VALLEY GLEN — At this point, it's about development for the members of the St. Francis High baseball team.
The Golden Knights lost several key players to graduation, giving St. Francis Coach Brian Esquival the opportunity to give players who were reserves last season or on the junior varsity squad a chance to find potential roles.
"We are going to be playing everybody this summer, try to develop them as backups and get them confidence," Esquival said after St. Francis suffered an 8-3 loss to Mission League-rival Crespi in a Valley Invitational Baseball League contest Tuesday afternoon at L.A. Valley College. "That way, when the season comes around, they are ready.
"There are a lot of new faces and it's going to be a young team. We want to get them to understand what it's like to play at this level. It's going to take the full 24 or 25 games we play, but we want them to get a feel for one another."
St. Francis (5-5) never led against Crespi, which swept the two head-to-head regular-season meetings with the Golden Knights en route to nabbing the league championship in 2010.
The Celts took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Madison Dang came through with a run-scoring single with two outs against St. Francis pitcher Chris Longo. They scored three runs against Longo in the third, capped by a two-run double from Jack Colick to extend the lead to 4-0.
After Crespi (6-6) built a 6-0 lead through four innings, the Golden Knights responded with three runs in the sixth. Pete Hofman, a junior designated hitter, cut the lead to 6-2 with a two-run double off Crespi starting pitcher Scott Heineman and Brandon Van Horn made it 6-3 on a run-scoring groundout. P.J. Dezotell then hit a fly ball to left that left fielder Nikki Linton made an over-the-shoulder catch with a pair of runners on to end St. Francis' threat.
"We've been playing pretty well and we faced a good pitcher today," said Hofman, who finished with two hits. "We faced a good pitcher who had good off-speed and we came out kind of flat."
Crespi sealed the contest with two runs in its half of the sixth.
"We did compete a little at the plate," Esquival said. "Their pitcher threw real well."