Every year Valley Christian baseball coach Brad Gunter Jr. loads up his preseason schedule with heavyweights.
The tiny Roseville private school played the likes of public school Roseville (which won tonight's Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship), Rosemont and Yuba City - all Bee Top 20 teams - to prepare for league and the postseason.
But despite that preparation, Valley Christian didn't have an easy journey through league or the playoffs this season.
For the first time in 14 seasons, Gunter said his Lions failed to win the league title. New rival Auburn Christian won the Sacramento Metro by sweeping the Lions in their two-game series.
The Lions also lost the first game of the best of three semifinal series against Elliot Christian May 21 before rebounding to win twice on Wednesday. They beat the Lodi foes 4-3 in nine innings, then 1-0 in the nightcap.
Things didn't go any easier today in the D-VII championship game at Zupo Field in Lodi.
Valley Christian needed two last-inning runs, plus a last-inning defensive stand, to beat Millennium 3-1 for its third section baseball title in four years.
Gunter said it was a heck of a game.
Doubles by Jimmy Shaw and Junior Casas staked Valley Christian to a 1-0 lead in the first. The Tracy school tied it the fifth, setting the stage for more Casas heroics.
The senior homered over the left field fence in the top of the seventh for a 2-1 Lions lead. The Lions added an insurance run later in the inning when Mickey DeFiebre singled, moved to second on a bunt, then scored on an infield error.
Millennium responded by loading the bases with one out on a single and two Valley Christian infield errors.
Jeremiah Moore struck out Millennium's No. 4 hitter, then the next batter flew out to Aaron Perchaz in deep right center.
"To come back like we did in this game and win the section title was a great way to top off the season," Gunter said. "We battled teams all year long."
Shaw, who pitched the first four innings, and Moore combined for a six-hitter.
There is probably more gems to come from those two.
Shaw (5-4, 1.13 earned run average; 74 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings) is a sophomore and Moore (5-3, 1.90 ERA; 84 strikeouts in 48 innings) is a freshman.
Moore struck out 11 and tossed a one-hitter in the 1-0 win over Elliot Christian.
He also picked a save in the extra-inning win over Elliot Christian earlier that day. Shaw pitched the first eight innings, allowing four hits, before giving way to Moore in the ninth.
- Bill Paterson