GLENDALE — On his final pitch Wednesday afternoon, Tanner Carrico hit the outside corner.
With two outs in the top of the seventh inning, his changeup breezed across the plate and caught Alexis Miranda looking, resulting in a called third strike.
“Pretty sweet,” he said, grinning afterward.
Carrico, who finished with two strikeouts, proved effective largely by inducing a flurry of groundballs that never left the infield.
“I usually struggle on inside-outside fastballs,” Carrico said. “Just locating has always been my struggle, but today, I felt I located really well, and then came groundballs.”
Making quick work of the Patriots (3-6), Carrico also came within just two batters of recording a perfect game. In the top of the first, a routine fly ball to left field was dropped and, in the next at-bat, he hit cleanup hitter Ray Ruvalcaba on an inside fastball that sailed high. But he then sat down the next 19 he faced.
“He gave us something to work with,” Crescenta Valley Coach Phil Torres said, “and then we played good defense behind him, too. But part of that is because he was throwing strikes. He got some quick early-count outs, they just hit the ball to our infielders and we made some good plays.”
Carrico also helped his cause with some sharp defense of his own. In the sixth, he fielded a dribbler to the mound off his foot, turning around to pick up the ball before making a clean throw in time to first to retire the leadoff man.
For the early innings Wednesday, senior Micheal Jellinek, who took the hill for Birmingham, looked to match Carrico. Jellinek surrendered just three hits over the first four innings in the budding pitchers’ duel.
Crescenta Valley (5-4), though, jumped on him in the fifth when senior third baseman Joe Torres, who went two for three at the plate, led off the inning with a single to left-center, followed by two bunt singles from senior second baseman Nick Diaz and sophomore shortstop Bryan Lynch.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Jellinek managed to sit down the next two before Michael Russo slapped an opposite-field single to left to score the Falcons’ first run of the game.
“I just had to get the RBI,” the senior left fielder said. “That’s all we needed. Tanner pitched a great game and we relied a lot on his pitching. Our bats came around when they needed to.”
Senior center fielder Bryan Wang followed up with an opposite-field single of his own to right, scoring Diaz and Russo. For the game, Crescenta Valley tallied eight hits, five of them coming in the fifth.
“I think the team saw the pitcher a lot, so they recognized what he had and what he was throwing,” Russo said. “Everyone kind of figured it out and we all just pitched in.”
Crescenta Valley, which split its four Babe Herman Tournament games, continues nonleague play this weekend when it travels to Chula Vista to take on Mater Dei Catholic.