In each of the past two seasons, Templeton High’s baseball team has lost in the first round of CIF-Southern Section playoffs.
On Thursday, the Eagles got “the gorilla off their back” in the words of coach Brad Macomber.
Templeton (18-4) outslugged Valley Christian (12-16) of Cerritos in a 10-6 home win in the first round of Division 5 playoffs.
The Eagles were led by a 3-for-3 day at the plate from senior designated hitter Spencer Walsh, who had a triple and two doubles. Walsh drove in three runs and scored three.
“I’ve never had a three-hit game here at this field,” Walsh said. “I was just trying to hit that first pitch fastball and to hit strikes. This is our first playoff win, and it’s a good way to start things off in playoffs.”
Walsh said a difference between this year’s team and squads of past years is the resiliency with 10 seniors and a lot of depth at pitching as well as at field positions.
The Eagles trailed 2-0 in the first inning but managed to get out of jams with runners on base early in the game behind freshman starter Mac Lardner.
Templeton kept the game to a 2-1 deficit before erupting in the third for six runs to take a 7-2 lead.
During the big inning, Templeton had four consecutive RBI hits, including the soaring triple from Walsh that one-hopped the wall in left center.
Walsh entered the game with a .410 batting average, second on the team to Michael Frigon’s .536 mark. Frigon was 1 for 3 on the day with a run scored.
Walsh, Taylor Tobin, Justin Syracuse, and Donald Syracuse each had multiple hits to provide run support for Lardner, who improved to 8-1 on the season.
Lardner, who entered with a 1.32 ERA, gave up five runs in five innings, but worked out of jams in the second and third to hold the Crusaders scoreless in those innings.
“We came back, and the difference between this year and last year is we fight back a lot better,” Walsh said. “We have a lot of fire.”
The Eagles, the Los Padres League champs, move on to face the winner of Big Bear and Jurupa Hills on Tuesday in the second round. Both teams were second-place teams in their leagues.
“We got the gorilla off our back,” Macomber said. “You have to be able to handle the nerves. You have to play the way you know how to play. Then if you get beat, you can live with that. But you can’t live with the way we’ve played the past two years, which is to not show up.”
Macomber said he was impressed how Lardner handled a good hitting team, perhaps the best the Eagles faced this season, despite not having his best stuff.
“He was up in the zone more than he normally is, but he kept battling,” Macomber said. “They were the most balanced team at the plate we’ve seen this season.
“Against Mac, you have to be balanced and patient, and they didn’t have too many ugly swings against him.”
Against Valley Christian’s best pitcher, Nico Morandini, who had a 2.11 ERA and 6-2 record entering the game, the Eagles got their first run on a RBI double from right fielder Andy Garretson in the bottom of the first.
Garretson, a 6-foot-5 senior, got his arms extended on a low pitch, driving it into the gap to left center to score Walsh from first after Walsh had walked with two outs.
Then in the third, Spencer Howard had the team’s second RBI triple of the inning as the Eagles held their own batting practice session as Templeton batted around with many of its hits in the inning coming with two hits.
Templeton finished with 13 hits, including a 2-for-3 game from first baseman Justin Syracuse, who also had a RBI and a stolen base.
“We have a lot more chemistry on this team than we’ve had in the past,” Syracuse said. “This team really wants to win and you can tell. With 10 seniors, we don’t want our season to end.”