Falcons fall in first round

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — One bad inning can end one heckuva good season.

Essentially, that's what happened on Thursday afternoon at Stengel Field, as the host Crescenta Valley High baseball team out hit and, at least for six innings, out pitched visiting Tustin, but could never come back from allowing a six-run second inning en route to a CIF Southern Section Division II first-round exit at the hands of the Tillers, 7-4.

"That's tough to dig out of," said Falcons Coach Phil Torres of the 6-0 deficit that came to be after Tustin scratched together six runs in the top of the second on four singles — two via bunt — an error, a hit batsman and two walks.

While the big inning told the story on the scoreboard, many of the Falcons (20-7), who totaled nine hits to the Tillers' six, thought there was another factor that kept them from advancing to Tuesday's second round.

"Personally, the story of the game for me was when we hit the ball, it was just right at them," said senior right fielder Troy Mulcahey, the reigning All-Area Baseball Player of the Year. "We hit the ball hard all game."

Mulcahey ended the game with a hot shot to shortstop, hustling through and diving head first into the first base bag only to come up just short on the final out of the game and his successful Falcons tenure. It also concluded a stellar game, as he went three for four with a single, a double and a two-run home run in the third that keyed a four-run inning, bringing life to the Falcons and the score to 6-4.

"Right when I hit that two-run home run, I thought, 'We're back in it,'" Mulcahey said. "We were gonna battle."

Crescenta Valley did battle and made the most of an excellent six-inning relief performance by Elliot Surrey, but it just wasn't enough.

"We hit the ball hard, it's a big field and they tracked everything down," Torres said.

Alas, the game began with tale and congratulations of a Crescenta Valley CIF championship and after the third inning there was ice cream for everybody, but all the good karma didn't add up to a win for the Falcons, who couldn't cash in Cole Currie, who had singled to begin a two-hit day, and Mulcahey reaching base in the bottom of the first as a very close 6-4-3 double play was turned by Tustin to end the threat.

Not long after the festivities began with Coach Jan Sakonju's boys' swimming team being congratulated for its recently won CIF Division II championship and tossing out the ceremonial first pitch, Falcons third baseman Ted Boeke made a phenomenal diving play before throwing out Tustin's leadoff batter.

After the aforementioned double play, though, momentum clearly began to turn for Tustin (13-16).

"This game's all about momentum and trying to keep it," said Tustin Coach Joe Secoda, whose team finished fourth in the highly regarded Empire League.

Tustin's leadoff batter reached base in the second on an error in left field before Falcons starter Kyle Murray went up and in on an 0-1 offering to Tiller Jacob Riggs. Riggs squared to bunt and took the pitch square in the face. He slumped to all fours and was immediately attended to and would eventually leave the game, though he was walking on his own power.

"I think we were a little shook up," Torres said of the incident.

Added Mulcahey: "We had down time, guys were thinking about it and we were thinking too much."

Murray then relinquished a first-pitch bunt single down the third-base line that loaded the bases.

Murray would get ahead of the next batter, 0-2, but threw four straight balls to walk in the first run of the game. Back-to-back singles would follow to up the lead to 4-0 as it went from bad to worse for the Falcons and Murray, who was coming off an outstanding shutout performance in his previous start against Arcadia to secure an outright Pacific League title.

Surrey was then brought in, but another bunt single followed to load the bases once more.

"We don't like to call it small ball," Secoda said. "We like to call it pressure ball.

"It's something that we've preached with our kids, it gets the momentum going, it's a fire starter."

Surrey induced a double-play ball, but it was booted at second base and only one out was recorded and another run crossed to make it 5-0. A sacrifice fly later brought the score to 6-0.

Thereafter, though, Surrey settled in.

"I just tried to throw strikes and let them put the ball in play," said Surrey of entering the game in the second before he was able to get fully warmed up and comfortable. "As soon as I get going and get a pace going, I get comfortable.

"Everyone did a good job putting up those zeros, it was a team effort."

Surrey put up zeros in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, retiring 14 in a row at one point thanks, in large part, to perfect third, fourth and fifth stanzas.

He would finish the day having thrown six innings, with one run allowed along with three hits, one walk and five strikeouts.

"He did a great job," Torres said, "which he has for four years."

Boeke was stranded in the second after a leadoff single, but a Cam Silva leadoff walk began the third and the Falcons' rally. Currie followed with a double and Surrey drove in Silva on a groundout. Mulcahey then took a 1-0 offering over the left-field fence, which, consequently, provided ice cream for everyone as part of Crescenta Valley's yearlong Baskin Robbins third-inning, home-run giveaway. More importantly, it sparked the Falcons and cut the score to 6-3.

Boeke followed with a two-out single and came home when Terry Ha reached on an infield single that drew an errant throw and allowed Boeke to come around while putting runners at first and third, but the threat ended there.

"That four-spot was big. It gave us a lot of confidence," Surrey said. "It made us battle."

Another two-out single came to be via Surrey in the fourth and Mulcahey then lifted a dying liner to the outfield that caromed off the diving center fielder. Surrey was sent, but was out at the plate after the right fielder came up firing and threw a seed to the plate for the final out. Thereafter, the next nine Falcons were retired in order to end the season. Only one strikeout was recorded in that span, as the contact kept coming, but the hits weren't falling and the only scoring was one final run of Tustin cushion put up in the seventh after a double, an infield single and a potential inning-ending double play was booted.

The game also ended the tenures of seniors Surrey, Mulcahey, Murray, Silva and Troy Prasertsit, a four-year starter like Mulcahey and Surrey. In all, Crescenta Valley loses 11 seniors from this year's 21-player roster.

"That's a lot of wins for Elliot and that crew," said Torres in reference to the last four seasons that saw CV go a combined 78-29. "They brought the Pacific League title back."

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