The La Cañada High baseball team has had little room for error this season. There was even less leeway when Rio Hondo League opponent Temple City visited, as the Rams sent their ace, Corey Copping, to the mound.
Copping came into the game with a 0.38 earned-run average, recording nearly twice as strikeouts (42) than hits (22) in 37 1/3 innings this season. La Cañada responded with its own ace, Brendon Shoemake. However, six Spartan errors and five unearned runs Friday was too much to overcome, as the Rams won, 6-1, at La Cañada.
The story of the game was the same one La Cañada Coach Dennis Ballard has been seeing play out all season.
"Our pitching has been excellent, our defense has been average to below average and hitting has been poor," said Ballard as his team dropped to 8-11 (2-8 in the Rio Hondo League). "Our record reflects it and we can't say much more than that."
Shoemake got into trouble early, walking the first two batters of the game before recording the first out. Julian Jarrard then recorded the first hit of the game, hitting a hard grounder to Clayton Herrman at shortstop. Herrman slid to knock the ball down but didn't make a play as the bases were loaded.
Temple City (14-6, 8-1) tested Herrman again on the next play. He fielded a hard grounder and bounced a throw to his third baseman, who couldn't handle the ball. The throwing error gave the Rams a 1-0 lead and kept the bases full. An error on the next play, followed by a run scored on a fielder's-choice ground ball, gave Temple City a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
Shoemake did his part on the mound after the first inning. He gave up just three hits and three walks in five innings and only allowed one earned run. But six errors led to five unearned runs for the Rams.
"It's very fortunate to get three runs against Shoemake without hitting the ball out of the infield. We felt if we got a lead, with our pitchers, we were going to be fine," Temple City Coach Barry Bacon said.
The Rams' pitching duo of Copping and Jarrard proved Bacon right. Copping gave up four hits and one run over three innings. Jarrard came on in relief, pitching the next four innings and surrendering two hits and two walks, while striking out four.
"We have three guys on the mound that can all start every big game that we have," Bacon said.
The Spartans tried to muster a rally, but they couldn't overcome the damage done in the first. They scored their first and only run in the game with a two-out rally in the bottom of the third. Herrman singled with two outs and Scott Stetson and Derek Georgino repeated the feat, as Georgino drove in Herrman with a single of his own, putting runners at first and third. Copping settled down and induced a ground-out to end the threat.
The loss hits La Cañada's playoff chances hard, as the team is tied for last place in league with Monrovia. The Spartans will take on Monrovia Friday and South Pasadena on Tuesday. Those games are must-wins if the Spartans want to earn an at-large bid for the playoffs, Ballard said.
"We're not too sure what's going to happen, but we've got a shot at it — it's very doable," he said. "We need to win those games one at a time, practice hard next week and see what CIF says."