By Brandon HENSLEY
Finally, they were able to play ball.
Both the Crescenta Valley and La Cañada high school baseball teams opened its season Tuesday night at Stengel Field, and while the rain was gone, the floodgates were open for the Falcons as they cruised to a 19-0 win.
Players said they were excited to start the season, which was originally scheduled for last Saturday, before the harsh weather came.
“We were foaming at the mouth to play these guys,” said Falcon third baseman Joe Torres, whose team lost the opener last year to the Spartans 6-3.
That enthusiasm showed through for Crescenta Valley, the two-time reigning Pacific League champions, which showed off its offensive attack early and rode a solid performance on the mound from Brian Gadsby to victory.
Gadsby went six innings, giving up just two hits. He walked two but also struck out 10 batters.
“We played pretty darn well,” said Gadsby, who had a .96 earned-run average last year and made the LA Times prep list of pitchers to watch for this season. “Two errors were the only bad part of the game, but [there were] no runs from it, so it didn’t hurt us.”
The Spartans committed six errors to the Falcons’ two, including several in a sixth inning that saw CV put 12 runs on the board. Those runs, of course, were superfluous. The Falcons’ five-run second inning put the game away.
In that frame, CV had the bases loaded and scored when La Cañada pitcher Justin Lewis’ wild pitch allowed Brett Klein to score. Leadoff hitter Bryan Wang then singled to drive in two runs, making it 3-0. Kewin Ledesma doubled in Wang, and later Ledesma’s pinch runner Kevin Hello scored on another wild pitch.
CV scored another two runs in the fifth inning when Michael Russo doubled to lead off and later scored. Klein also tripled and came home on a Ryan Lynch single. Lewis left the game after the fifth inning, and a combination of Ryan Hobbart and Sam Geller were on the mound for the Spartans during their unfortunate sixth inning.
Gadsby, whose hard-throwing style contrasted Lewis’ slow and deliberate motion, said his focus is always the same, no matter if he’s locked in a tight game or if it’s a blowout.
“When you’re pitching, you gotta pitch as if the score was 0-0,” he said.
“He didn’t have his best stuff but I think he battled,” said CV Coach Phil Torres. “He struggled a little with his command but once he got it rolling he was pretty tough.”
Coach Torres said Gadsby, the clear ace of the team, had been solid in the preseason, so seeing him strike out 10 batters wasn’t surprising.
“Gadbsy’s the best pitcher in league,” said the coach. “Anyone that says otherwise, you just have to look at last year. It’s no competition. I think every game’s going to be a battle. It’s no walk in the park, but it’ll be fun.”
Senior Brian Wang closed out the game by pitching the seventh inning. Besides Gadsby and Wang, the Falcons don’t know exactly what they have yet in terms of arms. The team lost Ted Boeke, the 2013 Pacific League Player of the Year and All-CIF selection. Boeke, now playing for Loyola Marymount University, could field and hit, but he was also successful on the mound last year, going 4-1 with a .98 ERA.
This year it’ll be a combination of senior Joe Torres, juniors Jimmy Smiley, Kenny Barrera and sophomore Eric Ma. Even though Joe is a senior, he’s not used to pitching, so it’ll be a young staff combined with inexperience.
Joe said he’s spent a lot of time with pitching coach Darren Beer getting ready for the season.
“If we didn’t have Coach Beer, I would have no chance. He’s the best in the world,” he said.
Hitting-wise, the Falcons should be okay. Wang, who went two-for-three on Tuesday, is comfortable and experienced in the leadoff spot, and the middle of the order consists of left-handed hitter Russo, designated hitter Austin Brines, Smiley and Klein, all guys who can provide serious pop, which was on display against the Spartans.
“[Russo’s] going to be the guy this year, but almost everyone could be the guy,” Gadsby said.
“We’re lucky,” said Joe. “We’ve found some guys that can swing it at every position.”
The Falcons host Northview today at Stengel Field at 6 p.m.
The Stengel Issue
It certainly was a different scene at Stengel Field this opening night, but that was expected. Due to structural problems, the clubhouse and many of the bleachers have been closed and fenced off. Fans can now use just two rows of bleachers in the stadium, which is also used by Glendale Community College, to watch a game.
Because of the first and third-base dugouts, the sports behind those areas aren’t great for viewing unless you stand up, which several parents and fans did Tuesday night.
Glendale Unified School District has given the field several movable bleachers for the season, which are located far down the left-field foul line. On Tuesday, that area was occupied by many CV students.
“We were packed down the line … if you sit there, you can’t really see the game,” Joe said.
“It’s a little more difficult when you have everyone staring at you and trying to talk to you when you’re trying to warm up,” Gadsby added. “But you have to deal with it. It doesn’t affect us too much but it would be a lot better if we had our stands.”
Joe also said the loss of the clubhouse is a big deal. Players now have to park their car, get changed and run over the field. There is no more opportunity to sit and eat and converse with teammates.
“It’s sad,” he said. “The locker room’s the best place. You get to mess around with everybody. And here we don’t have that. You don’t want to try and park your car and run straight to the field.”