Spartan Rally Comes Up Short in Quarterfinals

Photo courtesy Eric Danielson
Graham Massimino scored La Cañada’s lone run in the Spartans’ 2-1 loss at North Hollywood Campbell Hall last Friday.

The La Cañada High School varsity baseball team was in unknown territory last Friday, playing a CIF Southern Section Division 5 quarterfinal for the first time since 1989.
“Historically, La Cañada hasn’t been in those type of games,” said LCHS head coach Matt Whisenant, who was a senior on the last Spartan team to play a quarterfinal playoff game. “It’s a lot different.”
As was his squad, which entered the contest riding a 13-game winning streak. The hot-hitting Spartans were held at bay as North Hollywood Campbell Hall staved off a late rally from visiting La Cañada for a 2-1 victory.
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the seventh inning, Whisenant’s squad began to claw its way back. Campbell Hall starting pitcher RJ Collins loaded the bases and walked Jonathan Shalklan, which allowed Graham Massimino put his team on the board.
Reliever Joseph Light-Rake entered the game to face Kyle Mysliviec, who led the Spartans with a .368 batting average.
“I noticed the third baseman was playing back,” Whisenant said. “From my perspective, I thought if Kyle could get the bunt down the third base line at any capacity, we would have caused havoc and gotten that run.”
The senior did as he was signaled and attempted the bunt on a 1-1 count. The ball deflected off the bat and hit him. The umpires called Mysliviec out, giving the Vikings a 2-1 victory.
“They ruled that he was out of the box when the ball hit him, which was extremely disheartening,” Whisenant said. “It is what it is. It’s not something that defined the game, but it’s a bummer.
“We had to claw back, but it wasn’t our day,” the LC coach added. “It wasn’t our day on the wrong day.”
Collins held the No. 2-seeded Spartans (23-6 overall record) to only four hits in the game. Whisenant said the Campbell Hall pitcher was efficient and threw strikes at a decent speed but wasn’t overwhelming.
“I think the one thing that maybe was more profound than anything was the fact that we haven’t been in that kind of environment,” said the first-year LCHS coach. “In the playoffs, every pitch counts.”
La Cañada sophomore Connor Buchanan was dealt the loss on the mound. He surrendered two unearned runs on four hits and three walks and struck out four. Tristan Kalnins pitched the final two innings and struck out one.
The Spartans, who won their first Rio Hondo League title since 2013, will lose nine players to graduation. Max Umland, Aiden Phillips, Tanner Barge, Tyler Fierro, Connor Schulz, Matthew Sox, Massimino, Kalnins and Mysliviec played their final games in a La Cañada uniform.
“I couldn’t ask for more from these kids,” said Whisenant. “They accepted the challenge, and they’ve done a tremendous job of setting the standard for the future of the program.”

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