There are many ways to stay busy, and the Rio Hondo League proved this point.
Take the Temple City High School baseball team, which spent nearly a week in Las Vegas taking part in the Durango Blazer Sportco Spring Classic where 40 of the best teams from California, Utah and Nevada competed. Temple City (13-2-1, 3-1 in league) won its bracket with three consecutive victories, including a win over Arbor View, ranked No. 4 in Nevada. The Rams were one of four seeded teams heading into the semifinals against Shadow Ridge of Nevada. Temple City lost, 11-7, but finished fourth overall.
That the Rams boast a talented pitching rotation was validated with their end result, which was just one of many positive experiences during the four-day trip that also included a trip to Las Vegas buffets as well as friendly competition at one of many large bowling alleys.
Temple City stayed near the strip and ate at the Orleans Casino, but the Rams didn’t wander far from there.
“We did everything we can to keep them away from the other part of Vegas,” Temple City coach Barry Bacon joked.
All joking aside, Temple City will come away with a rich experience and a renewed sense of excitement as it resumes league play next week against visiting South Pasadena (7-3, 1-3).
“To me, it’s just interesting to get the boys out of town and take them somewhere new,” Bacon said. “We had a great bonding experience and gave them a look into what college baseball life is like.”
Bacon said planning for the trip this season was easy, largely in part because of the strong parent support.
“With this kind of tournament you have to make sure you have a team like mine with enough pitching, and even then we ran out of pitchers,” Bacon said. “You also have to pick a team with super parents who you know will be helpful. Next year we won’t come because our spring break won’t line up with their spring break out here.”
Among the top teams from California invited was powerhouse Chatsworth, which drew a number of pro and college scouts, just another opportunity the Rams took advantage of.
South Pasadena also kept busy taking part in the Apache Invitational. The Tigers didn’t fare so well in losing all four of their games to San Dimas, La Salle, Bonita and West Covina. But the experience of facing bigger and stronger lineups will be helpful down the road in a league with much more parity this season, according to San Marino coach Mack Paciorek.
“It’s a five-team race for sure,” he said. “Every team has one or two arms that can beat anybody.”
San Marino (9-2, 3-1) kept with a long-standing tradition of enjoying spring break and for the 49th season did not take part in any tournament. Legendary coach Mickey McNamee in his 44 seasons at the helm did not take part in spring break tournaments, nor has Paciorek in his five seasons at the helm. The Titans scheduled workouts with players who enjoyed their time off.
“We worked out with the guys who stayed in town and trusted that the guys who are not here took their gloves, are staying in shape and ready to go,” Paciorek said.
Monrovia (8-3, 3-1) scheduled a tough nonleague game this week, losing to powerhouse Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, 9-8, and scheduled a doubleheader with California Military Institute. The Wildcats resume league on Wednesday against visiting San Marino and looks to avenge a 2-1 loss.
La Canada went the same rout as Monrovia, scheduling a doubleheader with Village Christian. The Spartans are 0-4 in league, but that can be deceiving. La Canada played Temple City tough in a 4-3 loss, and it held a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh before unraveling in the seventh and losing to San Marino, 7-2. The Spartans then suffered tough losses to Monrovia (6-4) and South Pasadena (6-4).
“It’s like being in the twilight zone at those as those games are taking place,” La Canada coach Dennis Ballard said. “We had two in a row where we had identical endings. We felt a little cursed but we easily could be 4-0 in league.”
La Canada resumes play in a week against Temple City, and the Spartans hope that’s enough time for Mitch Russell to heal up, who apparently suffered a stress fracture in his left ankle in the league opener on March 20. Russell had taken some time off from practice after that game in hopes of nursing his ankle back to health, but to no avail.
Ballard hopes to have him back in time when the Spartans resume league play.