Just like the championship, the Pacific League's Player of the Year award was likely still up for grabs with four teams in position to win the title coming into the regular-season finale.
By the end of the night, the room for debate was closed when Ted Boeke hit a game-winning, three-run homer to lead Crescenta Valley over its league rival Arcadia in the top of the seventh inning, 5-4, on May 10 and to a share of the league title with Burbank.
After the game in which there was so much on the line, Falcons Coach Phil Torres said Boeke’s performance was exactly what a league MVP would do. It proved prophetic for Boeke, who reaped the league's top honor after a standout senior campaign.
“You never know what's going to happen with the voting when there's eight guys in there, but I think everyone did a good job of putting things aside in the league meeting,” said Torres, whose team finished 20-8, 12-2 in league, and was eliminated in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs by Yucaipa, 1-0, Friday. “[Boeke] was the best choice, he affected all of our games in a bunch of a different ways.”
Three other Falcons — Bryan Wang, Austin Brines and Brian Gadsby — were All-Pacific League first-team selections, but Boeke, the team’s leadoff and most clutch hitter, starting shortstop and one of its top pitchers, stood above the rest.
“It's really just awe,” said Boeke of his reaction to being named player of the year, adding how inspired he was by Falcons graduates Kyle Murray and Elliot Surrey, who were the league’s co-players of the last season. “It means a lot to me to be up there.
“You never really expect something like that. The year I had was phenomenal, I couldn't have asked for a better year or a better ending to [league]. You don't expect something like that, but you're so happy when you get it.”
The senior hit .408 (20 for 49) and posted team-highs in hits, total bases (33), runs scored (16) and batted in (12), doubles (five) and home runs (two) in 14 league games this season. His slugging percentage (.673) was also a team best.
On the mound, Boeke went 2-0 with a 1.47 earned-run average in six games, three starts and 19 1/3 innings in league. He notched a complete game, a save and 32 strikeouts to nine walks in that span.
It was Boeke’s ability to seemingly produce whenever needed in big moments that pushed him over the top to the league’s top honor.
“I think he came through in big situations for us,” Torres said. “It's not easy when everyone is like, ‘Hey, get another big hit for us.’
“It's kind of like Little League, he batted leadoff, played short and when he wasn't playing short he was one of our best pitchers. He just affected every game he played.”
While he was certainly put in a number of high-pressure situations this season, Boeke said his teammates helped relieve some of his responsibility with their level of play.
Wang was key to Crescenta Valley’s offense, batting behind Boeke at No. 2 in the order and hitting .410 (16 for 39) with 11 runs scored, seven runs batted in and a team-high four stolen bases in league. He also boasted a team-best .529 on-base percentage.
“Bryan was phenomenal, he could do whatever we wanted him to,” Boeke said. “He could lay down a bunt, move me over or drive me in.”
The junior also posted a 3-1 league record, 2.33 ERA and a shutout as a pitcher in league. He pitched 18 innings, struck out 19 batters and walked eight.
Brines was responsible for Crescenta Valley’s best batting average (.444, 16 for 36) in league. He added 10 RBI, six runs, three doubles and three stolen bases as the clean-up hitter for much of the campaign.
“He drove in some big runs and he took good at-bats; he wasn't an easy out wherever he hit in the order,” Torres said. “He's just a great kid, a great student, hard worker and is there at practice everyday. Good things happen to people who work hard and he’s a perfect example of that.”
Definitely not to be overlooked was Gadsby, who moved onto the varsity team as a sophomore and emerged as the team’s ace after developing a submarine-throwing style.
“We just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, we have something here and the best part is nobody knows about it,'“ Torres said of Gadsby after he became comfortable with the new throwing motion.
Gadsby appeared in a team-high seven games with six starts — three more than any other player. He threw four complete games, two of which were shutouts, and went 5-1 in league with a 1.47 ERA. He pitched 38 1/3 innings, struck out 30 batters and walked nine in his first year on varsity.
“You’d look at hitters’ reactions and you could tell they weren't having any fun hitting against him at all,” Torres said.
Falcons outfielders Nolan Rea and Michael Russo earned second-team nods. Rea put up a .351 batting average (13 for 37) with nine runs and six RBI. Russo batted .250 (nine for 36) with nine RBI and nine runs scored.
Hoover and Glendale were represented on the honorable mention list by Fidel Hernandez and Ethan Howard, respectively, along with CV’s Joe Torres.
The Tornadoes finished sixth in league with a 6-17, 4-10 in league record and the Nitros were seventh at 3-19, 2-12.
Hernandez, a shortstop, batted .253 with eight RBI, seven runs, two homers, four doubles and four stolen bases. Howard, who played third, short and pitcher, batted .295 for the Nitros. Torres put up a .323 batting average (10 for 31) with five runs, three RBI and a pair of doubles.