Corona shuts out Valencia in wild-card round

VALENCIA -- Corona starter Daniel Pena showed no fear going up against Valencia, one of the best-hitting clubs in high school baseball.

Pena tossed a two-hitter and held the top-four hitters in the Valencia lineup to one walk and no hits in a 3-0 shutout in the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 baseball playoffs on Tuesday.

Trey Williams, Keston Hiura, Brian Mundell and AJ Balta combined to go 0-for-11 with four strikeouts against Pena.

“We have a ton of respect for those guys,” Corona coach Andy Wise said. “Coming in, we knew what we were dealing with. At the same time, Pena has outstanding stuff. It’s not like we were going pitch around these guys, try to trick them or anything. We were going to come right after them and challenge them with Pena’s stuff. It worked out in our favor. He put it to them a little bit.”

Balta was the only one of the four to reach base against Pena. He drew a lead-off walk in the second inning. Designated hitter Kyle Sanchez followed with a bunt single to put runners on first and second with no outs. But Valencia (19-9) squandered the scoring opportunity and Pena struck out Cody McAfee and Johnny Ives to end the threat.

“Baseball’s not a forgiving game,” Valencia coach Jared Snyder said. “We didn’t have many chances. That kid pitched so well, we didn’t have many chances. The chances that we did have, we just did not execute. We didn’t execute.”

Corona scored all three of its runs in the third inning. Cole Young delivered a two-run, two-out single. Adrian Marmolejo put Corona on the board with a run-scoring single.

Valencia starter JD Busfield gave up only four hits and had five strikeouts in five innings. Chris Gimenez came in to relieve Busfield in the sixth and pitched two shutout innings. But they were no match for Pena.

“The kid just three pitches for strikes all game long,” Snyder said. “What do you do? The kid threw a two-hitter. He would have two-hit anybody today. I’m proud of my two pitchers. My two pitchers pitched great too.”

Corona (15-14) will play Camarillo on Friday, another long road trip for the Panthers.

“We’ve been fantastic on the road,” Wise said. “We’ve struggled mightily at home and we’ve done great on the road. We were actually happy to come on the road today. Not that we were looking forward to playing Valencia, they are a quality program and we knew we were going to have our hands full, but we really like going on the road. We’re really looking forward to going out to Camarillo.”