Second String; A spring to be forgotten

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"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." — Rogers Hornsby The greatest second baseman of all-time

Where, oh where, did the spring go?

Just as soon as the playoffs began, they ended.

In a season symbolic of hope and that which is beginning, the end came sooner than ever as my mind can recollect.

It is the spring in which the Falcons are usually flying highest and farthest and it is in the spring when the Rebels lasted far and long upon the court and it is the spring in which a trip to Fresno seemed an annual occurrence. Not this spring, however.

No, upon this spring, summer fell quite early in May. The summer, as it relates to high school sports, falls every year at the same time that the last playoff team falls.

This time around, it fell in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division VII baseball playoffs on May 21, as Flintridge Prep finished its year with an 8-3 loss to Capistrano Valley Christian.

It seems like light years ago, now, as the scrambling immediately started after that Friday afternoon, the scrambling to give you something to read with little to no subjects to write about.

Without hesitation, I'll readily admit that the only reason what you're reading has been written is to fill the void left by empty gyms and diamonds.

In seasons of spring past, tales of the Crescenta Valley baseball and softball teams and the Flintridge Prep volleyball squad, along with track standouts such as Claire Collison, Rachel Lange and Zack Torres colored these pages as May slipped into June.

But it became abundantly clear as far back as March that this would be a spring to forget.

As it relates to the News-Press' coverage area, no baseball or softball team made it past the first round of the playoffs. To put that in perspective, Crescenta Valley's softball team hadn't been halted in the opening round since 2001.

Flintridge Prep's volleyball team ventured a into second-round exodus, but Coach Sean Beattie's program has been accustomed to quarterfinal and semifinal runs in recent seasons.

As for track and field, there wasn't a single runner in our coverage area that advanced past the CIF finals.

Three volleyball teams combined to go 1-3 in the playoffs, two baseball teams went 0-2, three softball teams went 0-3 and three boys' tennis teams went 0-3.

One win. That's all we got was one damn win?!? Indeed, and by this time of year nobody's reading now anyway.

One could delve further and conclude that perhaps the dynastic ways of CV softball are coming to a close or that CV baseball is continuing to rebuild a once mighty program or that Prep volleyball did not have the playoff magic that once existed. Perhaps.

Frankly, I believe every case is a bit different. And more than anything, it becomes very clear that, in retrospect, the exploits of Baillie Kirker and Ashleigh Viers-Gordillo and Dustin Emmons and Chad Nacapoy and Dylan Walker and Gavin Thomson and Rachel and Claire and Zack should be celebrated even after they drifted past us.

High school sports are very much about ups and downs and no matter how past years have gone and no matter how long one program has dominated, everything eventually changes.

There really is no blame needed and it certainly should not go to the programs accustomed to spring success, for they are at least still playing in the postseason, while far more were already sitting at home.

Even in a spring that was far shorter than many before it, there were still plenty of individual highlights. Obviously swimming stands upon its own pedestal with the CIF championship triumphs of Andrea Kropp and freshman phenom Young Tae Seo.

Falcons Alyssa Sovereign and Erin Ashby were two of the top three players in Pacific League softball, with Burbank's Kassy Uchida being the other.

Elliott Surrey and a band of CV underclassmen continued to grow into their own.

Kenyatta Smith dazzled on the volleyball court for Prep, much as he did on the basketball court.

Flintridge Sacred Heart's track team had its greatest season ever. And there were others, too.

But, as harsh as it is to state, this is a spring that will be overlooked and forgotten.

Perhaps the biggest and most important question is was it an aberration or a foreshadowing?

For many of the aforementioned teams, while a down year might have occurred, the ever-changing ways of the CIF postseason likely played a roll, as well.

CV and Prep's baseball team's were a part of Division II and Division VI playoff brackets that had an abundance of wild-card teams as it seems that any ball team with a .500 record can work its way to the postseason.

Both the Falcons and Rebels finished second in their respective leagues, but the former played in the wild-card round and the latter faced a league champion in the first round — both were unheard of pairings three seasons ago.

It was much the same for the CV softball team, which took second and traveled to face a league champion in the first round.

As for Prep volleyball, it drew a Sage Hill opponent that was also a top-10 ranked squad in just the second round, something both teams' coaches questioned aloud.

Maybe it was all just a perfect storm.

The ever-changing world of the CIF postseason combining with the fact that the best in our area weren't as elite as they have been and the rest of the area simply didn't make the cut.

Next year will be different because it always is. Will it be better? Hopefully.

The harsh reality is that all that is left to do is simply to stare out the window and wait for the next spring to come.

That's just the way I see it, playing second string.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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