Crescenta Valley travels south for quarterfinal showdown with Valencia

Crescenta Valley High's baseball team's playoff journey has already taken it into largely foreign territory, so what's another long bus ride?

The Falcons, who have advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division II quarterfinals for the first time since 2007, are making the trek south to face Placentia Valencia at 4:15 p.m. Friday for a berth in the semifinals.

"I know they got a lot of wins, I know they're well-coached; Joe [Secoda] does a great job," Falcons Coach Phil Torres said of what he knows about Valencia, which took third in the Empire League. "They're Orange Country kids, they're baseball rats and they beat a really good Vista Murrieta team.

"It's a really good league and they got hot."

Valencia (26-6) has won six in a row, including a 4-3 victory Tuesday at home against Vista Murrieta.

"The kids just started believing a little bit and we had some breaks go our way," said Secoda of his team's run, which has outlasted any other team from the Empire League. "We didn't think we'd make it this far, but we're here and we're in it."

The Tigers are also 15-1 at home.

"They've got a great home record, which most good teams do," said Torres, whose team is 9-0-1 on the road.

In addition to a long trip south to Orange County three days after a long ride to Redlands, the Falcons have final exams on Friday morning.

"We'll take them, get some lunch and go," Torres said.

Strong defense and clutch offense have keyed the Falcons (21-7-1) in a first-round win over Damien, 6-1, and a second-round triumph on the road against Redlands East Valley, 7-2. But, junior right-hander Brian Gadsby has been phenomenal in leading Crescenta Valley on the mound. Over the last three games, starting with a 1-0 win over Arcadia to clinch an outright Pacific League title, Gadsby has gone the distance for three straight wins, allowing just two earned runs in 21 innings.

But, with Gadsby allotted three innings for the remainder of the week, it's likely senior Tanner Carrico or senior Jimmy Smiley, who've both been dependable throughout the season, will get the call on the bump.

"It's been a long time since anybody else pitched," said Torres, who got a shutout from Carrico on May 13 against Hoover to assure the Falcons a share of the team's third straight league title. "But they've been throwing bullpens and they knew to be ready; we told them that their time would come.

"We've got Brian to close if we need him."

Secoda said his squad is in a similar situation after left-hander Matt Ruff went the distance for the Tigers against Vista Murrieta.

"At this time of the year, it's all hands on deck and you do whatever you can to survive. You just hope you have one more run than they do," Secoda said. "We had our guy the other day throw seven and we'll see where we go [Friday]."

Like Valencia, Crescenta Valley is the only Pacific League representative alive in the tournament and has been since its first-round win.

The opening-round victory was the first postseason win for the Falcons since 2009 and secured the program advancement to the second round for the first time since 2008.

"They're a perennial power. They go on to win their league every year it seems," said Secoda of Crescenta Valley, which he's coached against once before when he was skippering Tustin and defeated the Falcons, 7-4, in the opening round of the playoffs in 2012. "They're a well-coached team and they've had a lot of really good ballplayers come out of there."

Against REV, the bottom three batters in the order — senior third baseman Joe Torres, senior second baseman Nick Diaz and sophomore Ryan Lynch — combined for five of the team's nine hits and five of the team's seven runs. Throughout the season, the likes of senior right fielder Michael Russo (No. 3 in the order), senior center fielder Bryan Wang (leadoff) and freshman catcher Kewin Ledesma (clean-up) have keyed the offense.

"That was huge, they came through," said Phil Torres of the bottom of the order's production. "It's about time we get something from our big guys and they will [produce]."

Crescenta Valley has won eight straight and is 14-0-1 over its last 15 with its only non-win a 4-4 tie against Arcadia. Consequently, Valencia began its playoff run with a 19-1 wild-card win over Arcadia before a 7-3 victory against Beckman in the second round.

Despite the discrepancy in scores against Arcadia, Torres said he and his staff has talked about it with the team and doesn't see Valencia having any mental edge because of it. He also points out the game was closer than the score would indicate, a notion backed by Secoda.

"It looks like this was a lopsided game; it wasn't that way," Secoda said. "It was 5-1 and they had the bases loaded and their big guy up."

Awaiting the winner of Friday's matchup will be Temecula Valley (21-8), the Southwestern League's No. 3 seed, or Sea View League champion Dana Hills (26-7), the tournament No. 2 seed, in a semifinal game on Tuesday afternoon. Should Crescenta Valley advance, it would automatically be at home as Temecula Valley and Dana Hills have both already had two home games.

A trip to the semifinals for this current flock of history-making Falcons would be the first ascent that far since 1998, when Torres coached Crescenta Valley to a CIF Southern Section Division I title. But nobody's looking beyond Valencia.

Said Phil Torres: "There's no bad teams left."


Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.

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