Maranatha pours in six runs in the 5th in a 9-0 shutout win over Village Christian


The Village Christian Crusaders looked forward to an opportunity for redemption against league-rival Maranatha Minutemen, who were ranked 42nd in California and snapped their seven-game winning streak last Tuesday. In their final Olympic league contest of the season, the Minutemen were seeking their ninth win in their last ten games in their third and final matchup of the season against Village Christian on Thursday, April 25th, 2024. Having put up eight runs in each of their previous two wins over the Crusaders, Maranatha continued to display their offensive firepower with six runs in the top of the fifth inning in a 9-0 shutout victory to finish the season 11-1 in league play.

Junior pitcher Matthew Vazquez got the start for the Minutemen against Village Christian senior Joshua Popjes in Thursday’s pitching matchup. Both pitchers held their opponents scoreless in the first inning with Vazquez striking out all three batters. Maranatha got their offense going in the top of the 2nd inning when sophomore outfielder Eric Zdunek started off the inning with a single. After getting on second base following a fielder’s choice, he came around to score on a double from junior Jacob Yun to give the Minutemen an early 1-0 lead.

Vazquez only allowed a single hit through his first two innings, while Maranatha put runners on first and third base following an error from the Crusaders and a single from senior shortstop AJ Beltre in the top of the third inning. Village Christian earned a double play on the subsequent at-bat, but sophomore Owen Lieb came home from third base on the play to put Maranatha ahead 2-0. Both teams and the crowd at the Sylmar Independent Baseball League were brought to a scare in the bottom of the third inning, as Crusaders Head Coach Carl Gschwender was accidentally hit by a ball swung by his senior shortstop Ethan Tibert. Fortunately, Gschwender was able to gather himself after a short delay and was helped off the field on his own power.

Maranatha closed the inning with a double play once play resumed, as both pitchers held the opposing team’s offense in check during the fourth inning. The top of the 5th inning proved to be an eventful one for the Minutemen. After the Crusaders surrendered a walk, Maranatha junior Matthew Kurkdijan advanced to first on a bunt before stealing second base. Lieb followed up with a triple on the subsequent at-bat to give the Minutemen a 4-0 advantage.

The offensive outpouring had only just begun, as the next trip to the plate saw a sacrifice groundout from Beltre that batted in Lieb to extend the lead to five runs. Junior third baseman Josh Proctor continued to keep the momentum going with a single and was later brought home after the Crusaders made an error against his teammate, junior Zach Strickland, on a throw to second base. Zdunek later knocked in Strickland with a single, while he was eventually brought home with a sacrifice fly from sophomore Gabe Barragan to blow the game open with an insurmountable 8-0 lead.

Vazquez’s afternoon came to a close in the bottom of the fifth inning after striking out his seventh batter on the outing. Sophomore Dylan Hoang and Beltre preserved the shutout in the final two innings while Yun added a run for Maranatha in the top of the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly. Finishing their season with an Olympic league title, the Minutemen closed their season on Friday with a 3-2 home victory over Valencia, as both teams await their opponents for the postseason. 

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