By Miguel A. Melendez
LA CAADA – Through much of the day, the La Caada High School baseball team scrambled to find equipment.
Bats. Gloves. Cleats. Old uniforms. Anything that could be used for Friday’s game against L.A. Baptist was acceptable.
The Spartans’ mood was not hindered by the fact that their baseball equipment was stolen the night before, and it didn’t show after a 6-4 win propelled La Caada to the Southern California Invitational championship game.
The Spartans (4-0) still don’t know who they will play at 11 a.m. today. The site has also not yet been determined.
The La Caada baseball team arrived Friday morning and found out someone broke into their locker room. Golf and wrestling equipment also was stolen.
The locks were jammed open when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrived to investigate.
Several players on the team were excused from their second- and third-period classes to go home and to a sporting goods store to get any equipment they could find.
More disturbing, the Spartans had some of their brand- new uniforms stolen too, so the team had to wear uniforms that belonged to the JV team 15 years ago.
La Caada coach Dennis Ballard said six other schools were also hit within the last week.
Nevertheless, the old uniforms may have brought the Spartans some good luck.
“We just might have to wear them as long as we win,” Ballard said.
The Spartans jumped to an early 2-0 lead but had to climb their way back after L.A. Baptist (3-1) scored three runs in the third inning to take a 3-2 lead.
But that’s as close as the Knights would get to winning.
La Caada’s Jeff Oechsel got things going when he drew a walk to lead off the third.
With one out, Bryan Collins tripled, driving in Oechsel to make it 3-3.
Max Russell then doubled to bring Collins home to make it 4-3. Russell later stole home to give the Spartans a 5-3 cushion.
Collins went 2-for-3 with a double and triple and three RBIs.
Stanford-bound Eric Smith had an off night. He went 0-for-3 with a walk, strikeout and groundout.
La Caada’s Cole Kendall pitched five innings and struck out three. Russell struck out two.
Ballard was pleased that the Spartans are playing in the championship. but added that there’s still some work to do.
“We’re getting some good pitching and some good relief that comes in,” Ballard said.
“We’re still trying to put it all together. We have some unproven guys on the mound, but they’re doing a good job so far.”
La Caada will play one more nonleague game, against Azusa on Monday, then opens Rio Hondo League play at home against Monrovia on Friday.
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