande moved to 6-3, 2-0 with the Mountain League win at its P.O.V.E. Field. St. Joseph is 3-8, 0-2. The Eagles swept the teams' home-and-home series, winning each game by one run.

Alex Ontiveros had two hits for the Knights. Miles Enos tripled. Ontiveros, the starting pitcher, worked 6.2 innings.     


Orcutt Academy 11, Bishop Diego 1 (5 innings, run rule)

Orcutt's pitchers had a big day as the Spartans (4-0) run-ruled the Cardinals in a non-league game.

Orcutt Academy starting pitcher Daisy Esparza allowed no hits and no runs during her four innings of work. She struck out 10 and talked two.

The Cardinals scored an unearned run against Orcutt reliever Arianna Contreras on a throwing error in the fifth.

Contreras tripled, singled and drove in two runs. Esparza doubled and had two RBIs.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.