GLENDALE — Just before the season began, Crescenta Valley High baseball Coach Phil Torres proclaimed Pasadena as the favorite to win the Pacific League championship this season, even though his Falcons had won the previous two league titles.
Torres made the claim in due to the Bulldogs’ plethora of returners who he thought were primed to break out.
The Bulldogs took a big first step Tuesday night in staking their league claim.
Pasadena’s Niko Lopez tossed six strong innings and the Bulldogs took advantage of an uncharacteristically sloppy Falcons defense in a 3-0 victory at Stengel Field in the league opener for both teams.
It was the first time the Falcons were blanked in league since a 1-0 loss to Arcadia on April 20, 2012. Pasadena beat the Falcons, 5-4, on May 7 of that same year for its last win over Crescenta Valley prior to Tuesday.
“They’re the favorite,” Torres said. “Those kids have all played and they’re all back for their junior and senior year. Now we’re going to have to steal a game on the road some place and we’re going to have to beat them at their place.”
The Falcons (7-7) will meet the Bulldogs (9-3-1) on April 22 at Pasadena.
Torres’ squad will likely have to play better on defense should it hope to get some revenge against the Bulldogs.
Crescenta Valley committed four errors, including two crucial ones in the second inning that led to Pasadena’s three runs, all of which were unearned.
Pasadena’s Alex Baer started the inning with an infield single and went to second after Crescenta Valley pitcher Brian Gadsby had a throwing error to second base on Daniel Richman’s bunt attempt. With runners at first and second, Gadsby walked Andrew Lathouwers on five pitches.
With the bases loaded, the Falcons had an opportunity to turn a double play, but a grounder to short was bobbled by the shortstop, leading to two runs. Lathouwers ended up scoring on a wild pitch.
Pasadena finished with five hits, only one of which actually left the infield. Two of those hits were bunt singles and the other two were infield dribblers that the Falcons could not get to in time.
“Brian did a good job,” Torres said. “You never felt like they were on him, but they got bunts down and we didn’t. They picked up balls and threw around the diamond and we didn’t.
“They did a really good job. They got bunts down when they were supposed to. Their pitcher did a great job.”
Gadsby, who went the distance and allowed one earned run while striking out seven, took the blame for the loss.
“This game is on me,” he said. “It was me causing [the errors] to happen. They could’ve been avoided by me.”
The Bulldogs didn’t make a mistake behind their starting pitcher. Lopez tossed six innings, striking out five and walking three.
“You’re facing a pitcher like Gadsby, you just want to put the ball in play and make these guys play some defense,” Pasadena Coach Michael Parisi said. “The team that was going to win the game tonight was the team that was going to make the fewest mistakes and, fortunately, we made the fewest mistakes. That’s how I felt we won the game.”
An impressive defensive play in the first inning by the Bulldogs kept the game scoreless.
With runners on first and second and two outs, Crescenta Valley’s Austin Brines drilled a ball to left-center field. Teammate Adrian Damla, who was on second, raced around third on the hit and looked like he could score, but Pasadena left fielder Samuel Muthiah made a perfect throw to catcher Sergio Rey that beat Damla to the plate and resulted in the final out of the inning.
Of the other 20 outs that the Falcons recorded, seven were on strikeouts and nine were on flyouts.
“We hit the ball in the air with the wind blowing in,” Torres said. “We smoked a couple of balls, but the wind knocked it down.”
While Torres continued to praise Pasadena, the opposing coach tried to keep the win in perspective.
“It’s a big win, but it’s just the first game of league,” Parisi said. “There’s a long journey ahead. We’re just 1-0. That’s all it is. I’m very happy, but we have a long way to go.”