SELMA - A three-run homer by Ryan Naranjo in the first inning would be more than enough in a 5-1 home win for the Selma baseball team against Kingsburg in a game with a share of the Central Sequoia League title on the line on May 11.
It was the final week of the regular season for both teams, and the rival squads split two games with the Vikings winning the first matchup 7-3 on May 8.
The Bears ended the regular season at 16-10 overall and 10-5 in league play. Selma shares the CSL title with Immanuel, who defeated Central Valley Christian 7-1 on May 11. Kingsburg ends the season 13-13-2 overall and 9-6 in CSL competition.
As for the earlier matchup between the rivalry squads, the Bears led 2-1 early in the game with one of the runs being a solo shot by Naranjo. In the bottom of the third inning, Jacob Anaya and Ray Castro knocked in runs to give the Vikings a 4-2 lead. Anaya hit a RBI-single and Castro knocked in two runs on a single of his own.
Selma would cut the score down to one run after a sacrifice fly by Ethan Wenter in the top of the fourth inning.
Later in the inning, Anaya would knock in another run for Kingsburg on a single along with Seth Costi hitting a RBI-single as well. Kingsburg lead 6-3 and the Bears threatened to score later in the game.
After a scoreless fifth inning, Selma had one more shot of scoring runs and the Bears loaded up the bases. The Bears’ opportunity closed after Peter Lallas grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Even though the score was close, Selma coach John Hollett stated the team’s miscues including multiple walks and errors were inexcusable for the ball club.
“Nine walks, two hit by pitch and six errors, that explains everything,” Hollett said. “We can’t win like that.”
It was also senior night for the Vikings and it was a special game for Riley Walls, who never pitched against Selma throughout his four years at Kingsburg High School. The senior started the game, but he only threw one pitch. Walls threw one pitch because of a labrum injury to his throwing shoulder that he suffered earlier this season. He hasn’t pitched since receiving the injury and will get surgery sometime this summer.
It was an emotional moment for Walls, who expected to be an impact player for the Vikings this season.
“It was a little emotional because I went into my senior year thinking that was I was going to be able to play with my team,” Walls said. “To find out from the doctor that I probably won’t be able to throw again, it just tore me down.”
Before his shoulder injury, Walls talked to Kingsburg head coach Jim Cranford about starting the game against Selma because he never faced the Bears on the mound. Once his shoulder went out, Walls was told by Cranford that he was still going to throw at least one pitch, but only if it was OK by his family.
“When he told me that he was fine letting me throw that last pitch, I was overly excited,” Walls said. “I had butterflies in my stomach and was just ready to go.”
Walls said he’s not done playing baseball. He plans to take a break from the game after his surgery for about a year and will try to play baseball at the junior college level shortly after.
“When you coach, those are the kinds of things that are important,” Cranford said about Walls pitching. “It was important for him and it was important for the other kids because they legitimately feel for him.”
“All the years he’s busted his butt for the program, I think the program gave back to him there.”
After a slow start to the season, Cranford said the kids have made multiple adjustments in their at-bats and work on their approach to the plate and other things on the practice field.
“I think our kids are understanding the game,” he said. “They’re starting to realize what they have to do in situations, but the opponent is never who you play, the opponent is the game.”
Both Selma and Kingsburg squads qualified for the CIF Central Section Division III playoffs. The Bears enter playoffs as a No. 3 seed while the Vikings are the 10th-seed. Both played in the first round on May 15 (after press time) and the playoffs are scheduled to continue two days later.
“We have everything in front of us that we set out to do,” Hollett said. “We could either do it or we won’t.”