You've gotta have heart. And a strong back.
Jordan Olson had both for Crescenta Valley High during a 3-0 victory over Yucaipa in a Southern Section Division I baseball semifinal Tuesday at Blair Field.
Olson kept lower back spasms and the Thunderbirds at bay, pitching the Falcons (24-3-1) into their first championship game.
Crescenta Valley plays defending champion Esperanza (21-7-1) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
Olson, who clutched his back several times during the game and had problems fielding, allowed five hits and struck out six batters in 5 1/3 innings.
He worked his way out of trouble spots in the third and fifth innings, ending a Yucaipa rally in the fifth inning on a nice cover play at first base on a grounder to second by Mark Teahen.
"It's unexplainable," Olson said. "I just tried to hit location even though I didn't have the pop I usually do."
Olson (10-1) was replaced by Josh Herman with one out in the top of the sixth inning and runners at first and second.
Herman got Nick Oldenorf to ground into a double play to end the inning.
"That's stuff we've been working on all year--defense, covering bases, turning double plays," said Crescenta Valley Coach Phil Torres, whose team is aiming to become the region's first Division I champion since Hoover in 1975.
Yucaipa (19-11) ran into problems far before the first pitch.
The Yucaipa team bus got a flat tire en route to the game, stranding players and coaches for an hour at a pizza joint in Diamond Bar.
The news only got worse when Yucaipa finally reached its destination: center fielder Ryan Carpenter, a .400 hitter with seven home runs, was unable to suit up because of a migraine headache.
"It was kind of devastating having a kid like that not play for us," Yucaipa Coach Jeff Stout said.
Crescenta Valley had better success getting past its health concerns.
Olson, who initially suffered back problems in a second-round victory over Royal, stayed strong throughout the game.
"Any time he moved side to side, he was hurting," Torres said. "But he kept waving me off."
Yucaipa pitcher Johnny Torres, like Olson a lefty with a strong curveball, also entered with a 9-1 record.
The similarities ended in the first inning.
Just two batters into the game, Yucaipa pitching Coach Andy Calbreath took a trip to the mound to calm Torres, who allowed consecutive singles to Mark McCauley and Chris Oliver.
McCauley and Oliver each scored during the three-run first inning.
McCauley scored the first run on a wild pitch by Torres. Oliver scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan McKnight.
"Our three runs in the first inning was obviously enough," McCauley said. "Our pitching and defense did the rest."
Torres gave way in the fifth inning to 6-foot-6 right-hander Tom Carroll, who allowed only one Crescenta Valley hit in the final three innings.