Baseball: Blair drops varsity baseball this season, giving Rio Hondo League teams serious schedule flexibility.

When Blair decided to play only junior varsity baseball this season, it opened an opportunity for the rest of the Rio Hondo League to schedule to their pleasing.

Monrovia, for example, loaded its schedule with tough nonleague opponents that included out-of-state teams.

Temple City did the same.

“It’s giving me a chance to have two out-of-state teams on our schedule,” Temple City coach Barry Bacon said. “It allows us to have some variety on my schedule. We’re able to challenge ourselves.”

Monrovia co-head coach Brad Blackmore echoed that statement.

“With Blair not playing this year, I added a bunch of games and we ran into some quality teams,” he said. “Playing that (Crescenta Valley) doubleheader is going to help us down the road. We were very competitive in both those games, and saw a very good left-hander from the team (from Oregon we faced earlier this week).”

Blair athletic director Gary Parks said the decision to play only junior varsity was made at the end of last season.

“We’re trying to build the program from the ground up,” Parks said. “Next season, they should be going back up to varsity.”

There was some confusion as to whether the league now goes from having three guaranteed spots to only two, but CIF-Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons said six-team and five-team leagues are guaranteed three playoff spots. Four-team leagues receive only two automatic bids, while seven-team leagues have four guaranteed spots.

Temple City earlier this week was scheduled to play Highland High of Palmdale in the Varsity First Pitch showcase, featuring 28 high schools for a one-game showcase at Clear Channel Stadium, home of the Single-A Lancaster JetHawks. Poor field conditions stemming from the heavy rain, however, canceled the game.

“Even though it was clear the field would have been under water,” Bacon said, “but it would have been awesome to play in a minor-league stadium.”

Temple City visits San Marino today, but more rain is expected. If the game is postponed, Bacon said, the game would be rescheduled for after spring break, since the Rams already have a game scheduled for Monday, which normally is when the league makes up its postponed games. Temple City is scheduled to host La Salle of Oregon that day.

“(San Marino coach) Mack (Paciorek) and I have three possible dates we need to discuss,” Bacon said.

Blackmore said that if Monrovia’s game at La Ca ada today is rained out, the game will be made up Monday, giving the Wildcats three league games next week.

Added Blackmore: “It’s going to be a very important week.”

Double trouble

Calvin (2-0, 13 strikeouts) and Corey Copping (nine strikeouts) would bolster any pitching staff in the area. Julian Jarrard (2-1, 16 strikeouts) would do the same. The trio combine to lead a Rams pitching staff that has an impressive 1.83 ERA.

Jarrard, like a slew of players in the Temple City lineup, is a jack of all trades. He’s not only a stellar pitcher, but he’s a quality shortstop and carries a heavy bat at the plate. Jarrard had a double and four RBIs in a 10-4 win over La Ca ada last week in the league opener. His brother Julian is the catcher, and the four have helped Temple City to a 4-2-1 record.

It’s their consistency that has Bacon beaming with pride and ready to take the challenge head-on in next month’s Apache Invitational, when the Rams take on CIF-SS champion Glendora, CIF-SS runner-up Bonita and San Dimas, which won the Division 4 title two years ago.

Finding the source

Blackmore said facing good pitching in nonleague competition is one reason why Monrovia hasn’t played well offensively, but there’s more to the problem.

“Some of it is lack of offense,” Blackmore said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat that. We start three sophomores and two or three juniors. You get exposed when you’re learning at the plate.

“When you face some good pitching, that’s the nature of the game.”

In its four losses, Monrovia (4-4-1) has totaled only five runs. This week against South Pasadena in the league opener, the Wildcats scored eight runs. The next day, Monrovia was held to one run in a 2-1 loss to Wilson of Oregon.

“We had a great hitting plan on Tuesday and did very well,” said Blackmore, referring to Monrovia’s game against South Pasadena. “Then we averted back to some of our bad habits at the plate (Wednesday) and it showed. We have some things offensively we’re working on, and we’ll get there.”

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