LAKE FOREST — In many ways, this season was supposed to be one of renovation for the Crescenta Valley High baseball team.
But right along with the rebuilding came another successful campaign.
With a slew of significant graduations last year and an 0-3 start to this season, the end result for the Falcons was likely one not many would have predicted.
It was an aspect not lost on Crescenta Valley Coach Phil Torres on Tuesday, despite the somber mood following the Falcons’ season-ending 6-2 loss to the host El Toro Chargers on a windy afternoon at El Toro High in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.
“It’s hard to think that way after a loss like this,” said Torres, whose team won the program’s seventh straight Pacific League title and finished the year 20-6. “But, I think at the beginning of the year, if you told us we’d be 20-6, we would’ve been real happy with it.”
On Tuesday, the game’s turning point came early, as El Toro starter Chad Thompson set the tone in the top of the first and the Chargers (22-7) exploded for four runs in the bottom of the inning.
“They’re everything as advertised,” said Torres of El Toro, the Sea View League champion. “Good pitcher and their shortstop played his butt off.”
Shortstop Nolan Arenado made no less than three mesmerizing plays in the game, while also scoring the second run of the first inning.
The 4-0 start — which came via three singles, two of the infield variety, a double, an error and a sacrifice fly — certainly bolstered Thompson.
“When you’re able to get up early on a very good Crescenta Valley team, that’s gonna help the pitcher’s confidence,” El Toro Coach Mike Gonzales said.
Thompson (10-3) held the Falcons to just six hits, struck out seven, walked none and retired the final nine Falcons of the game in order.
His biggest bout with adversity came in the third, when Joe Sedano, Travis Feldman and Sean Carroll began the inning with singles to load the bases. Thompson retired the next two batters on just six pitches, though.
It set the stage for a dramatic duel with No. 9 hitter Zack Torres. Torres drew a full count before fouling off four straight pitches. The second dropped just foul of the left-field line. But on the 10th pitch of the at bat, Torres roped a shot to right-center field that scored Sedano and Feldman, making it 5-2.
“Every pitcher, every game has that one inning,” Gonzales said. “That very easily could’ve been four or five or six or who knows how many runs.”
After the second, Thompson and counterpart Kyle Pomeroy took control.
“After the runs early, everybody kind of settled into a pitchers’ duel,” Gonzales said.
Pomeroy, a freshman, had a rough start to the game, giving up four of the eight hits he would relinquish in the first inning, but recovered thereafter.
“Kyle pitched really well,” Torres said.
He retired 10 in a row until giving up a pair of two-out hits in the fifth that scored the game’s last run and ended his day. Pomeroy pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits, no walks and striking out two.
Sean Elliott came on in relief, striking out two and allowing no hits in 1 1/3 innings. It concluded a spectacular season in which Elliott didn’t give up an earned run.
Leadoff singles by Kris Kauppila and Nathan Honda in the third and fifth innings, respectively, were all the noise made by the Falcons offense after the second.
The game concluded a stellar career for Kauppila, who was an All-Pacific League and All-Area selection the last two years and an All-CIF pick last season.
Kauppila, along with Feldman, the staff ace, Honda and Carroll, are starters who will graduate, leaving a void, but still a lot of promise with the majority of the team returning.
“People thought we were gonna have our butts handed to us [this year], so the kids did a great job,” Torres said. “That’s the 12th graders coming every day and doing a great job.
“They can still come back here and see that [Pacific League title] patch.”