Knights tumble in season opener

PASADENA — Around most of the diamond, several red flags popped up for the St. Francis High baseball team during its season opener Friday afternoon.

The Golden Knights committed four errors and their ace pitcher struggled with his command, leading to an 11-2 loss against Valencia in an Easton Tournament contest at Jackie Robinson Field.

It's something St. Francis Coach Brian Esquival had hoped the Golden Knights could avoid, but some of the mishaps weren't entirely unexpected.

"We are young and we are trying to figure out who we are," Esquival said. "It's still early and we are playing quality teams that will get us ready [for Mission League].

"Some plays needed to be made. Right now, we have some guys out of position, but we need to figure out ways to help ourselves."

Valencia made itself comfortable against Golden Knights starting pitcher Chris Longo, who struggled with his command in three innings. The senior right-hander threw 38 first-inning pitches. He walked two and hit a batter, leading to Valencia taking a 2-0 lead.

Right fielder James Bonds, the son of St. Francis football Coach Jim Bonds and a former Golden Knight, who transferred to Valencia after his sophomore season, scored the first run on an infield single by shortstop Shane Zeile.

The second inning wasn't much better for Longo, who fell victim to an error by the shortstop on what appeared to be a routine double-play attempt that would have meant two outs and nobody on base. Instead, Valencia prolonged the inning when second baseman Quincey Quintero delivered a two-run double to left to make it 4-0.

St. Francis cut the deficit to 4-1 on a run-scoring infield single to shortstop by Brandon Van Horn that scored Ryan Garcia.

Back came Valencia with a four-run third inning against Longo, who tossed 92 pitches in three innings. Quintero came through with a three-run triple to right to give the Vikings an 8-1 lead. Bonds scored on the hit after reaching on an error by the center fielder.

"[Longo] has to get better because you can't throw 92 pitches in three innings," said Esquival, who added that starting shortstop David Olmedo-Barrera might return in about 10 days from a fractured right wrist. "He struggled with his command and you expect him to throw that many pitches over five innings, or maybe six.

"Against a team like Valencia, you can't make errors and walk batters because they will make you pay. Valencia has nine quality hitters and there isn't an easy out. That doesn't leave much room for us to make mistakes."

St. Francis made it 8-2 in the fifth on a throwing error by the shortstop. However, Valencia padded its lead with two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh.

The Golden Knights, who didn't qualify for the playoffs last season after finishing sixth in league, finished with seven hits. The Golden Knights received a team-high two hits from second baseman J.P. Nolan. Phillip Dezotell, Garcia, Pete Hofman, Van Horn and Anders Schraer collected one hit apiece for the Golden Knights.

Bonds went 1 for 5. He had a single to right in the second.

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