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La Cañada baseball continues turnaround season with playoff win

Spartans hold back California, 4-2, for CIF first-round baseball victory.

May 16, 2013|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
  • La Cañada High's George Steckbeck had two hits in the Spartans 4-2 win over California in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs Thursday.
La Cañada High's George Steckbeck had two… (Tim Berger/Staff…)

LA CAÑADA — Daniel del Valle and Clayton Herrmann haven't feared the big moment all season long and that continued, thankfully for the La Cañada High baseball team, in the team's CIF Southern Section Division IV opener.

The Spartans seniors were called on in key bases-loaded spots Thursday against Whittier's California High at La Cañada High. Del Valle provided the offense in the form of a bases-clearing double, and Herrmann silenced the Condors' offense with a big strikeout in the top of the sixth.

Both plays were difference-makers, highlighting La Cañada's 4-2 win, the program's first postseason win since 2009 and its first time advancing to the second round since 2005.

The win kept the Rio Hondo League-champion Spartans' turnaround season alive, as it will face the winner of Friday's Sonora-Bell Gardens game in the second round Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. a season removed from a 10-14 campaign in which it tied for last place in league.

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"Coach told us the CIF game we had two years ago (an 8-3 wild-card loss to Summit), this wasn't going to be like anything before. The atmosphere is a lot of different, it's definitely a lot different," said Herrmann of the difference from this season to his previous three.

Del Valle said a lot of credit goes to first-year coach Alex Valadez for the stark difference this season for La Cañada (14-7) from ones in recent memory.

"You know, coach Valadez is the most inspirational guy to have coaching you because he knows how to motivate his people," said del Valle, who was two for three with three runs batted in. "It's true, he really knows how to motivate us, get us in the game and how to produce the 'W' no matter what."

Through three innings, the Spartans were down, 1-0, and batting 0 for five with runners on base – 0 for four with runners in scoring position. They woke up in the fourth inning, as four hits scored all their runs that frame.

"We put the ball on the ground a lot better," Valadez said of the offensive breakthrough. "I think early in the game we were putting the ball in the air, a little sluggish. We beared down a little bit, put the ball into play and they booted a couple balls, and that opened up the game for us. That's what we do and we've got to keep doing that if we want to move on."

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