La Cañada's baseball team had a chance to win its Rio Hondo league opener on the road last Friday, as they visited the Rams of Temple City. Despite an early lead, the Spartans could not hang on, losing 7-5.
Temple City's Brian Dearth was off to a solid start. Nine pitches, two strikeouts, two batters faced.
Then came a hit, followed by another hit, followed by a third hit, and finally followed by a walk. Before it was said and done, Dearth faced seven batters, allowed two La Cañada runs to score and had a runner in scoring position. While he struck out three in the first inning, he also threw 33 pitches.
With Dearth roughed up, the Spartans appeared to be in a position to take control of the game early, especially after he threw 22 more pitches in the second inning.
“I didn't have my best stuff,” he said. “My mechanics weren't on.”
On the flip side of the inning, Eric Smith seemed to have his best stuff, throwing fewer pitches in the first two innings combined (29), than his counterpart did in the first inning alone.
Entering the bottom half of the third inning, the Spartans led 3-1, with Smith winning the pitch count 74-29.
However, the bottom half of the third inning started on the wrong foot for La Cañada, as Jimmy Britt reached on an error and Morgan Hatch hit a double, placing runners on second and third base for Temple City.
Dearth helped his own cause with a two-run single to tie the game. He would eventually score a run on a wild pitch, to give the Rams the lead for good at 4-3. Williams Do scored the other run in the Rams' half of third inning, as Smith threw 20 pitches in the inning to give up four runs on four hits.
In the fourth and fifth innings, Dearth finally gained some control as he struck out five batters, gave up one hit and threw 32 combined pitches, bringing his total pitch count to 106 through five innings. He had a perfect fifth inning, striking out the side.
The Rams would score two more runs in the sixth inning on a two-out error in right field, to take a 7-3 lead into the seventh inning.
That was a costly error. With Smith on first base, John Ondrejcka hit a first pitch, two-run home run, his first, over the left field wall with no outs to cut the Ram deficit to 7-5. Without the error in the sixth inning, the game may have been tied at 5-5.
Yet Dusty Sanderson forced three of the next four batters to groundout to earn the save, giving Dearth (2-0) the win. It was Sanderson's first save.
“It's usually one or two plays (that decide it) when two good teams play, and that's what happened,” La Cañada coach Dennis Ballard said. “A couple of plays changed it.”
Ondrejcka led the Spartans on offense, scoring two runs and driving in three runs in four at-bats. Smith was 4-for-4 with three runs scored and two doubles.
In terms of pitching, Smith dropped to 1-1, pitching three innings and striking out two.
The Spartans, who dropped its first league game, dropped to 5-2 overall after starting the season 4-0.
Temple City, playing its second league game, improved to 1-1 in Rio Hondo league play, 5-2 overall.