In turning in a 74-pitch masterpiece of a shutout to conclude the Pacific League baseball season, Crescenta Valley High junior pitcher Brian Gadsby left no doubt that the Falcons were the league’s best in 2014.
In addition, following the 1-0 win over Arcadia on May 16, Gadsby cemented his individual claim as the best in league and was subsequently voted Pacific League co-Player of the Year.
“He gave us a chance to win every time,” Crescenta Valley Coach Phil Torres said of Gadsby. “He beat Pasadena and he beat Arcadia when it was all on the line.
“That’s what a No. 1 does, he wins on the days you need him to and he even came in and closed some out.”
Perhaps the only real surprise was that Gadsby shared the honor, as Pasadena’s Frank Garriola was co-player of the year.
Hoover second-year skipper Brian Esquival was voted the Pacific League Coach of the Year after guiding the Tornadoes back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011, as Hoover went 12-13 on the season and finished in a three-way tie for fifth place with key wins against Burbank (twice) and Burroughs to build a 5-9 league record.
“It was great,” said Esquival of receiving the honor. “I think part of it, obviously, is the kids buying into everything and the kids doing their part.
“They had a good year and I was a recipient of it.”
In addition to Gadsby’s recognition, Crescenta Valley, after winning its third consecutive league title, had three first-team all-league selections in seniors Michael Russo, Bryan Wang and Joe Torres. Second-place Pasadena also had three first-team honorees, as did third-place Arcadia, while fourth-place Burroughs and Burbank, which tied for fifth, had one recipient each.
Glendale’s Thad Wilson and Hoover’s Fidel Hernandez earned second-team nods, as did Falcons seniors Austin Brines and Jimmy Smiley, along with freshman Kewin Ledesma.
Honorable mention notice went to Adrian Damla of Crescenta Valley, Conner Rodriguez of Glendale and Luis Zamora of Hoover.
Garriola shared the player of the year honor with Gadsby after posting some terrific numbers. On the mound, he was 6-3 with seven saves, a 1.06 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings with seven walks and seven saves. Offensively, he hit .443 (43 for 97) with 20 extra-base hits, including seven triples, 26 runs and 23 runs batted in.
En route to winning its third consecutive league crown, Crescenta Valley opened with a loss to Pasadena before a 12-0-1 slate thereafter.
“All together, we had a good season as a team, it was pretty productive for everyone,” Gadsby said. “Personally, for the Pacific League, it started out slow with the loss to Pasadena and we kind of carried that one and I said I wasn’t losing another Pacific League game after that because that would mean no three-peat.”
Gadsby’s numbers on the mound were simply outstanding. Upon season’s end, Gadsby’s record stood at 9-2 with two saves and a staggering 0.82 earned run average and 0.79 walks/hits per inning pitched. Over 93 2/3 innings, he struck out 104 batters to just 21 walks.
Russo, a senior bound for Cal State Northridge, proved to be one of the league’s most dangerous hitters, locking down the third spot in the Falcons’ order.
“Michael was the best offensive guy in the league,” Phil Torres said. “You know where he is in the lineup if you’re in the other dugout. He just smoked the ball.”
Russo led the Falcons with a .383 average (36 for 94), 20 runs, five home runs and two triples. In addition, he posted 20 RBI, seven doubles, seven stolen bases and 14 walks for a .468 on-base percentage.
“He had a great senior season,” Torres said. “He struggled a bit last year, but he came back and had a great senior year.”
At third base, Joe Torres turned in an excellent season anchoring the infield and was also a huge offensive lift at the bottom of the order.
“He kinda set the tone for our infield and he caught everything that was hit at him and he found a way to get on base,” said Phil Torres, Joe’s dad. “He had a really great senior year and the guys in the league recognized that. Joe had a good year and I think he had a senior year to be proud of.”
The senior hit .380 (27 for 71) with 12 runs, 10 RBI, 13 walks and a team-high .500 on-base percentage.
“Joe really gets it,” Phil Torres said. “He wore it right on his sleeve. That pride, tradition, honor that’s in the gym and all over school is really what Joe’s about.”
Wang concluded his long-tenured days as a Falcons starter patrolling center field and batting leadoff.
“Bryan’s just solid at the top of the order,” Torres said. “Stengel Field isn’t the easiest place to play center field and he did a good job out there. Bryan’s not a guy you worry about. He comes out and works hard.”
Turning in a perfect season in the outfield with a 1.000 fielding percentage, Wang also matched Russo for the team batting title with a .383 average to go along with 17 runs, 13 RBI, a .468 on-base percentage and a team-high nine stolen bases.
As for the Falcons’ second-teamers, they all turned in terrific statistical seasons, as well.
Just a freshman, Ledesma was crucial in locking down a top-notch pitching staff that included Gadsby, Smiley and Tanner Carrico. Just as notable were his efforts at the plate, hitting clean-up. He batted .320 (31 for 97) with a team-leading 22 RBI and eight doubles. In addition, he had 14 runs and six stolen bases.
Smiley was 5-2 with a 1.01 ERA through 41 2/3 innings of work, striking out 42 and walking but seven.
In addition to providing leadership on the team, Brines was a steady offensive contributor, usually playing designated hitter. Hitting fifth in the order, Brines batted .337 (30 for 89) with 12 RBI, 10 runs, a .422 on-base percentage and six stolen bases in six attempts.
Damla hit .293 for the Falcons while playing excellent defense at first base. He also tallied 18 runs, a team-high 20 walks and a .442 on-base percentage.
For Glendale, which also had a huge season in terms of improvement, finishing tied for fifth in league at 5-9, sweeping rival Hoover, upsetting Burroughs and going 8-16-1 after a 2013 three-win campaign with just two league victories.
Wilson, a junior, provided his team’s biggest offensive highlights, leading the Nitros with a .412 batting average (28 for 68) with nine runs, five runs batted in, a team-high 11 walks and team-best nine stolen bases.
Rodriguez had a solid freshman debut, hitting .308 (20 for 65) with 14 runs and a .408 on-base percentage.
Hernandez posted phenomenal numbers as he very much carried the Tornadoes’ offense throughout the season and, in Esquival’s eyes, was very much first-team worthy though he was relegated to the second team.
Hernandez hit .451 (32 for 71) with 21 runs, 21 RBI, seven doubles, three triples and five home runs — all team highs.
“He was definitely a first-team guy,” Esquival said. “He put up some big-time numbers.”
Zamora was likely Hoover’s steadiest hand on the mound, posting a 4-3 record with a 3.00 ERA. He also drew 11 walks scored 15 runs on offense.
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.