First published in the April 23 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
To start the Pacific League baseball season, Crescenta Valley High won its first seven games, but then dropped three in a row. The Falcons were trying to end the skid, going on the road Tuesday to face Glendale High with the Nitros looking to show they belong in the upper echelon.
In a departure from recent history, host Glendale collected a 2-1 Pacific League victory over Crescenta Valley, behind a strong outing from Nitro starting pitcher Levi Valadez.
“The way that [the Falcons] run things, the way that they ultimately compete, is what we strive for. It’s what we want to become,” Glendale coach Marcus Whithorne said. “So, not only to be able to compete, but to get a game from them, it feels good. Not only for me [and] the staff, but for all the work these boys have put in. It’s nice to see.”
Valadez went the distance on the mound for Glendale (9-8 overall record, 4-7 in league) to pick up the complete game victory. The hurler allowed just two hits, struck out four and did not allow a runner past second base after the first inning. The junior used a repertoire composed of fastball, changeup, over-the-top curveball and a sweeping slider to keep Crescenta Valley (14-10, 7-4) off balance throughout.
“[Valadez] isn’t the biggest in stature, but he’s a guy that has a four-pitch mix that allows him to go multiple times through the lineup,” Whithorne said. “He is able to execute. He pitches to our defense, which is our strength, and puts us in a position to win every time he takes the bump.”
Making the outing even more special for the Nitro pitcher was that his father was in attendance and got to see him pitch for the first time this season.
“Right now I feel so good,” Valadez said. “Also, I’m from Mexico and my dad is here. He is [here] right now on vacation. It’s crazy.”
The Nitro victory ends the Falcons’ 10-game winning streak over Glendale dating back to 2015.
“All you can do is go back to practice and work,” CV coach Phil Torres said of his team’s now four-game Pacific winless streak.
Glendale did all of its damage in the bottom of the third inning, which started with the hosts trailing 1-0. Nitro Josh Hopkins led off by lining a single into center field off of CV starter Jameson Ferraro. Sean Forero then advanced him to second with a groundout. With Erik Chavez at the plate, Hopkins stole third base. Soon after, Chavez smashed a triple into the left-center field gap to drive the junior in and tie the game.
Matthew Vega came up next and got what could be the shortest RBI-single on record. The sophomore chopped down on a Ferraro offering, and the ball hit the soft dirt in front of the batter’s box and died. Before the Falcon battery could locate and react to the ball, Chavez raced home from third and tagged the plate for what would turn out to be the game-winning run.
“I think it was a curveball in the dirt,” Vega said. “Since it was so low I just topped it up and it was a good thing he scored.”
Crescenta Valley got its leadoff man on base to start the sixth when Valadez hit Falcon Kris McCollum in the back with a pitch. However, the next batter, Chris Barrena, pulled back a bunt and swung away, hitting a fly ball out to right field that turned into a double play when McCollum could not beat the throw back to first.
“That’s a hit-and-run that we popped up,” Torres said.
After a spectacular play at third base by Hopkins to start the top of the seventh, Valadez retired the final two Falcon batters on two pitches to secure the elusive victory.
Crescenta Valley got on the board first with a run in the top of the first. With two out, Valadez struck Ferraro with a pitch. He advanced to second on a walk to McCollum. Barrena then drove him home with a single laced into right field.
The only other Falcon hit was a single in the fifth inning by Zack Petersen.
“For a program like ours, we take a moment like this and my message to the boys is this: We take this and we build. We’ve illustrated we can compete; now we want to build from that,” Whithorne said.