Group earns league awards

Brendon Shoemake has been pitching to Scott Stetson since they were both 8 years old. Turns out, things don't always change.

Shoemake and Stetson, the ace pitcher and starting catcher on La Cañada High's baseball team this year, both hauled in first-team All-Rio Hondo League honors in their senior seasons.

"I have known [Shoemake] for a long time, and catching him on all-star teams or playing against him for a long time, and it's always been a lot of fun," Stetson said. "It was pretty exciting to be named first team. I expected him to do it because he had a pretty good year, both pitching and hitting.

To a degree, it was expected by some people and a surprise to others that La Cañada had two first-team players.

Shoemake, who also played outfield, said he dreamed of making the All-Rio Hondo League's first-team, but never put in a full season on the varsity squad until his senior campaign because of injuries he suffered as a sophomore and junior.

"It was good to get some recognition," Shoemake said. "Last year was the year I could have made it, but I got injured. It does feel really good this year because I worked really hard. It was time."

As much as Shoemake appreciates the individual praise, he still wishes La Cañada could have put together a better season. The Spartans finished the year 11-11 (5-7 in the Rio Hondo League) and had their season end at the hands of Summit High of Fontana in the CIF Southern Section Division IV wild-card round, losing on the road, 8-3.

"It was a fun year. I just wish we could have pulled out a couple more victories," Shoemake said.

Stetson and Shoemake led the Spartans to the success they did have, putting together a three-game winning streak to qualify for a wild-card berth in the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs.

For a part of the season, the two were La Cañada's No. 3 and 4 hitters, until Stetson was moved to the lead-off spot and Shoemake to the three hole for the last part of the season. No matter where they hit in the order, they produced.

Stetson was responsible for the Spartans' highest batting average — .429 (27 for 63). His .486 one-base average and .571 slugging percentage and three triples were also team bests. The Chapman-University-bound catcher drove in nine runs and scored 14 times. He stole seven bases, struck out four times and made just one error on 34 chances all season.

"[Stetson's] a great player," Shoemake said. "He always got everyone going and he has a lot of heart. He is basically the backbone of most of our team."

At the plate, Shoemake hit .417 (20 for 48) — the second-highest batting average for the Spartans, got on base 46% of the time and slugged .438. He drove in 11 runs to tie a team high and struck out just five times in 58 plate appearances.

Shoemake, who's headed to UC Santa Barbara, was also a force on the mound. He maintained a 2.57 earned-run average, held opponents to a .184 batting average and collected 41 strikeouts while walking 24.

"We don't have that many pitchers in our league with a fastball consistently over 85, which [Shoemake] has," said Stetson, explaining Shoemake's dominance on the mound. "He has a good curveball and I don't think I have ever seen a better change-up than his — it gets so many strikeouts. His pitches have a ton of break and he hides the ball really well. He just does it all well."

Sam Baldwin, the Spartans' No. 2 starter, was right up there with Shoemake, keeping La Cañada in games as long as possible. Baldwin hauled in All-Rio Hondo League honors and was named to the league's second team, along with outfielder Derek Georgino.

Baldwin finished the season with a 2.83 ERA, a .246 batting average and he struck out 55 batters in 42 innings of work. Georgino hit .365 (19 for 52), posted a .426 on-base-average and a .442 slugging percentage. He had 10 RBI, scored six runs and stole four bases, while maintaining a perfect fielding percentage.

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