La Cañada baseball starts strong

With a thunderous metal ping, senior and starting catcher Max Schaetzle sent a rocket of a home run into the clouded sky, over the left field fence to powerfully end a 14-run, two-inning streak that shot La Cañada past North Hollywood, 15-4, in the Southern California Invitational on Saturday.

The North Hollywood victory followed their late-innings 5-4 win over LA Baptist on Friday, another SoCal Invitational game, and suddenly the Spartans are 2-0 to start the season.

La Cañada flexed their muscles. Though they were down 4-1, the team had a beat on Manny Gutierrez all day and it finally came together in the fourth inning when they put together a two-out rally and scoring seven runs.

The Spartans added further to that hit parade in the fifth, scoring another seven runs, capped by Schaetzle's home run.

“We came out a little cold,” Spartans Coach Dennis Ballard said. “Maybe it was the weather. But we started swinging the bats [in the fourth]. The key point was when Mike Weston started a rally and we hit around.”

First baseman Weston kick-started the scoring for the Spartans in the fourth when he hit a two-out, two-strike single to drive in Brian Collins. Senior Marshall Sherrod and junior Jeff Oechsel followed Weston with two singles, with Weston scoring on Oechsel's base hit. Sherrod then scored on a wild pitch and Charlie Banks and Eric Smith walked to load the bases. John Ondrejcka's hit-by-pitch got a run in and Collins' single with a throwing error by the shortstop scored two more. Schaetzle doubled on an 0-0 count to score Ondrejcka and before you knew it, Collins was caught trying to take home on a wild pitch to end the inning.

Schaetzle finished the game 2-for-3 with the home run, his first in his high school career, and double. He also threw out North Hollywood's Devon Reyes while he was trying to steal second.

After that, Pete Williams came into the game in the top of the fifth with the 8-4 lead and shut down the Huskies, pitching three scoreless innings. Williams gave up two hits and a walk.

But the offense wasn't done, and in the bottom of the fifth, the Spartans went on another tear, scoring seven more runs, topped off by Schaetzle's home run.

In the L.A. Baptist game, the Spartans jumped out to the early 2-0 lead in the second inning on a solo shot by Collins and singles by A.J. Kim and Sharrod. La Cañada scored a run in the third inning on hits by Smith, Max Russell and Collins and a run in the fourth inning on a RBI single by Smith.

The Spartans were leading 4-1 until the bottom of the seventh, when L.A. Baptist scored three runs to send the game into extra innings.

In the top of the eighth, Spartan Luis Carrasquero reached second base on an error. Garrett Grey laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Carrasquero to third and Sharrod hit the sacrifice fly for the winning run.

Schaetzle came in to close it out in the bottom half and pitched a perfect frame.

Starting the season off with a couple of wins is one thing, but Coach Ballard believes this team is strong and could prove to be a force in the Rio Hondo league this year.

“We fell apart last year,” Ballard said. “This year we're a totally different team. I have six juniors in starting positions. We've got some very good hitters and it's going to take some time to unfold and get going. This team is the kind of team I don't need to motivate them much.”

With two come-from-behind victories already this year, does he think that trend is going to continue?

“I hope not,” he said


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