The ball hasn't been bouncing in the La Cañada High baseball team's favor much this season.
So when Anthony Mizrahi turned on an inside curveball during a home game against Rio Hondo League opponent San Marino, Spartans Coach Dennis Ballard feared the worst.
"When he first hit it, I thought it was just going to be a long fly ball and it just kept going — then I thought it might go foul," Ballard said. "The way things have been going, I thought it might land on this side of the fence and he'd get thrown out between second and third because he thought it was a home run. When things are going badly, you almost expect bad things to happen."
Mizrahi defied Ballard's worst-case scenario, sending the ball over the fence for a solo home run in the bottom of the third, tying the game at 1 after the Titans scored on a passed ball in the top of the third.
"In the first at-bat he threw me two curveballs that were really slow and I just did not wait on it. So I went up my next at-bat thinking he was going to do it again, and it was the first pitch he threw me," Mizrahi said of the San Marino pitcher.
The home run kick-started the Spartans' offense, as they came up with two more big hits and earned a 4-3 win for the team's first Rio Hondo League victory of the year.
"We had forgotten how it felt to win; Rio Hondo has been tough for us," Ballard said. "We've lost close games and kept finding ways to lose."
La Cañada (7-8, 1-5 in league) took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. Clayton Herrmann got the inning started with a one-out double to left-center field. Two batters later, Derek Georgino blasted a line drive to left field with two outs. It was a catchable ball, but the San Marino left fielder misplayed it, taking a few steps in only to have it sail over his head. Georgino turned the mistake into an RBI-triple, giving La Cañada a 2-1 lead.
The San Marino (4-10, 1-4) pitcher walked the next two batters, Mizrahi and Brendon Shoemake, to load the bases with two out. Ballard brought in Andrew Fisher to pinch hit, and it paid off.
"When they walk two guys to get to you, that can be very intimidating. But I walked up to Andrew and told him, 'They don't know who they're getting to,'" Ballard said.
Fisher cashed in after fouling off the first pitch, turning on a fastball and sending it down the left-field line past a diving third baseman.
"The bases were loaded, so I knew they were going to throw me down the middle," Fisher said. "I just went out there and swung at a fastball down the middle. I knew it was coming."
The hit gave the Spartans a 4-1 lead and two insurance runs they'd need, as San Marino cut the lead to 4-3 in the next inning.
The Titans got the top of the sixth inning started with a one-out double, followed by a single. Mitch Russell came in to close out the game on the mound for La Cañada, and was rudely greeted. San Marino scored on a throwing error by Spartans' catcher Scott Stetson. Stetson was trying to gun down San Marino's Ryan Hill as he attempted to steal second, but the throw was off target and sailed into center field.
Garrett Young cut La Cañada's lead to one run with a RBI-double off Russell. Russell retired the next two batters to get out of danger.
He found himself in trouble again to start the seventh as Justin Kreindler reached first on an error and proceeded to steal second. Russell was able to bear down, though, inducing a ground-out and striking out the next two batters to end the inning.
"To be able to get on that mound, get into trouble and then get out of it; it takes a lot of maturity," Ballard said. "He's about 10 years older now."
La Cañada will look to continue its winning ways on Friday in a home game against South Pasadena.
"It's great to get our first win in league," Fisher said. "We can only go up from here."