Whether it was under the Friday night lights of autumn or in the center of a Stengel Field spotlight in the spring, Brian Gadsby’s right arm was a constant.
It delivered constant success to Crescenta Valley. It bestowed upon the Falcons constant highlights. It earned him a constant stream of accolades throughout a simply stupendous junior year.
Whether on the football field or the baseball diamond, Brian Gadsby — armed with underrated athleticism, a cool and calm demeanor, a love for the game and a right arm rife with brilliance — became a star as a junior at Crescenta Valley High and, in the process, put together a year worthy of being voted the 2013-14 James H. Jenkins Glendale News-Press Male Athlete of the Year.
Riding a sophomore call-up in which he went 2-0 as a starter, Gadsby took the reins of the traditionally prolific Crescenta Valley offense in the fall and led the Falcons to an 8-2 season with plenty of big numbers and bigger drama, such as a pair of nailbiting wins over San Marino and Burbank. Gadsby, an All-Area and All-Pacific League first-teamer, threw for better than 2,400 yards and tallied 35 total touchdowns — all in 10 games. Impressive as the numbers were in 10 games, that’s where the Falcons’ season bitterly ended, as they finished in a three-way tie for second place and on the outside of a playoff tiebreaker formula that left them at home for the postseason.
Outstanding as Gadsby has been on the gridiron, it’s within baseball that he’s always felt most at home and after a breakthrough sophomore campaign, he truly shined as a junior while the Falcons embarked on a historically successful campaign.
For the season, Gadsby would turn in a 9-2 record, add on a couple saves, tally a 0.82 earned-run average, strike out 104 batters in 93-plus innings and issue just 21 walks. Along the way to those terrific numbers, the Falcons won a third consecutive Pacific League crown, won their first postseason game since 2009, advanced past the first round for the first time since 2008 and climbed all the way to the CIF Southern Section Division II quarterfinals for the first time since 2007.
All that history came with Gadsby on the mound. In a run for the ages that will no doubt loom large in Falcons baseball lore, the Crescenta Valley twirler threw 21 straight innings, beginning with a 1-0 win over Arcadia to clinch an outright league title, continuing with a 6-1 first-round playoff win over Damien and prized pitched Grant Hockin and culminating under the sweltering sun at Redlands East Valley when Gadsby tossed his third straight complete game in a 7-2 second-round playoff victory. Three games, three victories, three combined runs allowed in all of 21 innings.
He was the Pacific League co-Player of the Year, an All-CIF first-team pick and the All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
Gadsby committed to UCLA shortly after his season for the record books, played some more baseball and then some more, aiding mightily in the San Gabriel Valley All-Stars’ ascent to the Babe Ruth World Series. But as the summer months plodded along, Gadsby stayed on the mound as the Falcons on the football field practiced along, undecided as to whether he would return to play in the fall.
To the joy of many of the Falcon faithful, Gadsby decided to don a pair of shoulder pads for his senior season. Will the 2014-15 year be able to match or even supersede all the highlights and numbers put forth in 2013-14? Only time will tell, of course. But Glendale News-Press sports editor Grant Gordon recently sat down with Gadsby to discuss the phenomenal year that was.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
Grant Gordon: Looking back on the season you had, all encompassing: football, what you guys did, baseball, what you guys did, did you, going in, expect to do that well? How do you look back on it and have you actually had the chance to look back on what this year was?
Brian Gadsby: Well, football-wise, I honestly, I didn’t think that our year was gonna be as good. But that’s more of people telling us that you’re not gonna have a good season. ‘Your team is small; you’re a lot of young guys. Yeah, you have a couple veterans, but it’s mostly young guys.’ So, I was thinking, football-wise, it’s not gonna be a very successful season just because of what people are telling us and buying into them. Baseball-wise, we have always had a good baseball team — two [Pacific League] championships in a row. We lost some big guys, but we knew we still had a couple big guys. Even our young guys, for baseball, it’s a little different, it’s not as aggressive, [there’s not as much] contact. So, you don’t really need to be big and strong to hit some senior that weighs 300 pounds when you’re a little freshman. It’s a lot easier. Football-wise it was a little surprising and it was also more surprising that we didn’t make the playoffs. But baseball-wise, I don’t think it was too surprising to us. Maybe to fans, parents, other teams, but to us, not at all.
GG: Starting with the football season, you guys being 8-2, what was the goal at the start of the season? Like you said, I think that was a surprise to a lot of people.
