By Mitch Lehman
San Marino Tribune
San Marino High School’s varsity baseball team had a harmonic convergence on Friday.
Senior Night and a winner-take-all game against Monrovia at McNamee Field all tied together neatly after the Titans edged the Wildcats by a final score of 3-1 to earn a tie with South Pasadena for the Rio Hondo League championship. Both the Titans and Tigers earned spots in the CIF playoffs.
Tomas Bilvado twirled the latest mound gem for the Titans, as he held Monrovia to just two hits en route to the victory. San Marino finished the regular season with a 17-6 overall record, 8-4 in the Rio Hondo League. It was the Titans’ first Rio Hondo League title since 2014 and just the second since 1997, according to head coach J. J. Franklin, who is in his second full season at the helm.
“To be honest, it all started at the end of last year,” said Franklin. “We had our player exit meetings and knew we could do a lot better. I felt last year we went into games not expecting to win. I told everyone that this year we had two goals: one was to win league and the next is to win CIF. Well, we can check one box. Everyone bought in and our team leaders held everyone accountable.”
Franklin said the season held many points that the Titans needed to get past.
“We started off the season 7-0 and then lost to Temple City by just one run,” said Franklin.
“We had a chance to win every game. I told the guys [that] we have a chance to accomplish what we want to do.”
In fact, the Titans lost five games that were decided by one run.
“Our team knew what we needed to do,” said Franklin, who found a philosophical answer to the conundrum. “Sometimes taking losses is actually better for the team. It helps you handle adversity. It’s like, ‘We lost. What can we do to get better?’”
The Titans rode the right arm of senior pitcher Michael Liquori, who along with his twin brother and catcher Sebastian, formed a dynamic battery. Tyler Giddings had the game-winning hit Friday with a two-strike, two-out single to score J.J. Wilson, who also had an RBI single.
“The whole season has been a complete team effort,” said Franklin. “That was our goal as a coaching staff and for our players — let everyone own their role. In reality, baseball is a team game — we prided ourselves on playing selfless baseball. That is why we bunt a lot. Even our guys who didn’t play a lot had good attitudes and helped the team. I didn’t designate a captain this year. Each game was a guy stepping up and we were engaged in every pitch. We did a great job at being mentally prepared for what they needed to do next.”
The next step for the Titans is the postseason. They will begin their playoff journey this Friday, May 5, when they meet the winner of the game between Xavier Prep and Rancho Verde at San Marino High School’s McNamee Field. First pitch is scheduled for 3:15 p.m.
Technically, the Titans finished with the league tied for first place with South Pasadena, which defeated Temple City by a final score of 4-1 last Friday to gain its share of the title.
“We will be going as co-champs,” said Franklin.