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Crusaders’ Christian Dijkman, Michael Rice silence Palo Verde

Faith Lutheran baseball coach David Anderson said his team learned its lesson last week, when it took Rancho lightly and lost.

The Crusaders certainly didn’t take Monday’s game lightly.

Christian Dijkman and Michael Rice combined on a two-hitter as host Faith Lutheran downed defending state champion Palo Verde 4-1 in a key Mountain League game.

“We gotta take care of business, and the only way we do it is by one pitch at a time, and that’s what we did today” Anderson said. “Baseball happened to us against Rancho last week. We were lucky to have Thursday, Friday and Saturday to work on one pitch, one at-bat and focus on just that one moment.”

Faith Lutheran (11-5) moved into a three-way tie with Rancho and Palo Verde for first place in the Mountain League. All three teams are 6-1 in league play and have six league games left.

Making just his second start of the season, Dijkman used a four-pitch arsenal to silence the Panthers. The 250-pound sophomore retired 10 of the first 11 batters and picked his spots to deliver off-speed pitches that kept the Panthers (16-3) off-balance.

He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out three in five innings. Rice pitched two perfect innings in relief.

“I knew I had confidence in myself that I could come out today and just mix my pitches, hit my spots and I’d be all right,” said Dijkman, whose slider, breaking ball and changeup complemented his fastball. “I watched some film on the kids, and I know what pitches they can swing, what pitches they don’t swing at, what pitches they chase.”

Jacob Ortega gave Dijkman a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when he drilled a Peyton Cole pitch well past the right-field wall, bringing home Parker Sylvester in the process.

“I was sitting outside and reacting in,” Ortega said. “He threw me a fastball first pitch, and I knew I could catch up to it. This game meant a lot to us because they’re our rivals, and we really wanted this game.”

The Crusaders added runs in the third and fifth inning, and Palo Verde got its run in the fourth.

Sylvester was 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored, and Dylan Schafer scored twice for Faith Lutheran.

Josiah Cromwick was 2-for-3 with a run for Palo Verde.

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