SAN MARINO — La Cañada High’s baseball team has played San Marino twice this season, with each team earning a victory.
The Spartans had a chance to take the season series with a win on the road versus the Titans in the teams’ third and final encounter Friday.
However, with some sloppy play and a big inning by San Marino, La Cañada could not cash in on that chance, losing to the host Titans, 7-4, in a Rio Hondo League contest.
“Today we allowed this game to get away from us, only because of us,” La Cañada coach Matt Whisenant said. “I think if we executed and focused better, we would have come out with a victory.”
The win by San Marino (7-8, 6-3 in league) gave La Cañada (13-6, 7-2) just its second league loss of the season.
The Spartans loss also holds open the door open for a league title for San Marino, with both schools due to play three more league games. Temple City (5-3 in league), the next opponent for the Spartans, is also in the mix, with the Rams having four more league contests.
La Cañada, ranked No. 6 in CIF-Southern Section Division IV, held a 2-1 advantage going into the bottom of the fourth inning, but that was when things went astray. The Titans exploded for six runs in the inning, collecting four hits, drawing three walks and sending 10 batters to the plate.
Titans Tommy Long tied the contest at 2 with a one-out double that scored Grant Spitzer, who had reached on a walk. Three batters later, with the bases loaded, the Titans took to the lead for good on an infield hit. Noah Herra followed with a single that scored two runs.
Kade Wentz then hit a double to bring in two more runs and chase La Cañada starter Evan Umland. Spartans Connor Buchanan took over and got a strikeout to end the inning, trailing 7-2.
Umland finished with three strikeouts, while giving up five hits.
“I saw good timely hitting from our guys and good execution,” said San Marino coach Mike Hobbie, who is in his final season leading the Titans.
Buchanan pitched the rest of the way for the Titans, striking out seven of the nine batters he faced.
“[Buchanan] did a great job. He has been doing that all year. He is a dominant arm on the mound at this level,” Whisenant said.
The senior also accounted for the final run of the game with a towering home run in the seventh that tucked just inside the left-field foul pole. Buchanan also had an RBI in the fifth on a ground-out that scored Josh Gray.
The Spartans took a 2-0 lead with runs in the first and third innings. Titans starter Zack Balbin came out a little wild in the first, giving up a double to Ian Tinkham. He then then allowed a walk and proceeded to hit two batters. The second hit came from Ryan Graves with the bases full that brought home Tinkham for a 1-0 advantage.
Graves accounted for the visitors’ second run. In the third with two outs and the bases empty, the senior smashed a Balbin pitched over the fence in left field for a home run and a 2-0 lead.
San Marino answered with a run in the bottom of the inning, thanks to two La Cañada errors and a missed chance to turn a double play.
“[We made] some critical mistakes defensively, be it communication or poor throwing or catching the ball,” said Whisenant, who is in his third year. “I thought our four runs were good enough and Evan threw good enough to keep us in the game.”
Despite Friday’s defeat, the Spartans still have a clear road to regaining the title they last won in 2017. The simplest path would be to win out, assuring them an outright league championship.