LA CAÑADA — With some clever pitching and clutch two-out hitting, the La Cañada High baseball team earned something dear to them on Wednesday afternoon — a piece of the Rio Hondo League championship.
It’s something that’s been a work in progress for the Spartans for nearly a decade. Anthony Mizrahi and Alexander Bang made sure they would deliver for the Spartans.
Mizrahi hit a three-run home run in the first inning and Bang pitched five solid innings to lead host La Cañada to a 3-2 league victory against San Marino.
The Spartans improved to 13-6, 8-3 in league and can win the league championship outright with a road win against San Marino at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. San Marino dipped to 13-10-1, 4-7 and needs a win Thursday to remain in the hunt for a playoff berth.
“This is normally the way we win,” Mizrahi said. “Everybody has everybody’s back and we go out there doing the things we need to do to be successful.
“It’s a great feeling right now, but we still have work to do [Thursday], because we want to win league on our own.”
The Spartans own a one-game lead over Monrovia, which will meet Temple City in its regular-season finale Thursday.
Mizrahi gave the Spartans all the offense they would need in the first inning. With two outs, Johnny Selsor and Scott Moulin registered back-to-back singles off San Marino pitcher Jeffrey Chan. Mizrahi then drilled a change-up over the left-field wall to give the Spartans a 3-1 advantage.
“He just crushed that ball,” said La Cañada first-year Coach Alex Valadez, who spent the previous two seasons with the Spartans as an assistant. “That was such a clutch at-bat and he did exactly what he needed to do.
“We knew coming in that San Marino would be able to hit the ball, but Alexander did what he had to do by getting out of some jams and our defense played another good game. I’m happy for them about what they got done.”
San Marino, which finished with 10 hits and entered the game in third place, took a 1-0 lead in the first when Max Warren singled to drive in Kieran Ryan, who singled and stole second.
The Titans closed out the scoring in the second when Jeff Osgood delivered a run-scoring single to drive in Matt Wofford, who opened the frame with a double.
Bang, a right-hander, went five innings. La Cañada reliever Clayton Herrman pitched the final two innings for the save, striking out the side in the sixth and getting Bradley Haslam to ground into a game-ending double play in the seventh.
San Marino Coach Mac Paciorek said the Titans couldn’t get the big hit when needed.
“We had plenty of chances,” Paciorek said. “They just did a great job of keeping us from hitting the ball in the gaps.
“Tip your cap to La Cañada because they did what they had to do. We have to come out [Thursday] and find a way to get some more runs. We are in position where we control our own destiny.”
The top three teams in league automatically qualify for the postseason.