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Falcons Were Early Birds

Division I: After late-night visit to Dodger Stadium, Crescenta Valley plays there tonight.

June 06, 1998|MIKE BRESNAHAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LA CRESCENTA — Crescenta Valley High had just beaten Yucaipa, 3-0, Tuesday night in the semifinals and, in a raucous vote, the Falcons unanimously approved Coach Phil Torres' proposal of an 11th hour run to Dodger Stadium, site of the Southern Section Division I championship.

The impromptu field trip wasn't entirely successful--security guards prevented the Falcons from entering the stadium at 11 p.m.--but the team caught an exterior glimpse of where they hope to realize their dreams.

Crescenta Valley (24-3-1), seeking its first Southern Section title, plays defending champion Esperanza (21-7-1) tonight at 7:30.

"Even though we haven't been [to a title game], it doesn't mean we should act like it," Torres said.

"My kids haven't mentally flipped out about anything. We won't run around with our hands flying in the air if we get a hit or anything. It's just another stadium with a few more seats. You've got to do the same thing you've been doing since T-ball."

All four of Crescenta Valley's playoff games have been decided by three runs or fewer, including one-run victories over Royal and Palmdale.

Esperanza, on the other hand, has outscored playoff opponents, 44-15. The Aztecs survived one scare, an 8-7 victory over Servite in the second round.

"[The Aztecs] don't have any close-game experience where they can bear down and do the job," said Mark McCauley, Crescenta Valley's second baseman. "We have the advantage in that area. We always seem like we can squeeze out a run, if we're in the pitcher's head or yelling or screaming or whatever."

But Esperanza does have experience.

The Aztecs have played in six Division I finals since 1986 and have won three championships.

Esperanza Coach Mike Curran doesn't dwell on the past.

"The last time I checked, that never got us a run," Curran said. "They still put up zeros for both teams to start the game."

Esperanza has not been kind in the playoffs to teams from the region.

The Aztecs knocked Simi Valley out of the playoffs in the 1986 semifinals, in the 1988 quarterfinals and in the 1993 final. They eliminated Crespi in the 1993 semifinals.

Six-foot-6 junior right-hander Bo Ashabraner (8-2, 2.80 earned-run average), a tight end for the football team, will start for Esperanza.

Crescenta Valley's starting pitcher is more of a mystery.

Left-hander Jordan Olson (10-1, 0.89 ERA), who earned the victory against Yucaipa, can pitch 4 2/3 more innings before reaching the 10-inning weekly limit allowed by state rules.

Jordan's status is further clouded by a lower-back injury that has bothered him since the second round. He skipped practice Thursday to receive medical treatment.

Right-hander Josh Herman (9-1, 2.15 ERA), who earned a save in 1 2/3 innings of relief against Yucaipa, is the logical choice to start today, but Torres was noncommittal.

"Everybody's assuming I'm throwing Josh, but I haven't decided yet," he said.

Regardless, the Falcons feel they can compete with more experienced Esperanza.

Said McCauley: "When we come out on top, it'll prove to everyone that we should be there."

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