NORTHWEST GLENDALE — For Hoover High's baseball team, it was a disaster.
For Crescenta Valley, it was a winning formula.
For both teams, it was a seemingly never-ending top of the third inning, as the Falcons scored all 10 of their runs on all five of their hits in a chaotic stanza that ultimately decided Crescenta Valley's 10-1 Pacific League victory over the host Tornadoes on Friday afternoon.
"That was it, one inning, we had a lapse," said Hoover Coach Joe Cotti. "Everything that could go wrong went wrong in one inning.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't recover from it. You take out that one inning, it's a great baseball game."
It was one swing that did the most damage for the Falcons (19-2, 8-1 in league), as Kyle Pomeroy touched them all on a grand slam that made it 6-1 during the inning and CV starter Kyle Murray largely took care of the rest, going the distance and striking out 10 for the victory on the mound.
Perhaps oddly enough in a game decided by nine runs, the victors were largely dismayed with their play over six and a half innings, while the Tornadoes (6-13, 4-5) had much to be pleased with over six and a half innings.
"We have a lot better baseball [in us] that we can play," said Murray, who allowed just one hit, but walked five and also hit a batter. "I think we just came out a little flat."
Said Cotti: "We played a great baseball game except for one inning."
The Tornadoes actually jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Michael Zalin blooped a single to center that scored Will Davis, who had walked.
It was to be the only hit of the day for Hoover, though, while Crescenta Valley collected all of its knocks in the telling third, which started with Davis plunking Falcons No. 9 hitter Terry Ha to lead off the inning. Ha was hit by a pitch twice in the stanza and scored after each. Davis hit three batters in all during the inning and walked two more, while the Tornadoes defense committed four errors.
The carnage began to come to fruition when Troy Prasertsit's sawed-off single scored Ha to tie the game. On the next at-bat, Murray looked to have grounded into a double play, but the ball was bobbled and then the shortstop missed second base with his foot and errantly threw to first, as Cole Currie scored the go-ahead run.
Pomeroy then stepped up to open the floodgates.
"I was just trying to hit a fastball," Pomeroy said. "He was throwing the knuckleball and didn't really have control, so I was just looking for a fastball and something to hit hard."
And on a 3-1 offering, Pomeroy got exactly that.
Tyler Pollak then followed with a double and then scored on a sacrifice bunt by Cam Silva that was thrown away. Silva then scored on a double by Ted Boeke, who would come around on a Currie single to up the lead to 9-1 before Elliott Surrey's sacrifice fly plated Ha. Prasertsit and Murray would then follow with consecutive walks to load the bases with just one out, but Davis settled and induced a popout and a groundout to end the inning.
"That one inning everything kinda clicked," Pomeroy said. "That's what we need to do more often."
Overshadowed by the third-inning mayhem and the defeat in general was likely the most consistently impressive performance of the day, as Hoover's Anthony Cuccinelo came on in relief in the top of the fourth and held the Falcons at bay for the remainder of the game.
"He pitched fantastic," Cotti said. "That's probably his best outing of the year.
"He kept them quiet."
Cuccinelo allowed no hits over four innings and struck out five, including the side in the fifth. He retired the first seven batters he faced before his only blemish — a sixth-inning walk to Pomeroy — and promptly retired the final five batters he faced.
Murray, meanwhile, had runners on in all but two innings — the second and sixth, in which he struck out the side — but pitched out of trouble all day.
"It was hard to find a rhythm," he said. "I just had to try and go pitch by pitch."
Nonetheless, Murray and one big inning kept the Falcons, ranked sixth in CIF Southern Section Division II, one game behind first-place Arcadia, while Hoover must quickly move past its misfortune, as it finds itself fighting for the last automatic league playoff spot, as it's tied for fourth with Burbank.
"In baseball, you gotta have a short-term memory," Cotti said. "We gotta forget about it and move on."