BG: Football-wise, like I said, we didn’t have a big team. I was one of our tallest guys. We had a couple big guys, but not many. So we think, look at the teams we’re gonna play. We started off first game — good win. Second game — good win against San Marino, we won by three. Third game — good win against La Cañada. Fourth game — good win. We’re like, all right, 4-0. Then we get a tough loss against Burroughs and we were like it’s all right we at least competed, we had the lead for almost three and a half quarters. Then we played Burbank, beat them in overtime, and we were like, ‘OK, we can do this.’ We just kept winning. …Going in we weren’t expecting this, but it was fun. It was fun being along on the ride.
GG: When the whole how offense is clicking like it did in a few of those games when you’re throwing for five or six touchdowns, how much fun is it to run that offense?
BG: We had so many talented guys — yeah, they were young, but we had so many talented guys. Offensive line gave me good time to throw, so you know, when our offense is clicking, you can feel it. I feel like seven out of the 10 games, at least, it was clicking. When we’re clicking, everyone else knows we’re clicking. The defense knows we’re clicking and that’s when they know they’re in trouble. We like to have a little fun and that’s when [offensive coordinator Hudson Gossard] likes to have a little fun, too, and call some different plays and mix it up.
GG: Talking to you over the last couple of years, you seem to have a very good memory of particular games. But when you look back, is it a big win that resonates most with you or is it the losses you remember more?
BG: There’s three losses that I remember most. Yeah, there’s the Burbank and the San Marino wins that I also remember, but three losses that I will never forget: freshman year against Burbank, this [past] year against Burroughs and this [past] year against Muir. Just cause freshman year against Burbank, we knew that they had a very good team; they ended up going undefeated. And we were so close to beating them, down by four with around two minutes left and we were driving and driving and driving and just came up short. And I got hit, blindside hit, fumbled and they picked it up, jumped on it and that’s game. And then this year [against Burroughs], it’s 17-0, after three and a half quarters and blowing that lead, not being able to score, throwing two interceptions. I remember missing Jordan Lobianco on a streak that probably would’ve ended the game. I can remember all the details. And then Muir. We win that game and I believe we win league or share league. That crushed us, too. Personally, I remember the losses more than the big wins.
GG: Do you remember where you were, what it was like, when you guys found out you weren’t going to the playoffs?
BG: I remember I was at my friend Matt Erickson’s house. … There was like six of us. I get a text saying we didn’t make it, we just came up short. I remember reading it and I was like, I’ve got some news guys, our season’s done. I remember everyone flipping out, like are you kidding me? What? How could they do this? I remember parents saying, we gotta change this, we gotta start talking to the [CIF] committee that picked this. … There’s nothing we could’ve done.
GG: Moving on to baseball, obviously, Teddy [Boeke] moved on, so I think the spotlight everybody knew was going to fall on you and Michael Russo. Is that something you were aware of going into the season and how did you deal with it?
BG: We had a lot of guys that we knew the spotlight was going to fall on. I knew I was going to have a key role in the pitching department. But we had Bryan Wang, we had Austin Brines, Michael Russo, even Joe [Torres], Nick [Diaz]. We had a lot of seniors that were coming back, even some juniors that were coming back. I knew that with the pitching, I was going to be one of the big pitchers and gonna have to get us a lot of wins, try to help us get far and win the third [straight Pacific League] title and get out of the first round of the playoffs.
GG: That said, was there something going in that with how well you did in your junior year that you knew you were going to be the guy that when teams from out of this area or even in the Pacific League looked at the schedule, they said: Crescenta Valley, Brian Gadsby. Is that something you think of?
BG: It’s not something I really think of, but it’s something I hope. I hope teams look at our team and go, ‘Wow, we’re gonna have to play them.’ I don’t believe a lot of teams look at us like, ‘Oh, Crescenta Valley, we don’t want to play them,’ I feel like they think, ‘Oh, it’s only Crescenta Valley.’ They don’t really know us until they play us and they go, ‘Wow, OK, never mind, this is a little bit better team than we thought’ and we end up beating them. I want them to think that, I want them to think Crescenta Valley’s gonna be a tough team, I want them to think, ‘Oh, I hope we don’t have to face Brian.’ I think that’s just incentive and I guess motivation to pitch better.
GG: After that loss to Pasadena to open up Pacific League, what was the team’s mindset and did that change anything?
