REDLANDS — Crescenta Valley High baseball’s success has often been dictated by staunch defense and stellar pitching.
A tumultuous start Tuesday afternoon saw both aspects falter and the Falcons trailed by two runs after the first inning.
That’s when designated hitter Austin Brines approached junior starting pitcher Brian Gadsby.
“He told me, ‘If you can keep them to these two runs, I promise you we’ll win,’” Gadsby said.
The promise was kept, as the Falcons’ defense recovered, Gadsby recuperated for another phenomenal performance and the bottom of the batting order came up clutch, leading to Crescenta Valley rallying to defeat host Redlands East Valley, 7-2, in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.
“Down early, we could’ve gave up, but my team has my back,” said Gadsby, who clinched the Pacific League title outright, earned a 6-1 CIF first-round win over Damien and notched Tuesday’s second-round win in consecutive starts. “We kept fighting and fighting.”
Gadsby allowed two hits in the first inning and the Falcons committed two errors, allowing Redlands East Valley (22-6) to take a 2-0 lead. However, Crescenta Valley rallied back with single runs in the second and third, three runs in the fourth and two runs in the fifth. Meanwhile, Gadsby had settled in for a gem, going the distance on four days’ rest, allowing two runs, three hits, hitting a batter and striking out five to no walks.
“Gadsby’s been amazing lately,” said senior second baseman Nick Diaz, who was three for three with a double, a run and a run batted in hitting eighth in the lineup.
With the victory, Crescenta Valley (21-7-1) advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal round for the first time since 2007 after earning second-round passage for the first time since 2008. It will play Placentia Valencia, which defeated Vista Murrieta on Tuesday, at a site determined by a coin flip on Wednesday.
The ascension comes despite losing All-Area Player of the Year Ted Boeke to graduation and the team having, in large part, just two players who have drawn star status in Cal State University Northridge-bound right fielder Michael Russo and Gadsby, who drew his share of scouts to Redlands on Tuesday.
“Oh my goodness, that’s big time,” said third baseman Joe Torres of being the first Falcons team to make it to the quarters since 2007. “Everybody said we weren’t big enough, we’re not gonna do anything without Teddy. All of a sudden we’re in the quarters. It’s a big deal for us.”
Torres went one for three with three runs scored, was hit by a pitch, reached on an error and stole home. Ryan Lynch, hitting in the No. 9 spot, was two for three with a two-run single and scored a run, as the bottom three batters went five for nine and scored five runs. In all, the Falcons had nine hits.
“Coach [Phil Torres] always told us we gotta go one through nine [in the lineup],” Diaz said. “Even though we’re the bottom of the lineup, we gotta do our thing.
“Today was the bottom of the lineup [contributing].”
The Falcons’ first hit didn’t come until an infield single to third base in the top of the second. By then, Crescenta Valley was already chasing two runs.
Gadsby gave up back-to-back singles to begin the game and with one out and runners on first and second, threw the ball into center field on an errant pick-off attempt.
The ball then got past the center fielder, allowing one run to score and the trailing runner to take third. After Gadsby plunked a batter, he induced a groundout, but that scored a run for a 2-0 deficit. Another pick-off play worked to nab a runner at first and end the inning.
Still, the Falcons’ characteristically solid defense and pitching had waned early in the sweltering Redlands heat.
“We were a little shaky,” Diaz said. “It was a long bus ride and we hadn’t traveled for a while.”
Thereafter, though, Gadsby was unflappable.
Starting with the first-inning groundout, he began a run of retiring 13 in a row before giving up a leadoff single in the bottom of the sixth in which the runner got to second on an error in left field. It was the third and last hit given up by Gadsby and the third and final error by the Falcons.
In between, the Falcons’ offense came alive and the Wildcats’ defense waned.
With two outs in the second, Torres was hit by a pitch and Diaz reached on an infield single. A Lynch single followed with the left fielder making two errors on the play and allowing Torres to score.
In the third, Russo legged out an infield single and came around from second on a two-out Brines single to center field to tie the game.
In the fourth, Torres once again started a rally, reaching base on an error as the Falcons exploded for three runs and took the game over. Diaz followed the error with a lined double to left field before a line-drive single by Lynch plated Torres and Diaz for a 4-2 advantage.
Adrian Damla then singled with another error in the outfield allowing Lynch to score to take a 5-2 lead later in the fourth.
Torres flared a single to center field before Diaz scored Chase Walker on a single to center field for a 6-2 lead in the fifth. The Falcons’ final score came via Torres on a double steal in which Redlands East Valley got Diaz in a rundown, but not before Torres touched the plate.
“The bottom of our order can hit,” said Joe Torres, who had a busy day at third, but flawlessly fielded seven chances at the hot corner. “I think that makes us dangerous. If you’re a pitcher, you can’t take a batter off.”
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.