A Crescenta Valley High baseball team that hadn't known what a defeat was for almost a two-month span picked an unfortunate time to suffer its only losing streak of the season.
Visiting South Coast League third-place finisher Capistrano Valley scored a run in the top of the seventh inning to rally and stun the third-seeded Falcons, 3-2, at Stengel Field in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs Friday afternoon.
The defeat was the second straight for Falcons, who were no-hit May 12 by archrival Arcadia, 6-0, in the season finale.
Prior to those two losses, Crescenta Valley enjoyed a 23-game winning streak from March 8-May 5 in which the Falcons wrapped up a second straight Pacific League title. Crescenta Valley finished with a 25-3 record in a season coach Phil Torres believes won't be defined by a tight first-round loss.
"One afternoon doesn't change a wonderful season," said Torres, whose program has been eliminated in each of the last two first rounds following runs to the CIF quarterfinals and semifinals in 2014 and 2015. "Their [pitcher] did a great job. We had a chance to put four, five runs in that first inning and we didn't run the bases well and it caught up to us."
With the game tied at 2 heading to the seventh, Torres replaced ace Trevor Beer with Drew Atherton.
Beer allowed two runs on three hits in six innings with five strikeouts and two walks, but was pulled as his 107-pitch count was three pitches short of the CIF Southern Section limit of 110 pitches per game.
Capistrano Valley's Danilo Tiotuico (two for three with two runs) started the seventh with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and then moved to third with one out on a wild pitch.
Atherton responded by coaxing a comebacker that held Tiotuico at third for the second out.
The Falcons reliever then induced a grounder from Ryan Daugherty that was kicked in the infield and allowed Tiotuico to score the game-winner. The error was the third for the Falcons, while Capistrano Valley (17-15) committed no gaffes.
Atherton recorded another infield out to finish off the inning, but the Cougars took a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, Crescenta Valley catcher Kewin Ledesma led off with a single, but a follow-up sacrifice bunt attempt from Will Grimm was denied on a brilliant diving catch by Cougars third baseman Bryce Willits.
Ledesma never advanced into scoring position as the Falcons hit back-to-back infield outs to end the contest.
"For us, we've played in Division I for the last 20 years and we were the only team in the Division II playoffs that plays in a Division I league," Capistrano Valley Coach Robert Zamora said. "We've been in so many tooth-and-nail games that we're tested. I'm not surprised we won because this game has been like so many we've had."
Crescenta Valley stranded eight runners and perhaps missed a chance to deliver a knockout blow.
Five of Crescenta Valley's first six batters reached base versus Cougars starting pitcher Daugherty, with Beer scoring Grimm on a single and Max Meyer driving home Nico Arredondo with another single for a 2-0 lead.
The Falcons had the bases loaded with one out when Daugherty recovered and struck out Crescenta Valley's next two batters to escape the jam.
Daugherty allowed two runs on 10 hits with three strikeouts and three wild pitches over seven innings.
Daugherty ran into trouble in the third when Jaimy Blank and Meyer singled with one out to put runners on the corners. The Cougars pitcher finished the inning unscathed, though, as Blank was thrown out trying to score on a wild pitch, which was followed by a strikeout.
Capistrano Valley tied the game in the fifth on a run-scoring single from Daugherty followed by a scoring groundout from Willits. Initially, Willits dropped a squeeze bunt that scored Riley Kasper.
After Torres argued the call, the umpires reversed the decision, stating that the bunt was foul. Five pitches later, Willits connected on the grounder.
"It was a battle, that's all it really was," said Ledesma, who finished two for four with a double. "We wanted it and they wanted it. It's not a matter of who wanted it more. We just didn't come out with the win."