NORTHEAST GLENDALE — A seventh-inning rally gave the Crescenta Valley High baseball team some hope and the Falcons faithful something, at long last, to cheer about at Stengel Field on Thursday afternoon.
But it wasn't enough to overcome the previous six innings of struggles or to keep the Falcons' season from ending in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.
After being outplayed by Sherman Oaks Notre Dame for much of the game, the Falcons scored twice in the seventh and brought the tying run to the plate twice with the heart of their order threatening only to fall, 6-3.
"We knew we were behind by five, so we needed to get some runs," said Falcons right fielder Tyler Pollak, one of four Falcons to reach base in the seventh inning. "Everyone did their job for the most part. We just couldn't get it done."
Knights starting pitcher Jack Morello held the Pacific League runner-up Falcons (23-5) to one run on two hits over six strong innings, but was replaced on the mound by Matt Lathuras to begin the seventh and Crescenta Valley responded immediately.
Cam Silva led off the inning with a sharp single to right field and Bogart Avila followed with a base hit to right. A 2-2 wild pitch to Pollak advanced both runners and Pollak took the next pitch outside to walk and load the bases with no outs for the top of the order.
Leadoff man Cole Currie made it 6-2 with a slow grounder to first base that plated Silva and next batter Elliott Surrey came through with a two-strike single up the middle to score courtesy runner Bryan Wang from third base.
Center fielder Troy Mulcahey, who hit a team-leading nine home runs on the season, stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and quickly fell behind, 0-2, with the second strike coming on a check-swing call that drew adamant protest from Mulcahey and Falcons Coach Phil Torres.
But Mulcahey took the next two pitches in the dirt and another off the plate to work the count full, only to strike out swinging. Troy Prasertsit came up next and got ahead of Lathuras, 2-0, before chopping a high bouncer back to the mound for the final out.
"We had a little chance there, you couldn't ask for more," Torres said. "We had a guy with nine home runs up there and he's the tying run and he just chased ball four, unfortunately."
The Falcons used all four of their starting pitchers throughout the game, but neither Thursday's starter Kyle Murray, nor Kyle Pomeroy, Mulcahey or Surrey, who all worked relief stints, ever found a comfort zone on the mound.
Murray took a scoreless game into the third inning, where he allowed back-to-back singles to Alex Gould and Kris Kitchen. A pop-out bunt and groundout got Murray one out away from escaping the inning, but a first-pitch single to right field scored both runners for a 2-0 lead.
Gould and Kitchen proved to be thorns in Murray's side again in the fourth, as Gould led off the frame with a double over Mulcahey's head and Kitchen followed with a home run to left field for a 4-0 lead that ended Murray's outing.
Pomeroy allowed one more run in the inning on a sequence that included a throwing error, a ball-four wild pitch and a throw from behind the plate that trickled into shallow center field and allowed a run to score.
"They did a good job," Torres said of Notre Dame (18-11), an at-large entrant from the Mission League. "They capitalized, they hit the ball hard a couple times and made things happen and we were just behind, behind, behind from the mound."
Crescenta Valley showed its first signs of life offensively in the bottom of the fifth, when Ted Boeke walked with one out and moved to third on a double by Silva. Avila appeared to have driven in Boeke with an infield single, but the call was changed to foul ball and Avila went on to fly out to shallow right field.
"One umpire said the ball hit the bat twice, the other umpire said it hit his foot — they just missed it," said Torres, whose team would score its first run two batters later when Currie walked with the bases loaded. "It really doesn't matter right now. It could have made a difference if it's 5-3 in that inning, but they missed it. It happens."
Mulcahey worked one clean inning on the mound despite loading the bases and Surrey allowed an RBI single to Walker Moses in the top of the seventh to make it 6-1.
All in all, it was a disappointing day for the Falcons' hitters, who managed five hits and left seven runners on.
"We know how good we are and we know we can hit," Pollak said. "It's just we didn't bring it to that ball park today. We didn't want it to end that way, but that's how it is."
The loss also capped a month of May in which the Falcons seemed to cool considerably from their torrid pace earlier in the campaign, struggling to pull out one-run wins over Pasadena and Burbank before losing their league finale to Arcadia, 8-1, on May 13.
"We just didn't play very well," Torres said. "It's like when the calendar turned to May, for whatever reason, we just didn't play our best.
"It doesn't take away the 23 wins."