NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Having essentially steamrolled its previous two opponents en route to the championship game of the 45th annual Babe Herman Tournament, Crescenta Valley High's baseball team found itself in the unfamiliar setting of a nailbiter on Wednesday night.
But the championship against West Torrance, though distinct in its close nature, concluded as the last 13 games have for the Falcons — with them emerging victorious.
On the strength of a lights-out relief appearance and a walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth inning by Elliott Surrey, Crescenta Valley collected its first Babe Herman title since 2005 with a dramatic 1-0 win over West Torrance at Stengel Field.
"It feels great cause we're the host and we feel like that's how it should be," said Falcons senior Tyler Pollak, who scored from second on Surrey's sharp single to right field. "We definitely played our best these games and it feels great to win it like this."
Pollak, who had a pair of singles, led off the bottom of the eighth with an infield single. On the ensuing at-bat, Falcons Coach Phil Torres rolled the dice and pinch hit freshman Joe Torres, his son, with a 1-1 count, removing starter Andrew Fagundo, a right-handed batter. Joe Torres, a left-handed batter, laid down a perfect bunt to third base off left-handed starter Daniel Timmerman that moved Pollak into scoring position and was then bobbled, allowing Torres to reach safely. After Timmerman struck out the next batter, up stepped Surrey.
"I was just looking for a pitch that was in my range," said Surrey, who went two for four and also pitched two perfect innings in relief for the victory. "I just wanted to put it in play."
On a 1-0 count, Surrey pulled a single through the hole and Pollak sprinted home, sliding in safely just ahead of the throw.
"I hope it gets through, I hope it gets through," said Pollak of his thoughts when Surrey made contact.
Added Surrey: "I thought [the second baseman] was gonna get it and get me at first. Then when I saw it got through, I looked over to third and I got pumped."
Surrey, who was bestowed the tournament's most valuable player award, was mobbed by teammates after sending the Falcons (13-1) to their 13th straight victory and the program's eighth overall tournament crown. Surrey finished the tournament with seven innings pitched and gave up just one run and three hits, while striking out 13. At the plate, he went 10 for 19 with seven runs batted in and three runs scored.
After a 5-4 win to open the tournament against Santa Monica, the Falcons ran roughshod over their next two foes, besting Oak Park, 15-2, and North Torrance, 9-0. But offense was hard to come by on Wednesday with Timmerman matching zeros with CV starter Troy Mulcahey all night.
"The last few games have been blowouts," Surrey said. "This one we had to stay focused and stick with our game plan and not get off track."
Mulcahey was perhaps symbolic of the Falcons' outing, as he wasn't as dominant as he had been in a brilliantly overpowering start against Burroughs on Friday when he struck out 10 in five innings and allowed just one hit, but was still effective in the winning effort. Instead, on Wednesday, Mulcahey battled through adversity every inning, recording just one perfect frame, but still left the Warriors (7-8-1) scoreless. Mulcahey finished with four strikeouts through six innings, allowing no runs, four hits, walking two and hitting a pair of batters.
For much of the game, the Falcons defense proved clutch. Cam Silva threw out would-be base stealers in the first and third, Cole Currie made a brilliant scoop on a ball up the middle in the second before spinning to get off the throw just in time, Currie and Fagundo turned a nice 4-6-3 double play in the fifth and Surrey came up clutch for the first time with his glove in the sixth. With runners on second and third with two outs in the inning, Surrey climbed the ladder to stretch for a line drive that would have plated at least one and likely two runners.
Mulcahey's first pitch hit the leadoff batter in the seventh, spelling his end. Surrey (4-0) came on and promptly struck out the side. He retired the side in order in the eighth, as well.
"I just had to throw strikes," he said.
CV then had a golden opportunity to end the game in the bottom of the seventh. After Mulcahey led off with a single, pinch-runner Bryan Wang was off and running on a pitch to Kyle Murray. Wang took third on a Murray chopper and the latter was safe at first on an error. But the ensuing at-bat saw a grounder right to third and Wang, already off the bag, had no choice but to go home, where he was tagged out. Another grounder to third ended the inning as Timmerman continued to stave off the Falcons.
Timmerman pounded the inside half of the plate all game, using off-speed pitches to confuse CV throughout. He allowed six hits in 7 1/3 innings and struck out 10 to no walks.
"He had enough movement to get us off our feet," Pollak said. "He was really good at changing speeds."
Timmerman's efforts certainly cooled a Falcons squad that came in red-hot, but a Surrey single and a speedy Pollak proved to be just enough for CV to continue its winning ways.