Crescenta Valley baseball leads diamond five full of new faces

Crescenta Valley High's Bryan Wang will look to lead the Falcons to success in the Pacific League on the mound and in center field. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer / March 2, 2013)

A season ago on the diamond, only Crescenta Valley High’s baseball team earned itself a spot in the playoffs.

This season, though, the Falcons find themselves in much the same situation as St. Francis, Flintridge Prep, Hoover and Glendale, as the quintet of local squads will be dealing with an overwhelming amount of new faces.

Only Crescenta Valley’s Ted Boeke and Michael Russo return among locals who were All-Area selections, as the majority of the local teams’ top talent from seasons past has moved on.

The graduations and turnover leave major questions as the season has just begun.

Coach Phil Torres’ Falcons won the Pacific League title last year thanks in large part to the contributions of Elliot Surrey, Troy Mulcahey and Kyle Murray, a decorated trio with plenty of seasons of varsity play under their belts. Now, Torres will look to Boeke, who will lead off and play shortstop, Cole Currie, a senior who will be the team’s No. 1 starter and play second base, and junior designated hitter Russo.

“The other six guys are still trying to prove themselves,” said Torres, who also counts junior center fielder Bryan Wang, the No. 2 hitter, among his returning starters. “We’re just gonna have to let kids play. We’ve got to find a way to get the best combination out there.”

While a lack of game experience is a factor, so too is an inexperienced pitching staff.

“I think pitching will be a question mark for the first two or three weeks,” said Torres, whose team was 1-1 heading into a game Saturday night.

Boeke, Wang, Russo and Currie, in that order, should make up the order and likely be the strength of the team.

“The top of the order’s gonna have to do some damage for us,” said Torres, who’s also looking for big contributions from senior Johnny Psaltis, a pitcher and one of three catchers, and freshman first baseman Adrian Damla. “We should be OK offensively.”

As for the rest of the Pacific League, Torres believes Burbank enters the season as the favorite, boasting the most experienced team and also thinks Arcadia, Burroughs and Pasadena should be battling along with the Falcons for the top four spots in league and automatic playoff berths.

Glendale is hoping to work its way into the Pacific’s playoff discussion if all goes right, as it’s one of three locals to welcome new coaches into the fold.

The Nitros will be managed by co-coaches John Tuttle and Chris Funaro, while Hoover is headed by former St. Francis Coach Brian Esquival and Flintridge Prep will be manned by Guillermo Gonzalez.

St. Francis, on the other hand, is under the guise of Aaron Milam, a longtime assistant for the Golden Knights who took over midway last season when Esquival moved on.

Just like any other season, St. Francis figures to face a loaded Mission League gauntlet, with Milam expecting Loyola, Harvard-Westlake and Alemany to be the favorites.

Milam, whose team opened Friday with a 4-2 loss to La Salle, figures to have depth on the mound, but will have to rely on some small ball to scratch together runs.

“We can pitch, we pitch pretty well. We’re pretty deep, we’ll compete on the bump,” said Milam, who will rely on the arms of senior Richie Alfonso, senior Daniel Monarrez and senior AJ Byer. “As far as scoring runs, that’s another story.”

Alfonso, who will also play first base, is likely to hit third and have a big say in what happens offensively, as well. Milam also likes the prospects of sophomore Andres Kim, an infielder who will lead off in the order.

Junior infielder Keven Baker will hit second in the order for a Golden Knights squad that tied for sixth in the seven-team Mission League a year ago.