Canyons Falters in Mohney’s Debut
After his Canyons team lost, 5-4, at Cerritos College on Saturday afternoon, Len Mohney picked up a couple of baseballs and gently dropped them into an equipment bag. He took off his cap, wiped a few beads of sweat from his forehead and checked the visitors’ dugout to make sure his players hadn’t left anything behind. He was cool. He was calm. He even managed a smile.
What was wrong with the picture? For one, Mohney wasn’t throwing batting helmets against the fence or slamming baseballs into the ground. He wasn’t chewing out players or taking cracks at the opposition. And it seemed odd because he’s the coach of the defending state champion--the team that lost its season opener because of a few playground mistakes and Falcon catcher Graig Wilson’s home run, his second of the game, in the bottom of the sixth inning.
With 10 state championships between them, Cerritos (7) and Canyons (3) have an intense rivalry--so intense that freshmen players go into the first game despising the opposition only because they’re playing the other best team in California JC baseball.
Mohney had a lot to prove. He inherited from Mike Gillespie, now the coach at USC, one of California’s best programs. He loaded his bus with some of the area’s best talent, traveled to Cerritos and put one of the state’s best pitchers, Fred Riscen, on the mound.
So, couldn’t he be excused if he let a few bats fly before heading home?
“Hey, I’m happy,” he said. “I’m not going to go home and kick the dog.”
If there was any high-pitched yelping coming from the Mohney household on Saturday night, it may have been the result of Mohney kicking himself.
“I was worried about some things, like defense, when we came down here,” Mohney said. “But the defense played great. I think what happened was that I didn’t prepare the team enough for this game.”
Or was it that his team hadn’t prepared Mohney for what they would do--lose a two-run lead . . . twice? Or was it Riscen? He led the state in strikeouts (157) last season but had just two on Saturday.
“It was my fault,” said Riscen, who gave up a game-winning home run and six hits. “We lost because of my breakdowns.”
Canyons went ahead, 2-0, in the top of the second when catcher Mike Bible tripled, scoring designated hitter Gary Ray who had walked. Bible then scored on Joe Pieper’s ground ball. The left-handed Riscen’s first breakdown occurred in Cerritos’ half of the inning when he threw a high fastball to Wilson, who tied the score with a two-run homer.
“You really can’t do anything about a guy who hits home runs,” Mohney said.
“I threw it too high,” Riscen said. Wilson’s homer scored Brian Hunter who had doubled against Riscen two batters before.
Bible put his team ahead--again--in the fourth, with a two-run homer off Falcon starter Tim Lockhart. Bible’s blast gave the Cougars and Riscen a reasonably comfortable 4-2 lead.
But what happened next might end up in your neighborhood video store, labeled “The Keystone Cougars.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Todd Guggiano swung at a third strike but was safe at first when catcher Bible couldn’t handle the ball. Then came Riscen breakdown No. 2. While trying to keep Guggiano on first with pickoff attempts, Riscen overthrew first baseman Mark Gieseke and Guggiano scampered to third. Jose Millares drove in Guggiano on a sacrifice fly.
Riscen then got leadoff hitter Bret Barberie on a fly ball, but with two out and the bases empty Darnell Sherman, a freshman from Lynwood High, legged out an infield single. While trying to keep the speedy Sherman close to the bag, Riscen threw away another ball and Sherman was at third faster than you could say “tying run.”
Brian Breback came to the plate, Riscen threw a wild pitch and Sherman scored. In the bottom of the sixth and the score tied, 4-4, Wilson doubled his home-run production of last season when he drove a high Riscen curveball over the fence. At the start of the season, that was the end of the story.
CANYONS--Riscen and Bible.
CERRITOS--Lockhart and Wilson.
WP--Lockhart (1-0); LP--Riscen (0-1).
2B: Canyons--Hokanson; Cerritos--Hunter, Benjamin. 3B: Canyons--Bible. HR: Canyons--Bible (1); Cerritos--Wilson (2).