NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Flintridge Prep baseball Coach Buzz Cook said he was about as happy as he could be with a loss after the Rebels opened Prep League play with an 8-6 defeat against Pasadena Poly on Friday at the Glendale Sports Complex.
When the Rebels fell behind the defending league-champion Panthers by seven runs in the first two frames, it seemed unlikely they would have the winning run at the plate in their final at-bats in the seventh inning, but that ended up being exactly the case, therein Cook's reason for optimism.
"I still haven't really changed my view as far as the league goes," Cook said. "I still think it's Poly and everybody else, they're still the team to beat.
"But I was extremely happy with the way we came back, the fact that we got within a run and had a chance to maybe even tie it up. That says a lot for us, especially being such a young team."
Poly began the game with a three-run first inning fueled by two hits, three walks and a hit batsman. Prep starting pitcher Kyle McDonald was taken off the mound due to a stiff neck after the first inning and was replaced by Clayton Weirick, although McDonald would remain in the game at shortstop, where he threw out six batters.
Weirick had a rough second inning, as the Panthers added four more runs on a walk, a single, a run-scoring double, and another single, followed by a run-scoring fielder's choice, a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single by Logan Beerman that made the score 7-0.
But Weirick settled down nicely and got the game under control by allowing no runs on just one hit over the next three frames.
"Clayton gave us a fantastic effort in relief," Cook said of Weirick, who was pulled after allowing a leadoff single in the sixth inning. "He came in and pitched four-plus innings. …He did what I asked him to and went several more innings than I anticipated."
Meanwhile, the Rebels' offense began to get to Poly starter Jordan Kutzer in the bottom of the third with back-to-back singles by the first two batters Daniel Enzminger and McDonald. With Brendan McKiernan batting, McDonald swiped second base, drawing an errant throw from behind the plate that skipped into the outfield and allowed Enzminger to score from third base.
McKiernan completed his at-bat with a single and Royce Park walked to load the bases, but the Rebels couldn't come up with a hit, settling instead for a pair of runs on a balk and a groundout.
The Rebels continued to chip away, chasing Kutzer with no outs in the fourth after a double down the left-field line by Dylan Arya put a runner at third base, who scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-4.
Again, a first-and-third situation with no outs wasn't fully exploited by the Rebels, who narrowed the gap to 7-5 on a run-scoring double play.
The two teams traded single runs in the bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth and Prep still trailed by two going into its last three outs.
Alex Sierra and Scott Tsangeos were hit by a pitch and drew a walk, respectively, to set the table for the Rebels with no outs. A sacrifice bunt attempt was unsuccessful in advancing the lead runner, but it was moot when the next two batters struck and grounded out.
"We battled, unfortunately, we put ourselves in a hole," Cook said. "Being down, 7-0, after two innings doesn't help.
"It was nice to see us battle back. …They threw their ace against us and we chased him out, so I think, more than anything, we probably got in their heads a little bit, and in our own [heads], we probably realized we can compete with them."