Melendez: Is Rio Hondo League deep? Yes and no

MIGUEL MELENDEZ COLUMN

This column appeared on page 3B of the Star-News sports section on Friday, May 1

OK, so this season’s Rio Hondo League slate isn’t the strongest and deepest ever.

But who said it was?

Read carefully:

“This is as strong and deep I’ve seen as a whole,” Monrovia baseball co-head coach Brad Blackmore said earlier this week.

“It’s not everybody’s best team, but it’s evenly matched, and you can throw South Pasadena in there too.”

We’ll get to South Pasadena in a bit.

But first let us dissect the second portion of Blackmore’s statement: It’s not everybody’s best team, but it’s evenly match.

That’s the point Rio Hondo League veterans seem to be missing, including an anonymous poster who had this to say on our “From The Sidelines” blog at www.insidesocal.com/paspreps:

“Strongest and deepest? That comes from a reporter who hasn’t been around that long. It’s not the strongest and deepest by any stretch, rather the weakest and by weak I mean all teams are average so (there) is parity. … Do some homework before you make silly statements like that. … How can you ask if this is the deepest (Rio Hondo League) ever? The question alone is utterly ridiculous.”

Obviously he/she is a big fan of yours truly, but by no stretch did your favorite sportswriter ever say or write the former.

The question was posed and readers answered with an emphatic “No.”

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Sure, long gone are the days of Temple City’s Ryan Tucker, La Caada’s Matt Stoner and Monrovia’s Eddie McKiernan.

Tucker was taken in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft and made his debut with the Florida Marlins last June. McKiernan currently is in the Angels organization.

Who can forget the McKiernan- Tucker battle when McKiernan, only a sophomore, defeated Tucker and the Rams 5-0. In that game, McKiernan threw a no-hitter.

Tucker came right back and beat the Wildcats 3-2, and both pitchers recorded double-digit strikeouts.

“The McKiernan and Tucker battles were epic,” Blackmore recalled.

“That’s as good as pitchers as I’ve seen in the Valley. You’re just not going to have that; that’s not going to be the case every year.”

So lets live in the present and embrace the back-and-forth battles between Monrovia, San Marino, Temple City and La Caada.

On Wednesday, the Spartans dropped a tough one, 8-4 to the Titans.

As a result, La Caada dropped from first to fourth in the league standings.

Certainly nobody can argue that there’s no excitement in this league race as the playoffs approach.

“I don’t think after nine or 10 games of league we’ve ever had a year in the last 10 to 12 years where we’ve had four teams within a game for first,” Blackmore said. “That’s legit. That’s the way it is.”

It used to be that one or two teams would dominate the Rio Hondo League.

“We’d have two teams who dominated everyone, and we’d get called on that because the rest of the league was down,” Blackmore said.

La Caada, San Marino and even South Pasadena have joined the party. Temple City didn’t dispatch the Tigers until a home run in the seventh inning, and Monrovia squeezed out a 1-0 win on Wednesday to keep steady in the standings.

“Now that those teams in the middle and back end of league have raised up their game, people knock that?” Blackmore said. “I think it’s good for the league.”

Temple City coach Barry Bacon called it.

“Someone is going to be fourth real fast,” he said last week after the Rams’ 4-3 win over La Caada.

If you look at the Rio Hondo League standings, you’ll see that Monrovia has taken control with a 7-2 record, followed by San Marino (7-3), Temple City (7-3) and now the Spartans (6-3).

So when the Rams visit San Marino today, think about the current matchups. If you were at last week’s La Caada-Temple City game, you saw the emotions running through Jordan Halladay. If you were at Wednesday’s San Marino-La Caada game, you saw a great pitching duel between the Spartans’ Cole Kendall and the Titans’ Trevor Dority, and, of course, who can forget Michael Thompson cheering on his teammates in the sixth before San Marino erupted for five runs.

There are eight underclassman listed on Temple City’s roster, including the talented Dusty Sanderson; five for San Marino including Stevie Yortsos and Joe Forgatch; and 10 apiece for Monrovia and La Caada.

Gone will be the Eric Smiths of La Caada and Richard Kilburys of Monrovia come next season, but if we stop comparing teams and athletes to those of the past, we might come to a stark realization: Right now, at this very moment, there’s quite a heated league race that could come down to the wire.

Won’t you please join the fun?

miguel.melendez@sgvn.com
(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4485