BARSTOW • The Barstow Community College baseball team is putting the Foothill Conference on notice: Forget what you think you may know about the Vikings. It's a whole new season.
Though the season is young, the Vikings are quickly getting noticed. After taking the championship of the Taft Tournament last week, Barstow began its league schedule on Tuesday. The game was effectively over in the first inning, as the home team put five runs on the board, more than it would need. The Vikings tacked on a few more along the way, just for good measure, and finished with a 12-2 win over Victor Valley at Barstow Community College.
The Vikings had all aspects of their game is sync. They got good starting and relief pitching, while the offense knocked out 15 hits. It's a game plan first-year head coach Nate Lambdin has seen his players take to with seeming ease and gusto.
"We were successful in all components today," he said. "We're off to such a good start. I have high expectations, as most coaches do, but so far the guys have not only continuously met my goals, they've gone beyond them."
Gabriel Soto got the start, and the southpaw authored a 1-2-3 top of the first inning. He walked his first batter, Adam Schoech, but then registered two quick outs. He set down Nick Cordoba on strikes, and after the third strike, catcher Jayson Henderson fired the ball to second to catch Schoech stealing, followed by a fly to left.
In the bottom half, the Vikings wasted no time touching up the Rams' Adolfo Spinoza, as Soto, Michael McNicholl and James Carraway set the table with back-to-back-to-back singles. Alex Pollard followed with a fielder's choice, which scored Soto and left the bases loaded. Marcos Sanchez then launched a towering shot over the right field fence, for a grand slam.
It turned out to be quite a productive afternoon for Sanchez. The freshman from Hesperia went on to hit a solo dinger in his next at-bat, and also drew a walk in the fourth and reached on a fielder's choice and scored in the sixth. Defensively, he pitched the last inning, allowing no runs or hits, striking out one.
"What can you say about Sanchez? He crushed the ball in his first at-bat, and then responded to my challenge to take the ball in the other direction the next time," said coach Lambdin. "This was the first time he's gotten the opportunity to pitch. We knew he could pitch, but we have one of the best closers in the league in Kris (Soto). He already has five saves, and fortunately, we didn't have to use him today."
The Vikings added on a run in the third on the second Sanchez moonshot, and got two in the fifth. This time, it was Gabriel Soto's chance to help his own cause, which he did by clearing the fence in right, bringing home Kris Soto, who clubbed a lead-off double.
Barstow put the game away with a four-run sixth. Sanchez reached on a fielder's choice, Henderson doubled, and Kris Soto reached on an error - the only one the Rams would make - which plated Sanchez. Peter Lelich then hit a two-RBI triple, and scored on a Michael Martinez sacrifice fly.
In the meantime, Soto was methodical on the mound. He struck out the side in order in the second, and faced just four batters in each of the fourth and fifth. He gave up two singles in the third, the first Rams hits of the game, and the two runs in the sixth. Barstow High School grad Thomas McCarty hit a one-out double and Chad Howard singled, with both coming home on JoseLuis Bueno's double to deep center.
Soto finished with two runs on five hits over six innings, two walks and seven strikeouts. At the plate he went 2-for-5 with two RBI.
"We stress pounding the zone, and he's done a great job with it. Soto turns heads; he's not real physical in stature, but he's got a plus-fastball and he can bring it. He's around the plate all the time," said Lambdin. "The idea is to get ahead of hitters; our strikeouts-to-walks ratio is 3-1. In high school and college ball, if you can consistently get ahead of hitters, you'll always be in ballgames."
Soto was relieved by Manny Rodriguez, who tossed two scoreless, hitless frames, and Sanchez, who finished up.
Offensively, the Vikings delivered 15 hits. McNicholl went 3-for-4 with a walk, while Martinez had two singles and a sac fly. There were seven extra-base hits, the home runs from Sanchez and Gabriel Soto, two doubles from Kris Soto, one from Henderson, and a triple from Lelich.
It left the Vikings with a record of 7-2.
"Our philosophy is one inning at a time; don't think ahead, just win each inning, and it's translated into victories," said coach Lambdin. "At the plate we aim to be aggressive, look early in the count for a fastball and try to capitalize. It's been working for us.
"I couldn't be more pleased with our first nine games. These guys are committed students and they're committed on the field. They play with intensity, even with two strikes on them they refuse to give up, and that was in evidence today. We don't worry about who we're playing, we just go out there and do our personal best."
Vikings fans have a chance to see the team in action on Saturday, when Barstow again hosts Victor Valley for a noon start.