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Warriors on path to Division III playoffs

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Last year Fallbrook High School’s baseball team reached the CIF Division IV baseball finals, and this year the Warriors have been moved to Division III. CIF playoff competition in the higher division is likely for the Warriors this year.

A 2-1 win Friday, April 28, at Vista High School improved Fallbrook’s season record to 14‑7-1 including 8-3 in Valley League competition. It was good for the league standings lead by half a game over Escondido High School, whose 3-2 win April 28 at El Camino High School gave the Cougars a 7-3 league record.

“Right now I feel good where we’re at, but we have a tough schedule to finish,” Fallbrook coach Pat Walker said. “All of our league is very challenging. It’s a pretty even league in regards to talent level.”

This year Fallbrook’s varsity roster consists of 18 players including 16 who were on the 2022 team.

“We have a good mix of juniors and seniors and a couple of freshmen,” Walker said.

The roster also includes two sophomores. The 16 returning players have CIF playoff experience from last year.

“That really helped,” Walker said.

Two of Walker’s assistant coaches are new. Paul Martinez replaces Doug Baker, whose son was a senior last year. Mark DiBenedetti started 2022 as the Warriors’ pitching coach but passed away during the season, and former Fallbrook player Pat Lucy is the new pitching coach.

“That’s been a great addition,” Walker said.

The Pirate-Falcon Classic is organized by Oceanside High School and Scripps Ranch High School and is called the Pirate-Falcon Classic or the Falcon-Pirate Classic depending on who won the previous year’s “naming rights game” between Oceanside and Scripps Ranch.

Fallbrook’s 2023 season began with Pirate-Falcon Classic losses Thursday, March 2, at home against San Dieguito Academy and Friday, March 3, at Santa Fe Christian High School. A 3‑1 tournament victory Monday, March 6, at La Jolla High School gave the Warriors their first win of the season. Fallbrook overcame a 5-0 deficit Wednesday, March 8, at Sage Creek High School and scored four runs in the top of the seventh to cause the tournament game to end in a 5-5 tie.

Fallbrook’s North County Tournament competition began Monday, March 13, with a 5-2 home win against Brawley High School. Two other Imperial County teams traveled to Fallbrook for the tournament; Calexico High School won a 6-2 game while Fallbrook defeated Southwest High School in El Centro in a 1-0 contest to begin a six-game Warriors winning streak.

Valley League play for Fallbrook began with Monday, March 27, and Saturday, April 1, home games against Valley Center High School. Fallbrook’s 4-0 triumph in the league opener included senior Tanyon Smith allowing three hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings before senior Peyton Van Eik retired the final two batters. The pitching combination of senior Ethan Rink and sophomore Evan Thomas allowed Valley Center three hits and one walk in the 2-1 game April 1.

The Lions Tournament is the nation's largest high school baseball tournament and takes place the week before Easter. Fallbrook was in Division 6A for this year’s Lions Tournament. The Warriors won all three of their pool games. The Monday, April 3, home game against Garfield High School of Los Angeles had a 6-2 score. Fallbrook prevailed in a 7-4 contest Tuesday, April 4, at San Pasqual. On Wednesday, April 5, the Warriors traveled to Olympian and returned home with a 17-3 victory.

Francis Parker won the other Division 6A pool, so Fallbrook faced the Lancers in the Thursday, April 6, championship game.

“We faced a really good Francis Parker team,” Walker said. “I was really impressed with them.”

The Lancers, who are in Division II for CIF playoff purposes, won the Lions Tournament championship with a 6-3 triumph over the Warriors. A three-run homer by Ben Gudoy was the difference in the game.

“We were right there,” Walker said. “We have been in every game pretty much just because of the strength of our pitching.”

During the Warriors’ first 149 defensive innings Fallbrook pitchers allowed 131 hits and 59 walks while striking out 146. Gudoy’s home run was the only four-base hit against the Warriors. The cumulative opposing batting average was .229.

Smith, junior Jaxon Dent, Evan Thomas and senior Anthony Thomas all ended April with batting averages of .300 or higher.

“They’re having really good years,” Walker said.

League play resumed Monday, April 10, with a loss at Escondido, and the Cougars won the Wednesday, April 12, game in Fallbrook. Escondido scored the first two runs Friday, April 14, in Escondido, but two Fallbrook runs in the top of the fifth tied the game. Eventually Fallbrook scored eight runs in the top of the 12th for a 10-2 victory. Thomas allowed eight hits and one walk in five innings while striking out six. Van Eik conceded five hits and no walks in seven innings and struck out nine Cougars. Smith had four hits including a triple and Dent had three singles.

Rink threw a complete game Monday, April 17, allowing seven hits and one walk in the 7-0 home win over Mission Vista High School. The Wednesday, April 19, game at Mission Vista had a 7-2 final score in Fallbrook’s favor. The Warriors scored twice in the bottom of the seventh Friday, April 21, for a 3-2 home triumph over the Timberwolves; Dent had hits in all four plate appearances while scoring a run and driving in two teammates.

Vista won an 11-5 matchup Monday, April 24, on the Panthers’ diamond, but Fallbrook won the other two games against Vista. A 4-1 home victory on Wednesday, April 26, preceded the Friday, April 28, game. The winning run April 28 was scored in the top of the seventh. Smith allowed five hits, a hit batter and no walks in seven innings while striking out five Panthers.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected].


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