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Eagles blank Lions in semifinal series opener
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TC's Rob York pitches against Valley Christian Monday evening. Turlock Christian won 9-0 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Turlock Christian pitcher Rob York improved to 7-0 on the season and maintained a perfect 0.00 earned run average as the Eagles defeated Valley Christian Academy 9-0 in the opener of their best-of-three Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII semifinal series Monday at Atch Pedretti Park.

The defending D-VII champions (20-3) find themselves enviable position of having staff ace Gavin Farinha ready to take the hill for Game 2 on Wednesday in Roseville in what TC hopes will be a series sweep.

That’s right, York possesses a perfect record and a perfect ERA and is not considered the staff ace. 

And that’s just fine by senior right-hander, who said the attention lavished on the more heralded Farinha doesn’t bother him.

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Xavier Ruezga stops at 2nd base after hitting a double 2 RBI against Valley Christian in game one of their semifinal series (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“Not at all,” said York, Farinha’s cousin. “I’ve been playing baseball with him since I was 10.”

But while York doesn’t begrudge his cousin’s spot in the limelight, he does admit that it encourages him to be better.

“When he goes out there and shoves, it makes me want to do better and do my best,” said York. “It fires me up.”

York was fully fired up against the Lions (12-11), surrendering just three hits while fanning 12 and walking only three. York now how 84 strikeouts in just 51 innings pitched this season.

He introduced a new type of curveball to his repertoire against VCA, one that he’ll likely be keeping.

“It’s a new curve,” said York. “I usually just go fastball, slider, but today I started a new curve, just the way I throw it. I throw it more over the top.”

As for his streak of 54 innings without allowing an earned run, dating back to last season, well …

“I didn’t even realize I still had a streak going on,” said York.

He does. And that’s a claim that not even Farinha can make this season. The senior southpaw, who will attend The Master’s University in the fall, gave up the first earned run of his varsity career on April 5 against Ben Holt College Prep.

Earned runs or not, the Eagles possess perhaps the most potent 1-2 punch in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

“When you’re playing guys like York, and Gavin next, you’re going to have to earn it, and it’s going to be really tough,” said VCA coach Brad Gunter. “Today, we didn’t deserve to win and Wednesday will be an even bigger hill to climb.”

Turlock Christian got all the runs it would need in the bottom of the second inning.

With two outs and two runners on, Xavier Ruezga (3-for-4, 3 RBIs) singled to deep short, plating the first run of the game. Jayden Espinoza followed with a double down the left field line that drove in two more runs.

Ruezga not only helped the Eagles with his bat, but with arm, as well.

In the top of the fourth, Josh Yuen drew a leadoff walk and was headed to third after a single to right by Jeremiah Pritchard. But Ruezga fielded the ball cleanly and threw a seed to third that nailed the runner by 5 feet for the first out of the inning. Without Ruezga’s play, VCA would’ve had runners at the corners with no outs — and York’s streak would’ve been in serious jeopardy.

TC added six runs in the fifth inning to put the game of reach.

“I’ve taught the guys the word ‘crescendo’ this season,” said head coach Bill York. “We’re timing this really, really well. We are peaking at the right time, building to a crescendo.  I mean, it’s not impeccable, we can clean stuff up. And the cool thing is, these guys desire to clean it up. They desire to play that perfect game.”