PLACENTIA — One inning of infamy led to the conclusion of a season of triumph for the Crescenta Valley High baseball team.
Clinging to a newly-acquired, one-run lead in the fourth inning, the Falcons watched a playoff advantage slowly and painstakingly morph into a season-ending turn of momentum.
Host Placentia Valencia scored six runs in the pivotal bottom of the fourth inning to turn the tide for good, concluding the Falcons’ memorable CIF Southern Section Division II playoff run with an 8-2 defeat in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinal game.
“It went from a 2-1 game to where we’re like, we’re in control of this game, to all of a sudden it’s 5-2 and then all of a sudden it’s 7-2,” senior designated hitter Austin Brines said. “We tried to battle back, but it’s tough; that inning was pretty deflating.”
It was a deflating end to an otherwise uplifting season for the Falcons (21-8-1), who concluded their campaign having won their third straight Pacific League title before proceeding to win the program’s first postseason game since 2009 and matching its finest playoff ascent since 2007.
Valencia (27-6), meanwhile, marches on to Tuesday’s semifinal against Temecula Valley.
“There was just a lot of breaks that went our way,” said Tigers Coach Joe Secoda, whose team improved to 16-1 at home, while dealing the Falcons their first and only road defeat of the season. “I’ll take it.”
Pinch-runner Kenny Barrera tied the game for Crescenta Valley in the top of the fourth when a deep fly by senior Nick Diaz dropped in after the right fielder buckled and fell to the ground.
On the ensuing at-bat, sophomore Ryan Lynch singled in senior Joe Torres for a 2-1 lead. All the scoring had come with two outs and all the momentum seemed to reside with the Falcons.
But it quickly came crumbling down for Crescenta Valley, as a Matt Ruff double began the bottom of the fourth and Ruff ended it with a fly out to center field.
In between, Valencia added a bunt single, a high chopper for an infield single in which two Falcons collided, a single to center field and made good use of a walk, a hit-by-pitch and two crucial Falcons errors.
“We kinda relied on defense all year long and we let down that one inning,” Joe Torres said. “They did a great job of executing. It was just tough to catch our breath.”
Thus, it was one inning in the field and too many innings of missed opportunities at the plate that spelled the end for the Falcons.
“We had some runners on,” said Falcons Coach Phil Torres, whose team stranded 10 runners. “It’s baseball. We hit the ball hard a couple of times and they made some good plays. It just got away from us.”
Crescenta Valley stranded runners in six innings, as it totaled just five hits, but had four walks (three drawn by senior Adrian Damla), one hit-by-pitch and reached base on a pair of errors, but couldn’t get anything going outside of the fourth inning.
“We just struggled to get that hit at the right time,” said Brines, who had a single in the seventh. “Sometimes, it’s just baseball.”
Senior Tanner Carrico got the start for the Falcons and did well at the onset, holding the Tigers scoreless through the first two innings before giving up a solo home run to William Van Dam with one out in the bottom of the third.
But the Falcons regrouped when Brett Klein was hit by a pitch with two outs in the fourth. Torres followed with a single and then Diaz’ fly ball dropped to plate Barrera, pinch-running for Klein.
Lynch (two for two) then singled in Torres for the lead.
Three days after a win against Redlands East Valley, 7-2, in which the bottom of the order — Torres, Diaz and Lynch — combined for five of the team’s seven runs and five of its nine hits, the trio combined for four of the team’s five hits, one run and one RBI.
The quick burst and lead put a bit of a scare into the Tigers, as well, with Secoda fully aware that Falcons ace Brian Gadsby, who had pitched all 14 innings for the Falcons in their wins over Damien in the first round and Redlands East Valley in the second, was allotted three more for the week.
“We knew he had three innings, so it was a four-inning game and we had our mistake and let them go up, 2-1,” Secoda said.