COSTA MESA — La Cañada banged out 17 hits and didn't commit any errors in its 19-2 wild-card win over Costa Mesa to open the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs May 18.
In the win, Spartans Coach Dennis Ballard was left most impressed by the performance of his sophomore pitcher Mitch Russell.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, they weren't able to keep winning in the playoffs, as they fell to host St. Paul, 10-0, Friday in a second-round game.
In the win, La Cañada (13-12) scored 10 runs in the first inning, allowing Ballard to pull his starter Brendon Shoemake. Enter Russell, who made the most of the big lead and held off any threat of a Mustangs' comeback.
Russell struck out six, walked one, scattered just four hits and allowed two runs. Yet, most of all he seemed to bring some big-time relief to Ballard.
"Mitch Russell did a beautiful job today, especially for being a sophomore," Ballard said. "He's done a really nice job this season. He hasn't pitched in big games this year because we're trying to bring him along as sophomore. For what he did today, it was perfect."
Russell's performance allowed Ballard to rest his other arms for Friday's St. Paul game.
Ballard was planning to pull Shoemake. He had to. Shoemake sustained an injury, Ballard said. The coach said the starting pitcher was bothered by a biceps injury, something that Shoemake had to deal with early in the season.
Shortstop Michael Lee was hot for the Spartans, as he nearly hit for the cycle. He had a single, double and a home run. He finished three for four and was hit by a pitch. He also had three runs batted in.
Leadoff hitter Timothy Kim came up big in the first inning, helping the Spartans get their huge lead.
Kim hammered a two-out, three-run double to keep La Cañada's big first inning going. Kim went two for two and scored four runs.
The Spartans sent 16 batters to the plate in the first inning.
"It felt really good," Ballard said of the first inning. "Costa Mesa is a lot better than that. But sometimes you commit an error and it keeps going, and you just fall apart. You can't explain that. Part of me as a coach feels for them. I've been on that end. It's hard to see it happen to a team."
But Ballard will take it.
After the Mustangs (14-14) scored two runs in the bottom of the third, La Cañada answered right back with five runs in the top of the fourth. Scott Stetson provided a two-run double to highlight the inning.