ARCADIA — In another dramatic classic, as the Crescenta Valley High-Arcadia baseball rivalry has been accustomed to producing, the Falcons had chance after chance to knock the league champs off.
But nine stranded runners added up to a 6-4 Crescenta Valley loss Friday night at Arcadia, with the hosts clinching the Pacific League title all to themselves.
“This is the best team in league,” Falcons Coach Phil Torres said of Arcadia (21-4, 12-2 in league), which had clinched a share of the title on Tuesday and also mathematically eliminated the Falcons from contention, ending their league title streak at seven. “You can kick yourself all day long [about the stranded runners] ... but everyone had good at bats, we battled.”
Crescenta Valley (16-9, 9-5 in league) finished league in a tie for third place with Burbank, but lost a pregame coin flip and will enter next week’s CIF postseason as the league’s fourth seed.
On Friday, the Falcons loaded the bases in the first with Nate Rousey scoring on a Troy Mulcachey fielder’s choice and Elliott Surrey scoring on a Troy Prasertsit sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
The Falcons would continue to put runners on throughout the game, but driving them in was another story.
Arcadia answered with a run in its half of the first and tied the game on an unearned run in the second after a dropped third strike allowed a run to score.
Arcadia’s Tim Smoley homered to center field in the third for a 4-2 lead and chased Falcons starter Jake Lehne, who gave up three earned runs in two innings.
Falcons reliever Sean Elliott came on and gave up a run in the third and another on a solo home run by Garret Tuck in the fourth. He held the Apaches scoreless over the next two frames, though, and kept the Falcons within striking distance.
Meanwhile, Arcadia starter Bryce Rutherford, the league’s co-most valuable player last year, pitched into the sixth and battled through an abundance of trouble.
“That’s the best pitcher in the league and we made him work,” said Torres of Rutherford, who was touched for all seven Crescenta Valley hits and all five of the Falcons’ walks.
Before Tuck’s dinger, the Falcons had drawn within 5-3 in the fourth inning. Mulcahey and Prasertsit delivered back-to-back bloop doubles to shallow left field. An error put in play by Brandt Bowers moved Mulcahey across, but Prasertsit was tagged out in a collision at the plate.
The fourth was the first of four straight innings to end the game in which the Falcons stranded two runners.
The Falcons loaded the bases in the fifth with Rousey scoring on a wild pitch to make it 6-4.
In the sixth, Bowers and Edward Lee, who put together a masterful day in the field at third base, singled to start the inning, but a failed sacrifice bunt was the first of three straight outs to end the threat.
In the seventh, Joe Sedano walked to lead off the inning and Mulcahey strode to the plate. Mulcahey promptly pulled a towering blast to left field that lifted the Falcons fans to their feet and drifted foul. Mulcahey later flew out, but Will Thayer would later reach base when he was hit by a pitch. But he was simply the final Falcons runner stranded.
Still, Torres recognized his team’s tenacity in battling its way back into the thick of league after a disastrous start and is looking forward to his team’s CIF journey.
“These guys did a great job, because when we were 2-3 in league, they could’ve really tanked it off,” said Torres, whose team had its five-game winning streak snapped. “To go into the second half and play as hard as we did says something.
“We’re gonna get on a bus and go play somewhere on Tuesday.”