NORTH HILLS — Monroe High's John Ennis and Ivan Hernandez of Sylmar did nothing Monday to dispel the notion they are the two best pitchers in the Valley Pac-8 Conference.
Exactly who's the best is hard to tell.
Hernandez, a junior right-hander, upstaged Ennis, a UCLA signee who is considered the best senior pitching prospect in the region, with a 13-strikeout performance in a 5-2 victory at Monroe.
Both pitchers gave up six hits and four walks in complete games, but it was Ennis who wavered first.
The game appeared headed for extra innings until the top of the seventh inning, when a walk and three consecutive hits broke open a 2-2 tie.
Given a lead, Hernandez (4-0) finished the game, striking out two of the last three batters.
"He's not a big guy, but wow, he's deceptive," Ennis said. "He can really bring it."
Hernandez came out strong for the Spartans (7-1, 3-0), striking out the side in the first two innings, including the last two in the second inning with the bases loaded.
"We were teasing him [last week] that he was only the second-best pitcher in the conference," Sylmar Coach Gary Donatella said. "I think he was ready to prove himself."
Ennis pitched effectively in the early innings as well, needing only 14 pitches to record the first six outs. But he ran into trouble in the third, giving up consecutive singles to Eddie Aquinaga and Edson Gonzales.
Aquinaga scored on a ground ball by Sam Ponce and Gonzales gave Sylmar a 2-0 lead, scoring on a ground out by Carl Ball.
"That's the way Sylmar always plays. They scrap their runs together," Monroe Coach Fred Pudrith said.
The Vikings (4-3-1, 2-1) rallied in the bottom of the fourth, taking advantage of a fielding error by first baseman Jordan Plasencia, who dropped a throw by second baseman Ball on a ground ball that allowed Rafael Arroyo to score from third base.
Damien Ritter then singled to center field, scoring Glen Wiley and tying the score, 2-2.
Hernandez picked up steam after the letdown, striking out five consecutive batters, including the side in the fifth.
Ennis (2-1) didn't strike out a batter until the third but finished with seven. He avoided serious trouble in the sixth after he walked a batter and hit two others with two out, getting Gonzales to pop up to second base.
"Ennis gave us a chance and we didn't take it," Donatella said. "Luckily, we got another chance. You don't get many against him."
After missing most of last season because he was academically ineligible, Hernandez has a 0.28 earned-run average and 37 strikeouts in 25 innings.
"I was pumped up for this," Hernandez said. "I was waiting for this game for a week."