NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Even though the Crescenta Valley High baseball team had led Sherman Oaks Notre Dame since the first inning of Tuesday night's Babe Herman Tournament semifinal at Stengel Field, the Falcons were still lacking a big hit with runners on base to break the game open through the first three frames.
Michael Russo changed all that with a bases-loaded line-drive off the Knights first baseman's glove that scored two runs and sparked a four-run third inning. The floodgates were then opened for a five-run fourth and ultimately a lopsided 12-4 win for Crescenta Valley, which went 3-0 to win the National Division and will meet American Division winner Chatsworth in the tournament championship at 7 p.m. tonight.
"We're getting to play games, it's been huge," Crescenta Valley Coach Phil Torres said of the Falcons' newfound momentum, which has seen the team go 7-1 since getting back from a two-week break on March 23. "We had those huge gaps in our schedule, so it was so frustrating. Playing helps and pitching well helps, too."
Kyle Murray gave up three earned runs on three hits in six innings for the Falcons (10-4), who were led by four hits in four at-bats from first baseman Elliot Surrey (three runs scored), as well as big offensive nights from shortstop Cole Currie (two for three with five runs batted in) and Russo (two for four with three RBI and two runs).
As the Falcons' run of success has swelled, so has its offensive prowess, which has rallied from a slow start to average better than 12 runs per contest in the tournament, including Monday night's 16-2 win over Redondo Union.
"Once we hit, we're going to hit and the past two teams [we've played] have paid the price for it," Currie said.
The Falcons' promise to start the third — two runners aboard on a walk to Bryan Wang and a single by Surrey — was dimmed by a double play, but the Falcons rekindled the rally with back-to-back walks to Troy Prasertsit and Ted Boeke to load the bases.
Russo followed with the Falcons' first hit with runners in scoring position to plate Surrey and Prasertsit. Russo stole second and scored along with Boeke when Currie dumped a two-run single into center field to make it 6-1.
The bases were loaded up once again quickly in the bottom of the fourth and the Falcons took a 7-1 lead on Troy Mulcahey' sacrifice fly to center field. The Falcons weren't done there. Prasertsit singled to load the bases again and after Boeke grounded into a forceout for the second out, Russo and Currie struck for back-to-back two-out knocks once again.
Russo rapped one up the middle to score Surrey and Currie lifted a single to opposite-right field to drive in Boeke and Prasertsit for a 10-1 lead that swelled to 11-1 when Russo later scored on a passed ball.
"We all hit pretty well," Currie said. "Guys were on base for me, I just happened to put the ball in play and good things happened."
The Falcons looked to be on the verge of a big first inning when a single by Surrey sandwiched by walks issued to Wang and Mulcahey loaded the bases with no outs.
Crescenta Valley would get no more hits, but did get a pair of runs on a double play ball that scored Wang and a wild pitch that plated Surrey from third base with two outs.
Then it was Murray who found his way into trouble after seeing the Knights' first batter Justin Sanford reach on a throwing error. The right-hander then walked Brett Sesma on four pitches and let Sanford take third base on an errant pickoff attempt to second base with no outs.
The only run allowed came on a misplayed rundown in between second and third on which Sesma was eventually tagged out for the second out, but not before Sanford had trotted home to make it 2-1.
There was some recent history between the two teams, as Notre Dame (10-9) ended Crescenta Valley's 2011 season with a 6-3 defeat in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on May 19 at Stengel Field.
In the event of a rainout today, Torres said the title game will rescheduled for a future Saturday.