Garden Grove's Valencia nearly perfect in victory


GARDEN GROVE - Early in the season, Cesar Valencia’s arm gave him problems.

On Friday, his arm became an issue for opposing batters.

The sophomore pitched a three-hit shutout for Garden Grove in a 3-0 victory over La Quinta in a Garden Grove league matchup at Garden Grove High.

“Cesar was hurt early in the year and didn’t pitch a lot,” said Argonauts coach Ricardo Cepeda. “He’s been our shortstop, and we thought we would see what he could do on the mound for us today.”

Valencia looked comfortable and in control from the start against La Quinta (12-9, 7-4), which dropped to third place in the league standings behind Garden Grove (12-8, 9-2) and Rancho Alamitos (8-3 in league).

For five innings Valencia was perfect and looked poised to do something special in front of the home crowd.

Leading 2-0 in the sixth inning, Valencia’s bid for a perfect game ended when Aztecs sophomore Emmanuel Ramirez’s bunt floated over the glove of Valencia, giving La Quinta its first hit.

Valencia gave up just two more hits, struck out five and walked none over seven innings.

“I feel way better than I did earlier in the season,” said Valencia. “Today I was trying to get ground balls and got lucky with some pop flies, but the defense behind me was great.”

In the fifth inning, Aztecs junior Izacc Galindo connected with a fastball that looked to be the first hit for La Quinta, and possibly one for extra bases, but center fielder Andy Nguyen made a remarkable over-the-shoulder catch, much to the dismay of the La Quinta fans.

Garden Grove took the lead in the second inning with an RBI single from Alex Garcia and an RBI double from Rudy Jimenez, the first of his two doubles in the game.

The Argonauts’ final run came in the sixth inning when Valencia hit a deep fly ball to center, scoring John Clements who led the inning off with a single.

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