A hit batter and an out at home are key plays as Falcons say farewell to a successful year.
By Brandon HENSLEY
Much sooner than anyone at CV would like, the Falcons baseball season is over. It ended May 17 in the late afternoon sun at Stengel Field against a team with a losing record. But in single-elimination playoffs, one bad inning can cost a team the whole season, and that’s what happened to the Falcons.
The Tillers came into the first round Division II CIF playoff game against CV with a 12-16 record. Their starting pitcher, Ansel Grisenti, was a small, soft-throwing sophomore. CV started senior Kyle Murray who pitched a complete game shutout the previous week against Arcadia.
It didn’t matter. Murray was charged with six runs in the second inning and the Falcons couldn’t fully recover, going down 7-4, spilling a bit of grey on an otherwise bright season.
Murray didn’t record an out in the second before leaving. It started with a bang, but not the good kind. He hit first baseman Jacob Riggs in the head with two men on. Riggs kneeled down for several minutes before leaving the game, and the stadium, although as he walked out he gave thumbs up to his teammates.
Riggs’ replacement, Andrew Natividad, bunted for a hit, loading the bases. Murray then walked Ruder Logan, Nathaniel Figueroa singled in a run, and then Derek Villalobos singled in two runs to right field. Fellow senior Elliot Surrey was summoned from first base to minimize damage, and he did the best he could. Tustin scored two more runs on a groundout and a sacrifice fly.
And that was all the Tillers needed, even though Surrey dominated for the rest of the game. He pitched six innings and allowed just one more ru
n, striking out five.
So the question begged to be asked: Why didn’t Elliot start the game on the mound? Coach Phil Torres said because Tustin’s lineup was mostly right-handed hitters, and Murray is right handed, not to mention Murray’s stellar pitching all year, the choice was obvious (Surrey is left-handed).
“It’s just one of those things that if Kyle throws the way he should …” Torres said. “You can’t second guess that. You go with the guy you think is hot.”
Torres thought hitting Riggs affected Murray.
“Absolutely. I think it shook him up a bit, and rightly so,” he said. “No one likes to see that. But Elliot came in and kept us in the game and gave us a chance.”
CV (20-8) looked like they would come back starting in the third. Catcher Cam Silva walked, Cole Currie doubled, and Surrey’s groundout brought Silva home.
Outfielder Troy Mulcahey then smashed a two-run home run to left field. Third baseman Ted Boeke singled after that and later came home on an error.
It was 6-4 and the Falcons had momentum on their side. But in the fourth that would be taken away. With two out and Surrey on first, Mulcahey, who had three hits, drove a pitch to center that the fielder couldn’t handle. The ball bounced away as Surrey kept running. Third base coach Dave Mendoza sent Surrey home, but the relay was in time to get him, and the score stayed 6-4.
Surrey recognized after the game he wasn’t the fastest person on the field.
“If I was a coach I would have held myself up. [But] It was worth the effort trying to get that extra run because if he throws the ball away … it’s worth taking that risk,” Surrey said.
“Coach Mendoza’s always aggressive,” said Mulcahey. “He thought that Elliot could make it. Personally, I would have sent Elliot too, make it 6-5, put the pressure on them.”
After Tustin scored a run in the seventh, CV went down in order to end the game.
“We hit the ball hard out there, just right at people,” Surrey said. “Maybe a couple plays here and there and it would have been a closer ballgame. I thought we did well as a team. We fought every inning.”
“That’s a huge deficit to overcome,” Torres said. “Six runs in one inning in a seven-inning game. We hit the ball hard, but they made plays, too. Their pitcher did a good job. He kept us off balance.”
It was a bitter pill to swallow considering the Falcons won the Pacific League over Arcadia for the first time since 2008. Seniors like Surrey, Mulcahey, Murray and Silva never felt that before, but their celebration earlier this month was short-lived after the Tustin contest.
“We played the season we thought we could,” Mulcahey said. “This was an upset to us, but we battled as hard as we could.”
“That’s your goal, to try and win CIF. But it’s been fun the last four years,” said Surrey, who will attend UC Irvine in the fall. “It’s made high school a lot of fun. It made it go quick. My best time in high school has been playing baseball. We really bonded as a team this year … it’s just tough to lose a game that way, knowing you could have won if you changed one thing.”
“It’s great to have those 12th graders for four years,” Torres said. “They did a great job. That’s a lot of wins for Elliot and that crew. They brought a league championship back, which is what they wanted to do. It’s tough, it’s single elimination, and it’s not like we didn’t hit the ball hard.”