GLENDALE — With three outs separating Brian Gadsby and the Crescenta Valley High baseball team from postseason triumph, things got a bit interesting for the Falcons.
Gadsby, having emerged unscathed from any sign of trouble for the previous six innings, allowed back-to-back singles and hit a batter to open the inning.
Alas, for the first time since 2008, the Falcons would not be denied passage into the second round as Gadsby buckled down to stop the threat and lead Crescenta Valley to a 6-1 win over Damien in the CIF Southern Section Division II first round Thursday night at Stengel Field.
“You gotta make the game exciting right? Give up some hits, hit a guy,” Gadsby joked before shaking his head. “It was an exciting game. That was a great pitcher; we faced a great team.”
Damien’s only run came in the sixth on a groundout to third.
The run broke a string of five straight shutouts for the Falcons (20-7-1), but, more importantly, the win broke a streak of five consecutive playoff losses.
With the victory over Damien (17-10), a third-place squad out of the Sierra League, Crescenta Valley won its first postseason game since 2009 and moved to the second round for the first time since 2008. On Tuesday, it will meet either Redlands East Valley or Los Osos, who play Friday.
“We went 0 and one the last two years. We weren’t doing that again,” said Gadsby, a junior. “It’s big.”
Gadsby outdueled UCLA commit Grant Hockin, as the Falcons chipped away with single runs in the second, third and fifth before a resounding three-run sixth keyed by a clutch one-out, two-run double from Adrian Damla.
“Honestly, all we were doing was trying to make contact,” said freshman catcher Kewin Ledesma, who was two for three with two runs, two runs batted in and a walk. “We knew he was one of the top pitchers, we just wanted to attack him.”
Hockin, a hard-throwing right-hander, allowed 10 hits, two walks and struck out seven in his complete game. Gadsby went the distance and allowed five hits, one run and two walks, while striking out six.
“He always comes through,” Ledesma said of Gadsby. “No matter what, he always does his thing. He struggled a bit, but he got out of it.”
Brett Klein, Damla and Ledesma notched two hits each for the Falcons. Damla and Ledesma had a double each for the only extra-base hits of the game, as Crescenta Valley began chipping away at Damien early.
Crescenta Valley, the three-time reigning Pacific League champion and the only team from the league still playing after Thursday, scratched ahead in the second.
Ledesma reached base on an error, moved to second on a bunt, then to third on a Klein single before Joe Torres beat out a double play with a head-first slide at first that allowed Ledesma to score and grab a 1-0 lead.
Gadsby gave up his first hit with two outs in the third on a single to right field in which the runner just beat out a Michael Russo throw from the outfield.
But Gadsby followed with an error on a pickoff attempt. With a runner on second, an infield single followed, only the lead runner tried to dart home when Damla, at first base, stumbled and wasn’t at the bag. Damla wasted no time in throwing home to Ledesma to snuff out the scoring chance.
“Not my best game,” Gadsby said of his pitching performance. “But all I had to do was get around the plate and my defense, as usual, was great. It really helps with your confidence to know your defense has your back 100%.”
Falcons sophomore Ryan Lynch upped the Crescenta Valley lead to 2-0 in the third when he led off with an infield single and scored on a Ledesma single to center.
Ledesma, who walked with two outs, scored in the fifth for a 3-0 lead thanks to a Klein single.
With all the momentum seemingly in the Falcons’ corner, Gadsby’s control waned a bit in the sixth, though.
He walked back-to-back batters with one out before allowing a single to load the bases.
Just as everything seemed to be changing in Damien’s favor, the sidearmer induced a first-pitch pop out to shortstop before striking out the final batter of the inning, pumping his fist and running to the dugout with a 3-0 lead still intact.
The swing carried into the bottom of the inning, as a Lynch walk was followed by an error to set up Damla’s full-count double to left-center field for a 5-0 lead. Then with two outs, Ledesma ripped a double down the third-base line to plate Damla.
With the seventh-inning trouble encountered by the Falcons, the sixth-inning surge proved vital, but the Falcons weren’t to be denied, as they improved to 13-0-1 over their last 14 games.
“We got the momentum,” Ledesma said. “And we’re just gonna keep it going and see how far we can get.”
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.