NORCO — Instead of making that special visit to hallowed Dodger Stadium, all the members of the Crescenta Valley High baseball team could do was give each other handshakes and hugs following a tough defeat.
Make no mistake, as it was a magnificent playoff run turned in by a very young Crescenta Valley squad which saw its season come to a close Tuesday with a 4-3 loss to host Norco in a see-saw CIF Southern Section Division II semifinal contest.
Crescenta Valley had plenty of scoring chances, finishing with 14 hits. It was three double plays in each of the first three innings that derailed the Falcons’ bid to advance to the championship game at Dodger Stadium on Saturday.
Crescenta Valley finished 20-10 after beginning the season 2-4.
“A very good game and we had plenty of chances to get some runs early on,” Crescenta Valley coach Phil Torres said. “We put the ball in play a lot and we didn’t get that one break that would go our way.
“It’s been a great run and we beat three league championships just to get here. A lot to be proud off moving ahead.”
Norco (20-11) will meet Santa Margarita (25-11) in the championship contest. Santa Margarita registered a 9-1 win against Redondo Union in a semifinal game Tuesday.
Crescenta Valley’s Will Grimm, who finished with four hits, hit a solo home run to bring the Falcons to within 4-3 in the sixth inning. Norco reliever Michael Forbes got the final six outs to stymie Crescenta Valley, which defeated Rio Mesa, Thousand Oaks and Quartz Hill in the playoffs, the rest of the way.
Norco center fielder Menelik Israel made a lunging catch off a ball hit by Issac Sung to begin the seventh before Forbes struck out the final two batters.
“Their defense made some plays at the right time,” said Torres, who was looking to lead the Falcons to their first championship game since winning the Division I title against Esperanza at Dodger Stadium in 1998. “We did everything we could to score more runs.”
Crescenta Valley, which finished tied for second in the Pacific League with Burbank, took a 1-0 lead in the first on a run-scoring single by Noah Maddox following a 1-5-3 double play.
Norco, which finished second in the Big VIII League behind Corona before beating Don Lugo, St. Bonaventure and Villa Park, tied it at 1 on a balk by Maddox in the second after the right-hander accidentally dropped the ball while standing on the mound.
Crescenta Valley loaded the bases with one out in the third, but Norco escaped the jam on a 7-5-2 double play.
The double play seemed to ignite Norco.
The Cougars, who allowed just one run in their first three playoff games, scored two runs in the fourth. Maxwell Davis was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to make it 2-1 and Elias Pacheco followed with a sacrifice fly to center to extend the lead to 3-1.
“Getting out with that double play just lifted us that much more,” Norco coach Gary Parcell said. “Then we got those two runs in the fourth and we felt a little bit better about ourselves the rest of the game.
“We were able to make enough plays at the end and beat a very good team that did a good job at putting the ball in play. We had to earn this win.”
Crescenta Valley pulled to within 3-2 in the fifth on a bloop single by Sung.
Norco received a run-scoring double by Bryce Cermenelli in the fifth to make it 4-2 before Grimm’s home run to right closed out the scoring in the sixth.
“We had a great season and we did so much in these playoffs,” said Grimm, who added three singles. “Every game in the playoffs was close, and we just came up a little short today.
“We have lots of returning players and i know we can take a lot from these playoffs and have it help us become a better team next year.”
Crescenta Valley got two hits apiece from Vincent Parrott, Chase Smith and Brian Ghattas.
Norco received two hits from Cermenelli, Forbes and Davis.