Muir, La Cañada, Temple City, Monrovia, and a doubleheader with La Quinta.
The Titans were able to generate a total of nine runs in these six games and after facing the Spartans, Wildcats, and Rams, it was obvious that the team’s mental focus needed an adjustment. Last Friday, the Titans walked into rival South Pasadena to present the message that they weren’t going to roll over without a fight.
“It was a ‘must-win’ situation in order to stay in the running,” said senior catcher Kade Wentz.
What happened next was something out of a dream.
Though the Titans couldn’t notch a run, San Marino received three singles in the first inning off the bats of Wentz, junior shortstop Noah Herrera and senior right fielder Grant Spitzer.
What makes this special for this team happened in the third inning. Down by two runs, the Titans began to attack every pitch that was in the vicinity of the plate. Senior infielder Sean Richardson poked a ground ball into center to reach first. Herrera slapped a double to centerfield to get both Richardson and himself into scoring position. The first tally for the Titans came from a sac fly to deep center to that plated Richardson. Spitzer’s hard poke down the third base side would get junior pinch runner Neven Yarahmadi and himself into a first and third situation. Senior leftfielder Max Bradley drove a ball to left to get Yarahmadi to score and tie game at two runs apiece.
As he stepped into the batter’s box, senior first baseman Tommy Long stroked a moonshot over the centerfield wall that would catch the attention of anyone near the ballpark. The three-run homer got the Titans to a level of passion not yet experienced this season as they had to be asked to hold back from charging the plate to congratulate Long as the Titans took a 5-2 lead.
“I just knew that we needed to get them home,” said Long. “Coach Hobbie always says ‘timely hitting,’ so I just wanted to put the bat on the ball and give our runners a chance to score. I just wanted to make solid contact.”
The Titans kept the offensive crusade going in the top of the fourth. A pair of singles from Wentz and Spitzer gave Bradley the push to drive in the sixth run. With Spitzer on third and Long on first after being hit by a pitch, junior infielder Jazz De Perio shot a sacrifice fly to center that allowed Spitzer to tag up and score the seventh run.
The fifth inning presented even more offensive strides to extend the lead. After poking a fly ball into center, Wentz would trade places with Herrera with a double into right field to score the eighth run. Long would contribute even more with a single to left to score Wentz and move Bradley to second after after he was hit by a pitch. De Perio was hit by a pitch to load the bases and senior centerfielder Beau Hobbie was also tagged by a pitch. Forcing Bradley to the plate with run number 10.
A crazy play occurred in the bottom of the fifth. De Perio would dive and miss a grounder, but Herrera would back him up and try to complete the play.
“Most of our guys have played with each other for a long time,” said Richardson. “This was a perfect example of playing for each other. After Jazz dove out, Noah could’ve given up on that play, but he kept on going. We trust each other and have each other’s backs. We all fit together very well.”
The Titans last offensive push for this game happened in the sixth inning. Wentz stole home to tally the eleventh run. Bradley would bring Spitzer home with a line drive to left for run number twelve and the Titans improved to 2-7 overall and 1-3 in the Rio Hondo League with the 12-3 victory.
“We knew we had to get this win, and our demeanor was an important factor for us,” said senior catcher Joey Brunner. “Our positive demeanor kept us locked in throughout the whole game, and this is what can help us turn around our season.”
The team had sixteen hits, a season high for the Titans. Senior starter Zach Balbin started the game and gave up three runs, two of them earned. After Balbin gave up the third run in the fifth, junior relief pitcher Calvin Ryan came on and threw three shutout innings to give Balbin the win.
“Coach Mike Hobbie always says ‘swing the damn bat,’” said Wentz. “In the beginning [of the season], we weren’t as aggressive, but once we got our momentum we began to swing the bat more and attack the first pitch more often.”
For every defensive group, the leaders now understand their goals and what is critical for the rest of the season. According to Balbin, the pitchers “need to stay focused and play like we played today.”
For the infielders, Richardson said, “We know that we have got to play exceptionally well and have to minimize our errors. If our offense starts to slack, it is important to make a lot of plays so we can get our team in the dugout and find more opportunities to score. The fundamental goal is to make the routine plays, and maybe make a spectacular play if it is appropriate.”
And for the outfielders, Bradley put it simply that “Coach Matt [Hobbie] said that we need to be in the game every pitch, which definitely was what we struggled with the past few games. We definitely were sharper this game.”
The Titans will return from Spring Break with a flurry of games next week. San Marino visits Temple City on Tuesday, March 26 before heading to La Cañada on Wednesday, March 27. The Titans return home on Friday, March 29 to face Monrovia, the defending Rio Hondo League champions. All games start at 3:30 p.m.