NORTHEAST GLENDALE — If the Flintridge Prep baseball team plans to contend for a playoff spot, Rebels Coach Buzz Cook said there's one facet that needs to be addressed — shoring up the defense.
In Cook's mind, he's looking for it to happen soon before the Rebels fall out of the playoff picture.
"We have to learn how to make the routine plays, and it's difficult to be in a comfortable position when you can't make them," Cook said after Flintridge Prep began Prep League play Tuesday afternoon with an 8-1 home loss against Webb at the Glendale Sports Complex. "We gave up a lot of unearned runs and it hurt us."
Flintridge Prep (1-4) made four errors that led to seven unearned runs against a Webb squad that beat Flintridge Prep for the second time in a week and improved to 6-0, 1-0 in league.
Things didn't start off well for the Rebels, who suffered a 9-5 loss to the Gauls on March 6 in the Duarte Tournament. The Flintridge Prep third baseman dropped a pop-up near the base with one out in the top of the first inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, Sam Woodward delivered a two-run single off Flintridge Prep starting pitcher Brenden McKiernan (0-1) to make it 2-0.
"You can practice [the pop-up] 100 times and it will be caught," said Cook, whose team advanced to the playoffs last season. "We have to make those plays in a game.
"I'm looking for effort and focus right now. We seem to be lacking in focus."
McKiernan, a right-hander, said he needed to put the miscue behind him.
"Things like that happen sometimes," McKiernan said. "I try not to let it bother me and just work on getting the next hitter out."
The Rebels had a tough time in the batter's box against Webb starting pitcher Nick Gollin (2-0). The right-hander struck out 12 and scattered four hits in going the distance.
Gollin pitched three innings against Flintridge Prep on March 6. He struck out eight and walked five in that appearance.
"He's got a good arm," said Cook, whose team will travel to face Webb at 3:15 p.m. Friday. "He's out there throwing strikes, but not at a velocity we haven't seen before."
Flintridge Prep cut the lead to 2-1 in the third when McKiernan singled to left to score Michael Weinstein, who opened with a single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Gollin on a pick-off attempt.
The Gauls regained their two-run advantage in the fourth on a run-scoring single by Britton Bentley with two outs.
In the fifth, Webb took advantage of an error by the Flintridge Prep shortstop with one out and immediately scored three runs. Ian Henry walked with the bases loaded on a full-count pitch from reliever Cole Rademacher to make it 4-1. Ian Chavez of Webb then delivered a two-run single to extend the lead to 6-1.
"If you are not playing defense, then it's going to make it that much harder to catch up," Cook said.
Webb closed out the scoring with a pair of seventh-inning runs, both unearned. With runners on first and second and no outs, Henry dropped down a bunt toward first base. The pitcher retrieved the ball and threw it to the first baseman, who dropped it, allowing the first run to score to extend Webb's lead to 7-1. A groundout by Chavez made it 8-1.
Flintridge Prep got one hit apiece from McKiernan, Rademacher, Dylan Arya and Weinstein.
Cook said Flintridge Prep will not have ace pitcher Royce Park on the mound this season. Park, a reigning All-Area first-team pick and All-CIF selection, will instead serve mostly as a designated hitter.
Park, a senior, partially tore a ligament in his right elbow during the summer and Cook said Park will undergo Tommy John surgery in June.