All-Area Baseball Player of the Year: Gadsby’s greatness shines through once more

A lanky right-hander who was a buck-60 soaking wet, Brian Gadsby hardly ever looked intimidating when he stepped up onto the hill, his uniform hanging loose upon a thin frame.

But within that right arm seemed to be equal parts brilliance and fortitude.

And though it was that arm that was largely credited with producing one of the greatest success stories in area baseball history, it was just as much his intangibles that led him and the Crescenta Valley High baseball team to greatness during one of the most successful runs in area chronicle.

“I said it a couple times during the season: I hope everyone in the community realizes who’s pitching at Stengel [Field] tonight,” Crescenta Valley Coach Phil Torres says. “Those are pretty special performances and a pretty special career he put together.”

Over his last two seasons with the Falcons, Gadsby led Crescenta Valley to the CIF Southern Section Division II quarterfinals in 2014 for the first time since 2007 and then a step further to the semifinals this past season for the first time since 1998. Of the five postseason victories by the Falcons over the last two seasons, Gadsby had four of them on the mound.

“You put him out there and there’s a good 95% chance you’re gonna win the game. Doesn’t matter who the other eight guys are. That’s what I think’s made him so special,” says Glendale Coach Alan Eberhart of Gadsby, who also quarterbacked the Crescenta Valley football team to a CIF Southeast Division title in the fall of 2014. “You put him out there, whether it’s football or baseball, and he gets it done. He makes plays. This kid makes it happen.”

Indeed, if you needed a win in a big game, Gadsby proved to be clutch over and over.

And in the aftermath of a senior season in which he was an All-Pacific League, All-CIF and all-state selection, Gadsby once more proved to be the choice of the sportswriters of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun as the All-Area Baseball Player of the Year for the second straight season.

“He did a really great job over the whole four years he was here,” Torres says. “If I had to win one game, I’d like to take my chances with him.”

The season that was for Gadsby was impressive from start to finish.

Upon its conclusion, he was an All-Pacific League first-team selection, an All-CIF Southern Section Division II second-team pick and was bestowed all-state accolades by Cal-Hi Sports and MaxPreps. But the honors are nothing new and nothing that Gadsby has ever gone on about.

Through his years of plenty of publicity on the diamond and gridiron, he’s mastered the team-first quote as he’s demonstrated that mantra on the field just as much.

“It’s a team sport, you can’t win by yourself,” Gadsby says. “I just never want to be that guy. When somebody reads the paper, nobody wants to hear how I was really feeling it out there; I was doing this and that. Give some credit to your team.”

With a scholarship to UCLA already in his rearview, perhaps Gadsby’s senior season was all the more impressive considering just how much of a workload he took on. At times when he wasn’t pitching, he was starting in the outfield and he became a constant in the battling lineup.

“He was a great team player. He’d go play left field for us, it didn’t matter,” Falcons third baseman Weston Walker says. “That’s all he wants [is to play baseball]. I’ve talked to him about that, too. How do you not get tired of this, you’ve done this year after year? He just said, ‘This is what I love.’ He’s never gotten tired of it.”

Gadsby was phenomenal to the tune of eye-popping numbers like a 0.578 earned-run average, a 0.697 walks/hits per innings pitched and 104 strikeouts to only 13 walks.

“He’s no fun for hitters because he’s all arms and legs and elbows,” Torres says. “It gives you really uncomfortable at-bats.”

But the number that likely stands out most is that Gadsby threw 109 innings. He posted a 12-4 record along with way with a pair of saves to boot.

“I’ve never heard him complain,” Crescenta Valley first baseman Adrian Damla says. “He always wants to be on the field and pitching, whether it’s no rest or not.”

Of his four losses on the season, Gadsby took three in league — one to Glendale and two to Burroughs, which went on to win the Pacific League title, stopping the Falcons’ run of league titles at three straight.

All three of Gadsby’s losses in league came on short notice.

But so too did some of the largest victories over the last two seasons for the Falcons.

As part of three consecutive complete games in the spring of 2014, Gadsby pitched Crescenta Valley past rival Arcadia to clinch the league title outright before delivering first- and second-round playoff wins.

In 2015, it wasn’t much different, even in the aftermath of coming up short of defending their league championship.

“We still had a really good record, we were still a really good team,” Gadsby says.

Against Ventura in the opening round, Gadsby was nothing short of spectacular. As the Falcons prevailed, Gadsby held the opposition to no runs, no walks and two hits in a 4-0 win. Maybe most impressive was Gadsby needed but 74 pitches to twirl the shutout.

“He’s just a special pitcher, a special athlete and a special person,” says Mike Parisi, who faced Gadsby multiple times as the Pasadena coach before recently taking the helm at La Salle. “He had an unbelievable high school career.”

Four days after shutting out Ventura, Gadsby returned to the hill and tossed a three-hitter on the road, defeating Trabuco Hills, 5-1, in the second round.

As a clutch postseason player, his reputation only grew. For Gadsby, it’s made possible by treating each game like the rest even though he’s well aware of just how monumental it all is.

“Feeling what it was like to be in the quarterfinals was motivation. The feeling is so good. It was just like, ‘Imagine if we win one more game and one more after that,’” Gadsby says. “You just gotta go in with the same mentality. You’ve gotta have confidence in your team and they have to have confidence in you.”

In what has often been cited as a true sign of greatness, most would attest that those around him played better when Gadsby was on the mound.

“I guarantee it lifted the players and our team with him on the mound,” Walker says. “It gave the players hope. It’s just kind of a more comfortable feeling with him out there.”

In the quarterfinals, starting pitcher Eric Ma took the reins from Gadsby and turned in an all-time performance, as well, shutting out Carter in a 1-0 win.

That set the stage for a trip to Mission Viejo High where the run of the Falcons and a Crescenta Valley career of greatness for Gadsby came to a close under the sweltering Orange Country sun.

Gadsby went the distance, allowing four runs (one earned) in a 4-2 defeat to the eventual CIF champions.

Across three complete games in the playoffs, Gadsby threw 20 innings, allowed five runs (just one earned) and went 2-1.

Not that long after, Gadsby and the rest of the Crescenta Valley class of 2015 graduated. A day later, Gadsby was off to Washington to play for the Wenatchee AppleSox, a summer collegiate club in the West Coast League. Just that quickly, he was gone, doing what he loves once again — pitching.

“It’s fun to him. He doesn’t worry about it. Playing is fun,” Torres says. “He just wanted to play with his buddies and help us win.”

And so Gadsby was off. Gone were the days in which he thrilled the Crescenta Valley faithful at Stengel Field and beyond.

But he’s certainly left behind plenty that will be remembered for many seasons to come.

There was the dominance and the delivery — from multiple angles confusing multiple batters.

“A lot of kids really didn’t have a chance against him,” Parisi says. “You give him a couple of runs and some good defense and that’s all it takes.

“He just has so much confidence on the mound.”

And there was that confidence, no matter how big the game or daunting the situation.

“I’ve never seen a guy that’s such a gamer. Just so cool and calm and just gets it done,” says Paul Schilling, the Crescenta Valley football coach. “There was no doubt that the guy was gonna make something happen. He’s amazing.”

It was in those situations that Gadsby stood out while also lifting those around him.

“You can right away tell that he’s in the zone and that he wants the win,” Damla says. “We just felt so much more confident with him on the mound.”

Indeed, with Gadsby on the mound, the Falcons shined brightest.

“He was our best guy at the biggest moment and he played really well in those situations,” Torres says. “He’s gonna be hard to replace.”

The great ones always are.