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Loss to regional champion ends Fallbrook baseball season

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The California Interscholastic Federation baseball state playoffs consist of separate Southern California and Northern California regional playoffs. Canyon High School of Anaheim won the Southern California championship, and the Comanches advanced to the regional final with a 5-0 semifinal victory June 1 over Fallbrook which ended the Warriors’ season.

“They were an experienced team,” said Fallbrook coach Pat Walker.

Canyon had the top seed in the Division IV regional playoffs. Fallbrook was seeded fourth. The Warriors advanced to the semifinals with a 3-2 victory over Peninsula High School of Rolling Hills Estates in Fallbrook’s first-round game May 30 in Fallbrook.

Walker has been Fallbrook’s varsity coach since 2014 and has been with the Warriors’ program for 20 years. He began his coaching career at Fountain Valley High School in Orange County and played for Edison High School in Huntington Beach.

The CIF state playoff thus wasn’t Walker’s first experience with Canyon High School. “I’m an Orange County guy and I played them in my playing days when I was in high school,” Walker said.

Between 2007 and 2019, the Comanches had ten seasons with at least 15 wins including three seasons with at least 20 victories. The regional championship game victory gave Canyon a 23-12 record for 2023.

Austin Duarte, who is left-handed, pitched the first 6 1/3 innings against Fallbrook. Duarte allowed four hits and three walks while striking out three Warriors.

Neither team scored in the first three innings. Canyon scored once in the fourth and four times in the fifth.

“It was one big play and they had a couple of hits. All of a sudden it was three-nothing,” Walker said.

During the game, the Warriors committed three fielding errors, and only one of the runs senior Tanyon Smith allowed was earned. Smith hurled the first five innings and allowed two singles, a double, five walks and a hit batter. Ethan Rink, who is also a senior, pitched the sixth inning and retired three of the four batters he faced with the other reaching base on an error.

“The score doesn’t reflect how close the game was,” Walker said.

Fallbrook junior Jaxon Dent reached base in three of his four plate appearances with two singles and a walk. Fallbrook’s other two hits were singles by junior Jace Cervantes and sophomore Evan Thomas.

“We battled them,” Walker said. “The kids fought hard.”

The loss gave Fallbrook a final season record of 23-10-1. The Warriors had won their previous six games consisting of the first-round state playoff game, the CIF San Diego Section Division III championship game and four previous section playoff games.

“It caught up to us,” Walker said of the regional semifinal loss.

“I wasn’t disappointed with anything,” Walker said. “The kids played hard. We had one tough inning.”

The overall record also includes an 11-4 mark in Valley League play, which gave the Warriors their first league championship since 2006. The CIF championship was the first ever for Fallbrook in baseball, and the state playoffs were also the first for the Warriors’ baseball program.

“So proud of the kids to get that far. Pretty awesome,” Walker said. “To get to the semifinals was a great season for us, for the program.”

 

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