BG: It brought the team down. Everybody was thinking, ’14-0, 14-0.’ And we lose, 3-0, without them hitting the ball into the outfield. It was all bunts and infield base hits. It’s like, what just happened? After the game, we were like OK, we can’t lose, we have to go 13-1, 13-1. Everyone grouped together and was like, all right we got to buy in. After the game, Bryan Wang and some of the other seniors grouped everyone in the locker room and said we gotta talk, we gotta get everyone more focused. We gotta get everybody to pay attention because there were some guys who didn’t play much who were on the bench just messing around; they didn’t care if we won, lost or tied. They didn’t care. So Bryan Wang grouped us and said we gotta figure it out, we’re not losing another game and we ended up not losing a game until the Valencia Placentia game [in the CIF quarterfinals].
GG: What’s your mindset when you know you’re getting the start? Are you different that day from any other day, I think most pitchers are.
BG: Most pitchers are. I’m not too different. I’m just trying, whether I’m starting or not, to go through the same routines, I mean a game’s a game. Just try to go through the same routines and do the same stuff as any other day. But once I know I’ve got the start, I get a little more focused. It’s harder for me to focus during school, just cause I’m thinking about the game. Sometimes I let my teachers know, like during the playoff games, the day before the playoff game, I knew I was going to start, so I was at school saying tomorrow there’s a big playoff game, no disrespect to you or anybody else, but if I’m not as focused, it’s because I’m so focused on this playoff game. My teachers were like, ‘You’re not telling this just to me are you?’ I said no, I’m telling everybody, I’m just giving you a heads-up. So they were like, ‘OK, I can respect that.’ We ended up winning. Next game around, I said the same thing. The only difference is I probably don’t focus as much in the classroom, but I still get my classwork done.
GG: But your grades still held up?
BG: I got a 3.5 [grade-point average], so we’re OK.
GG: Going to the playoffs, how well aware were you guys of the previous seasons’ struggles? Was that added pressure and did that motivate you guys?
BG: We didn’t know how long it had been since we’d won. We knew that it had been two or three years in a row [at least] where we went one-and-done. Win league, we’re done. And it’s like, no, we won league, we’re supposed to keep going, what’s going on? As a team, we were like, this isn’t happening, we’re not one-and-done this time. Yeah, we’re facing a good Damien guy, he’s going to UCLA, throwing 90-something miles an hour. Who cares? He’s a guy. Everyone else here is also a guy. He does everything else a regular guy does. He lives, he breathes the same air we do. He’s beatable. All you gotta do is time the fastball and you’re on it. It’s just going straight. We didn’t know going in, how long it had been. We knew it’s been a couple years. … It’s been long enough, it’s time to move on.
GG: Looking back, starting with the Arcadia game to get the league title outright and then the two playoffs games; you threw three complete games, three wins, they were all historic. Did you look at those like any other game? While all that was going on did you ever stop and think, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool what I’m able to do?’
BG: I went one game at a time. Arcadia game, all right this is a big game, honored to get the start. We win 1-0, good defense behind me, we got one run in the first inning and that’s all we ended up needing. Now we got playoffs, who are we gonna play? We got Damien. [Coach Torres] said, ‘You’re our guy.’ I said, ‘I hope so.’ He said get after it. … I got that start, won that game and after that we figured out we were playing Redlands East Valley. I think it was Friday and then Saturday came along. [Coach Torres asked] ‘How you feeling?’ I said feeling fine. He said, ‘I hope so because you’ve got the next one.’ I said I hope so, fine with me. By the third game, my arm, it wasn’t hurting, it wasn’t soar, it was just a little tired. I wasn’t throwing as hard, but with the guys behind me and the guys kept swinging it, two runs in the first inning was OK. After that, it was like three games in a row, I’m honored.
GG: Is there any one particular game or moment that stands out as the highlight of the whole year?
BG: The highlight I would have to say was Arcadia or Damien. Those are two big games, good teams. We won a league championship with one of them, we beat a good team who was just supposed to kill us and we were huge underdogs even though we were the home team. After those two wins we were feeling pretty great. The Arcadia win was the day before my birthday, so it was a good birthday present getting a 1-0 victory.
GG: So, encapsulating this whole year: You won a league championship in baseball, had a historic run to the quarters, had a phenomenal football season, went 8-2, you committed to UCLA. Did you ever see this last school year being as good as it was for you?
BG: Not even close. I think of myself as I’m just another high school athlete, just another student-athlete in high school trying to do something out of high school and move on. Going into the season I’m thinking let’s hopefully just have a better season than last year. … Luckily this year, with the team behind me [I went] 9-2 and a historic run to the quarterfinals. Football-wise, good defense to help us, good offensive guys, good offensive line to help us and help me stay protected and be able to do what I needed to do and receivers catching every pass I threw basically. They’re the reason why we went as far as we did.
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.