As the La Cañada Hih baseball team ventured deeper and deeper into the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, their opponents constantly had to address two problems: pitchers Ryan Graves and Connor Buchanan.
The duo rotated on-and-off the mound and helped the Spartans’ program advance to their first division championship game.
For their postseason efforts, Graves and Buchanan were recognized with All-CIF Southern Section first-team honors on Thursday when the CIF released honorees for all divisions.
“They were our one- and two-punch on the mound and were incredibly instrumental in our success, not only during the season, but in the playoff run that we had as well,” La Cañada coach Matt Whisenant said. “They deserved it.
“I would have liked to have seen Tai [Walton]’s name on there. He was so instrumental in so many ways, but you only have so many spots. But I’m glad that we got those two gentlemen on there.”
Graves, who was an All-CIF selection in boys’ basketball earlier this year, capped his baseball run with an 8-3 record. The San Jose State University commit recorded three complete games and had one shutout in 11 starts.
The Rio Hondo League Most Valuable Player pitched 70 1/3 innings and registered a 1.89 earned run average, struck out 64, walked seven, scattered 70 hits and yielded 19 earned runs.
At the plate, Graves hit .424 with 16 runs-batted in, 28 hits, and 14 runs scored in 66 at-bats to go along with six stolen bases.
Buchanan recorded a 0.76 ERA in just 46 1/3 innings with three starts and five saves. The senior, who is off to the USC in the fall, gave up five earned runs and 26 hits, struck out 60 and walked 14.
The Rio Hondo League Pitcher of the Year batted .299 with 26 hits and 24 RBI. He homered eight times, scored 33 runs and had seven stolen bases.
La Cañada finished the season with a 22-8 record and captured its second league title in three years.
After a 14-0 win against Windward in the Division III playoff opener, the Spartans went extra innings in the following two rounds, with a 2-1 second-round win over Warren in nine innings and a 2-1 quarterfinal victory against Ocean View in 11.
The La Cañada bats woke up in the semifinal at Oak Hills with a 13-2 win to clinch the program’s first division final berth.
The Spartans fell, 7-0, to Great Oak at Dodger Stadium in the division championship game.
“Part of me is satisfied and part of me is still hungry,” Whisenant said. “I think it’s quite an accomplishment that these kids achieved and it holds a special place in my heart. I hope it’s something they’ll never forget. I know I won’t.
“But at the same time, once you get a taste of it, you want to strive and work to make the next group better and, hopefully, more prepared for the next time if we have that opportunity down the road to hopefully close the deal.”