Valley College center fielder Mike Caputi turned and sprinted to the fence, then watched dejectedly as the ball sailed over his head for a first-inning home run.
He did the same thing an inning later, and again an inning after that.
In fact, Caputi’s back was a familiar sight Saturday at College of the Canyons where the Cougars smacked four home runs and defeated Valley, 13-8, to keep alive their hopes for a share of their ninth consecutive Western State Conference title.
Canyons (22-12, 15-4 in conference play) can clinch a tie for the championship by defeating Pierce on Monday. Ventura (16-4 in the WSC) has earned at least a share of the title, and, because the Pirates defeated Canyons in both of their meetings this season, they will be the top-seeded team in the conference’s Shaughnessy playoffs, which begin Tuesday.
Canyons could have opted to take Monday off and rest its pitching staff in preparation for Tuesday’s playoff opener against Moorpark, sacrificing a shot at the championship. But Coach Len Mohney would not hear of it.
“Darn right we’re going to play Monday. I want a championship,” Mohney said. “Your goal at the beginning of the year is to win a championship.”
The Cougars rocked four Valley pitchers for 15 hits and built a 13-0 lead after three innings, chasing starter Joey Kane (6-5) in the second inning.
Adam Grant sent his fourth homer over the center-field fence in the first inning to give Canyons a 2-0 lead. Three batters later, Ernie Perez picked on a 1-0 Kane pitch and sent it over the left-field fence for a 4-0 lead.
Canyons got another run off Kane in the first, then Chris Joy led off the second with a home run to left-center to give the Cougars a 6-0 lead.
Kane allowed another run in the second before Steve Slattery came on to retire the side. But Canyons touched Slattery for six runs in the third inning, the big blow coming on Pete Washington’s grand slam.
Valley (27-10-1, 12-8) spent the rest of the afternoon chipping away at the big lead.
The Monarchs, who came back from a 15-5 deficit Thursday to defeat Glendale, chased Alan Sedacca (5-0) with a four-run sixth to narrow the gap to 13-6.
But relievers Leif Christofferson and Brian Roth shut Valley down the rest of the way, limiting the Monarchs to two hits and two runs through the final 3 1/3 innings.