YUCAIPA — Faced with the daunting assignment of taking on second-seeded Yucaipa, Crescenta Valley High’s baseball team was already a considerable underdog in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.
Add on the fact that the Falcons had traveled 340 miles round-trip for their wild-card game two days earlier and were faced with another lengthy road trip, which didn’t help matters. Couple it with the Falcons arriving late, which pushed the game-start time back 50 minutes because their bus broke down, and it only seemed to stack the deck even more.
To the Falcons’ credit, they threw everything they had at a bigger, stronger, faster Thunderbirds squad, but it simply wasn’t enough, as Crescenta Valley fell to host Yucaipa, 15-7.
“We haven’t seen anybody like that,” said Falcons Coach Phil Torres of the Thunderbirds, who are ranked eighth in the state by MaxPreps.com. “I dare you to find another high school team that hits like that.”
Yucaipa (26-2) — which is having its win protested by Crescenta Valley after an ejected player was later seen watching the game nearby — won its 10th straight game and ended Thursday averaging nearly 11 runs a contest.
“We’ve been swinging pretty strong bats all year long,” said Yucaipa Coach Jeff Stout, whose team pounded out 18 hits, including six for extra bases. “That’s been our forte.”
Crescenta Valley, which ended the year at 17-10, had four pitchers take the hill in the hopes of quelling Yucaipa, including Jake Lehne and Sean Elliott, who both pitched in Tuesday’s 5-4 win at Righetti.
“It’s tough, 24 hours rest and those two right-handers gave me all they had,” said Torres of Elliott, who tossed four innings for the win Tuesday, and Lehne, who threw three innings for the save. “ Those friggin’ guys hit.”
Crescenta Valley did its share offensively, as well.
Freshman shortstop Nate Rousey singled on the first pitch of the game, as the Falcons totaled eight hits to go with four walks.
Things started well enough for CV, as senior Joe Sedano reached base on catcher’s interference with one out later in the first. Troy Mulcahey’s single loaded the bases and a Troy Prasertsit sacrifice fly scored Rousey, giving the Falcons a 1-0 lead.
But the Thunderbirds answered emphatically.
They scored four runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back, scoring in every inning.
“And, that’s been us all year,” Stout said. “We’ve been able to answer the bell.”
Playing the role of the scrappy underdog, the Falcons kept biting back, but for the most part, they were chipping away with a run at a time, while the Thunderbirds’ might did far more.
Yucaipa exploded for five runs in the third, growing its lead to 10-2 and seemingly putting the ball game out of reach.
However, a single by Rousey and a walk by Sedano, who reached base three times, set the stage for Mulcahey. The freshman unleashed a three-run home run that soared over the center-field fence.
“I think the one surprise was the home run,” Stout said. “He would have hit that one [out] anywhere.”
But once again, the Thunderbirds, who had multi-hit games by seven players, answered, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Having already started late, the game took on a dreadful pace, as the top of the seventh was the only 1-2-3 inning. In addition to a plethora of mound visits, the game also had two lengthy delays.
Falcons third baseman Edward Lee took a bad-hop throw in the eye in the bottom of the third and was removed from the game.
Thunderbirds’ catcher Cody Neservey was ejected in the second inning for “showing up” the umpire. Subsequently, the Falcons played the game under protest when Neservey was later seen watching the game from the adjacent football stadium.
“There wasn’t any intent by us to cheat,” Stout said. “We’ve got a pretty good ball club and I would hate to see anything like that ruin it.”
In addition to Rousey, Mulcahey and Prasertsit, Brandt Bowers also had two hits and scored twice.
Bowers, Zack Torres, whose year will continue Saturday at the CIF track finals, Elliott, Lehne, Matt Ashby and Sedano are among the crop of seniors departing.
But the Falcons also have the core of Rousey, Mulcahey, Prasertsit and Elliott Surrey, who started on the hill Thursday, returning after stellar freshman years.
“We came out here and scored seven runs and made them uncomfortable,” Phil Torres said. “The kids did a great job. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to.”