LA CAÑADA — Pretty or ugly, all that matters for the La Cañada High baseball team is winning, as it holds a narrow lead atop the rest of the Rio Hondo League with two games left in its regular season.
The Spartans pulled out what was described by their coach Alex Valadez as a “sloppy, extremely sloppy” 9-7 league win over Temple City at home Friday.
“It’s kind of gone both ways a little bit right now, and all I can say is I’m happy we’re on the good side of it,” chuckled Valadez, whose team improved to 12-6, 7-3 in league to maintain a slim lead over second-place Monrovia (15-4, 5-3), which has four games left in league.
The win wasn’t pretty, as each side was guilty of a number of miscues. Walks (12), hit by pitches (nine) and errors (eight) all equaled or were greater than the amount of hits (eight) both teams combined for in the game, which also included two balks.
“This year probably,” said La Cañada’s Johnny Selsor, who had the biggest hit of the game, when asked if Friday was the ugliest game he’s played. “The pitchers walked a lot of people and then we weren’t making plays in the field. Somehow, we turned it around and got some hits, scored some runs.”
Selsor drove in the two winning runs with a two-out, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Spartans came into the frame down, 7-4, and received a helping hand or two that lifted them back in the game.
Three errors, two hit pitches and a walk led to the Spartans tying the game at 7 in the fifth. Selsor’s single, which came right after a pitching change, was the only hit of the frame.
The junior lined the ball past a diving shortstop and into left field to score two and put La Cañada back in front, 9-7, after Clayton Herrmann executed a beautiful hook slide at home to evade the tag.
“We were waiting for that clutch hit and Johnny stepped up and drove us in,” Herrmann said. “It was just one of those moments where you needed a spark to get going and Johnny was there.”
Herrmann then came in to pitch the final two innings. While the senior allowed just a walk in the sixth, the sloppy play displayed in the six previous innings continued in the seventh, as an error, hit batter and single loaded the bases with two outs.
Herrmann settled down and left the bases loaded, striking out the final batter looking for his third punchout of the game.
“I ask our guys to play to our ability and we slipped away with a few,” said Valadez, who was happy with the win but disappointed in his team’s two errors and 13 free passes (eight walks, five hit by pitches) it allowed. “I don’t think we’ve played to our potential the last couple of weeks, but we’re still tough and still disciplined.”
It seemed La Cañada was set to cruise to a win when it took a 4-0 lead in the first, but four walks and two hit by pitches led to Temple City (6-14, 3-5) taking a 5-4 edge in the third.
The Rams had just one hit in the frame, as two walks and both hit batters came with the bases loaded.
Two more free passes — leadoff hit by pitches — set Temple City up to increase its lead to 7-4 in the fifth on an error sacrifice fly.
Aided by a Herrmann leadoff single and two hit by pitches, the Spartans immediately loaded the bases in the bottom of the first. Scott Moulin scored Herrmann with a soft ground out to short and the Spartans scored three more runs in the inning on singles from Jacob Yonan and George Steckbeck (three RBI).
“The mindset is game to game,” Herrmann said. “You don’t want to get ahead of yourself and we obviously know Monrovia isn’t going to give us anything and we can’t give them anything.”
La Cañada will close its season with a home-and-home series with San Marino on May 7 and 9, respectively.