By Brandon HENSLEY
The Crescenta Valley High School baseball team has won at least a share of its third straight Pacific League championship, but that doesn’t mean Friday night’s regular season finale at Stengel Field won’t carry any importance.
If the Falcons beat Arcadia High School, they’ll win an outright league title, good for bragging rights over the rival Apaches as well as a better seed in the CIF Division II playoffs, which begin next week.
Both Crescenta Valley and Arcadia came into last Friday’s games with identical 9-1-1 records. The Falcons took care of Muir 8-0, but the Apaches fell to Burroughs 1-0. That meant if the Falcons beat Hoover on Tuesday, they would clinch at least a share of league heading into Friday’s game.
They did just that, shutting out the Tornadoes at Hoover High School, 5-0.
The Falcons didn’t record a hit until Michael Russo’s single in the fourth inning, but they scored two runs in the frame and that turned out to be the difference as starting pitcher Tanner Carrico went all seven innings for the win.
Freshman catcher Kewin Ledesma has been behind the plate for the Falcons all season, and he did his part in the win over Hoover. Ledesma doubled, singled and had a sacrifice fly. It’s that kind of play that helped the team rebound from a slow start to the season; after an April 1 loss against Pasadena, Ledesma’s team hasn’t felt defeat since.
Ledesma said he doesn’t feel pressure, that he’s just motivated to help the team push for another league title.
“I was a little scared but I was determined to help my team,” said Ledesma, who was in a private school in North Hollywood this time last year.
What helps, he said, is having a coach like Phil Torres.
Ledesma would have attended either Burbank or Burroughs for high school, but his parents told him about the Falcons program, and Ledesma found out last summer about CV baseball and Torres, whose more strict approach is what Ledesma prefers.
“Well, it depends. If I mess up of course he’s going to be on me, but he’s pretty straightforward,” he said. “I like [Torres] … He gets on it every single day. He’s not easy. That’s good.”
Ledesma said Brian Gadsby is the hardest pitcher on the staff to catch.
“He’s pitching from different ways,” he said. “A lot of movement, even on his fastball.”
For Carrico, whom Ledesma said is good at hitting his spots, it was a pretty easy day on Tuesday. He gave up just one hit, struck out five batters and walked one. The only minor trouble came in the sixth, when Carrico walked John Paul Gallegos to start the inning. He was bunted over to second base, and then took third when Carrico’s pickoff throw went into centerfield. But Carrico struck out pinch hitter Ken Garcia and then induced a groundout from Pierce Velazquez to end the threat.
Hoover’s starter Thomas Hall was also solid, going four innings. He gave up two runs on two hits, struck out two and walked none.
After going hitless the first three innings, Crescenta Valley (18-7-1 overall) knocked out nine hits the last four innings. Russo collected three hits, including an RBI double in the seventh. The rest of the scoring wasn’t flashy. The first run of the game came on an Austin Brines groundout, which scored Russo from third base.
The next batter, Chase Walker, scored Ledesma on a sacrifice fly to left field. The throw from Hoover’s Spencer Hemingway beat Ledesma to the plate, but it was too high for the catcher and CV took a 2-0 lead.
Joe Torres singled in Russo in the sixth inning for a 3-0 lead, and the last run of the game was a sac fly from Ledesma which plated Russo again.
The Falcons pitching staff, consisting of Gadsby, Carrico, Jimmy Smiley and Joe Torres, hasn’t allowed a run in five straight games. The boys also have eight shutouts in league overall.
The Falcons were Pacific League champions from 2002 to 2008, but Arcadia took control from 2009 to 2011 before CV won it outright in 2012 and shared it with Burbank last year.
This will be the first season since 2010 the Falcons haven’t won 20 regular season games. If they win on Friday, they will get to 19 wins. The wrench in their season was April 25 at Arcadia, where bad weather forced a 4-4 tie.
CV was just 7-6 entering its league schedule. The team has won 11 of its last 13 games.
Lady Falcons Softball Update
The Falcons’ softball team has won two in a row after a five-game losing streak, including a three-game skid in the Pacific League derailed any hope if the girls finishing in second place. They are currently in third, behind league champion Burbank, followed by Burroughs. Crescenta Valley (15-11, 8-5 in league) is in front of Arcadia (7-6), and faces the Apaches today in the season finale at 7 p.m. at Arcadia High School.
Despite being swept by Burroughs, and a suffering a somewhat surprising loss to Glendale, it’s been a solid season for some of the key seniors, as they look forward to CIF Division III playoffs next week. Pitcher Olivia Thayer has posted a 1.24 earned run average in 119 innings pitched. She has held opponents to a .179 average and struck 88 batters. There’s been more power at the plate this year. Hannah Cookson has 13 home runs, up from seven last season, and Taylor Hill has hit eight, up from three. Cookson, the centerfielder, also hasn’t made an error in the field in 34 total chances.