GLENDALE — A pitching duel that could have very easily thrown the Pacific League standings into flux changed in just one-half inning.
The Crescenta Valley High baseball team took advantage of some bumpy pitching from visiting Hoover and delivered the game’s lone offensive outburst with a six-run fourth inning that led to a 6-0 victory at Stengel Field on Friday evening.
The triumph kept the Falcons (12-7, 5-1) in the upper half of the league standings, as Crescenta Valley is tied for second with archrival Arcadia (11-7, 5-1) heading into arguably the biggest week of the year.
The Falcons will travel to both league-leading Pasadena (14-3-1, 6-0), on Tuesday, and Arcadia, on Friday, over the next seven days.
As for Hoover, the Tornadoes (9-7, 2-4) find themselves in a four-team jumble for fourth place.
“It was really frustrating those first three innings with all those fly balls,” Falcons Coach Phil Torres said. “You’d never know we’d worked on our approach at the plate in those first three innings, but we got on top of some pitches and had some quality at-bats in the fourth.”
Until the bottom of the fourth inning, Hoover junior pitcher Fidel Hernandez (1-1) was stout in what was a scoreless game.
The right-hander had scattered two hits and held the Falcons 0 for three with runners in scoring position.
Unfortunately for the Tornadoes, Hernandez began to lose his control and plunked the first two batters of the fourth before a bunt single from Joe Torres loaded the bags with no outs.
Falcons pitcher Jimmy Smiley then helped his own cause with a run-scoring single to center that plated Austin Brines and broke the scoreless stalemate.
The single was one of three run-scoring hits for Crescenta Valley, which included a single from Bryan Wang that plated a run and a subsequent double from Adrian Damla that knocked in Wang.
“It was a big relief to have that inning because we have to win this game,” Damla said. “If we don’t win this, we probably don’t win league, so we had to have it.”
Crescenta Valley scored two more runs on wild pitches before a sacrifice fly from Kewin Ledesma capped the offense for the Falcons, who plated six in the fourth.
“As far as the inning goes, I’ll take the blame for that,” Hoover skipper Brian Esquival said. “We left Fidel in there an inning too long. He hadn’t thrown too many innings this year.
“He’s our closer. I thought we’d give him a start and it looked like he just got tired.”
Hernandez was opposed by Smiley, who picked up the win after tossing 65 pitches through five innings and allowing no runs on two hits with four strikeouts and a walk along with a hit batter.
“I’d like to say I had a great game, but I was a little off,” Smiley said. “I kept on getting double plays and some big plays from my defense that really helped me out.”
Other than the fourth, perhaps the game’s next biggest inning was the top of the first.
Hernandez, also Hoover’s leadoff batter, ripped the game’s first offering into the right-center gap. The ball, though, was tracked down by center fielder Wang, who secured an over-the-shoulder catch.
The out proved big for both sides, as Pierce Velazquez singled and Smiley followed by hitting John Paul Gallegos to put two on with one out.
Fortunately for Smiley, the junior coaxed an inning-ending 5-3 double play to escape the jam.
“I definitely think the game would have been different if Fidel gets a double or triple,” Esquival said. “If we score a run in that first, who knows what happens.”
While Hoover only collected two hits, the Tornadoes still banged into three double plays.
Crescenta Valley relievers Torres and Brian Gadsby both pitched an inning of scoreless relief.
Outside of the fourth inning, Crescenta Valley batters were two for 17.
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.