Also: La Salle Prep coach Chris George steps down
The La Salle Falcons proved themselves one of the top Class 4A high school baseball teams in the state in 2011.
After going 12-3 in the Tri-Valley Conference and winning their first league championship since 1989, the Falcons (18-9) dropped a 3-1 heartbreaker to second-ranked Newport (20-4) in the May 27 quarterfinals.
'They've got a short porch, so even though it was a 3-1 game, we could have won it with one swing of the bat,' said La Salle coach Chris George.
The Falcons made a game of it despite facing one of the best Class 4A pitchers in the state, in Newport senior Logan Goins. The crafty lefty sent 10 Falcons down swinging, while walking four, in a one-hitter.
'He did a really good job of changing speeds and he had a lot of movement on his fastball,' said George. 'He also had a great move to first base. He picked off two of our kids.'
La Salle lefty Parker Portash foiled the no-hitter, crushing the ball over the fence in left-center for a leadoff home run in the top of the fourth.
The Falcons only committed two errors, but both were costly. Two of Newport's runs were unearned.
Portash, Luke Ehli and Aaron Bredl all took a turn on the mound for La Salle, combining to scatter seven hits.
The Falcons will miss Portash next year. He led the Falcons in batting average (.427), runs scored (24) and stolen bases (9), and he had 17 RBI.
Named the Tri-Valley Conference Player of the Year, Portash was also one of the Falcons' top pitchers, with 55 strikeouts in 49 innings and a 3.0 ERA.
The Falcons graduate two other sluggers in Spencer Savage (.324) and Chet Line (.284). Line hit five home runs, drove in 21 runs, and he had a .356 batting average in league.
The Falcons also graduate their top defensive player, first baseman Vince Matteson. He played error-free ball in league.
Junior outfielder Cody Farnes (.329 batting average) and sophomore Luke Ehli head the list of players expected to return. Ehli had a 1.49 ERA, a 7-0 record and three saves, and 52 strikeouts in 61 innings.
Other starters expected to return include: junior outfielder Erich Regan, junior shortstop Aaron Bredl and junior infielder/pitcher Sam Davis.
George, age 32, has elected not to return to coach the Falcons next season.
'My wife and I have another child on the way,' said George. 'I want to focus on my family and my teaching….
'I'm young enough that I may get back into it some day. I'm a graduate of La Salle (1997), I teach at the school, and I'm La Salle baseball's No. 1 fan. Like I told the kids, 'I'll still be there cheering you on. I just won't be your coach.''
George said that with a good nucleus of returning varsity players and players up from a jayvee team that went 11-2 in conference, he leaves the program in good shape.