LA CAÑADA — A two-run, fifth-inning triple from La Cañada High junior infielder Alex Vaughn broke up what was a frustrating effort for the host Spartans, who benefited from the extra-base hit and some solid pitching in picking up a first Rio Hondo League victory this season, 2-1, versus upset-minded South Pasadena on Tuesday afternoon.
With the win, the Spartans improved to 4-4 overall and 1-1 in league and head into the spring break as they won’t return to Rio Hondo League action until an April 9 contest at Monrovia.
Yet, while La Cañada’s win broke a two-game slide, skipper Alex Valadez still felt there was much to be desired.
“Our pitching is definitely holding us in games,” said Valadez, whose team next faces Granada Hills Kennedy on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Chatsworth Tournament. “I think we just need to be a little more disciplined at the plate. We’re putting too many balls in the air and not taking advantage of our opportunities.”
The Spartans finished Tuesday two for 12 with runners in scoring position with two RBI, while eight baserunners were stranded.
Yet, those statistics may have been made moot when Vaughn ripped a 2-1 breaking ball from South Pasadena starting pitcher Noah Anselmo (two runs on seven hits over five innings with three strikeouts) down the first-base line.
By the time the ball was retrieved by right fielder Chris Logue and relayed into the infield, Vaughn had reached third base after plating teammates Michael Selsor and Matt Pasion.
“I was looking curveball,” Vaughn said. “I knew it was coming. As soon as I saw it I just put it down the right side.”
The game-winning hit came after pinch-hitter Selsor kicked off the inning with a slap single to left field, which was followed by a seven-pitch walk to Pasion.
While the Spartans failed to score on their first attempt with a runner in scoring position, Vaughn helped deliver the victory.
“We were just trying to hit the right pitch hard and it all just came together in that inning,” Selsor said. “We feel like we should have played better, but it’s always good to come out with a win.”
The fifth inning was perhaps a perfect representation of the Spartans’ fortunes Tuesday, as La Cañada eventually loaded the bases in the inning, but was unable to score additional offense.
Prior to the fifth, the Spartans placed at least one runner in scoring position in the first three innings, including on first and third with one out in the second, but never managed to deliver a big hit.
Fortunately for La Cañada, the Tigers (4-4, 0-2) had their own issues in also stranding eight runners, while finishing one for 11 with runners in scoring position with six strikeouts.
South Pasadena’s lone run came in the third inning when junior Nic Ha doubled, advanced to third on a flyball from Andrew Shults and scored on a two-out single from Hermes Ip.
“I thought we were a little tight at the plate,” South Pasadena first-year Coach Vince Fraga said. “Maybe we were going for big doubles instead of just trying to get hits. You have to give credit to La Cañada’s pitchers, too, because they made quality pitches.”
The run was one of the few blemishes for Spartans starting pitcher Travis Clark, who picked up a no-decision after allowing one run on four hits with six strikeouts and three walks through four innings of work.
Clark walked the first two batters of the fifth and was pulled for reliever George Steckbeck, who escaped the jam.
“I just let my defense work behind me,” said Steckbeck, who picked up the win after tossing three scoreless and hitless innings with three strikeouts. “We didn’t hit the ball that well, but we came around.”