Crouse battles Pallante in compelling, high-speed duel


SAN CLEMENTE — Dana Hills starter Hans Crouse hurled an especially potent tailing fastball that just about shattered catcher David Clawson’s mitt in the fourth inning against San Clemente.

A Toronto Blue Jay scout and a Houston Astro scout immediately turned to look at each other and shook their heads.

It was that kind of day Thursday at San Clemente, with two of California’s best high school arms — Crouse and the Tritons’ Andre Pallante — dueling each other in front of a crowd littered with pro scouts wielding radar guns.

“I saw it when I was warming up,” Pallante said of the swarm of scouts in attendance. “But once I got on the mound, everything else went away.”

San Clemente eventually beat the Dolphins, 1-0, in 10 innings when Jordan Fitzgerald knocked in the winning run with a one-out grounder.

Even though neither pitcher factored in the decision, the Pallante vs. Crouse matchup headlined this game, the first of a nonleague doubleheader.

“It was fun to watch,” Tritons coach Dave Gellatly said. “Those are two guys that are going to play a lot of baseball for a long time, and it showed today.”

Both pitched seven shutout innings. Pallante edged Crouse with two hits and no walks allowed. Crouse allowed three hits and two walks. Crouse edged Pallante in strikeouts, with eight compared to Pallante’s six.

Pallante said he felt better Thursday than he did during his 14-strikeout no-hitter against Kennedy on March 30. Crouse, a week removed from his own no-hitter against Tesoro, thought the pitching duel lived up to its billing.

“(Pallante) had his good stuff today like always,” Crouse said. “He had a good fastball high in the zone, and then I felt good with my stuff, too.

“I had a feeling we were going to go to extras (in) this one. Just two really good pitchers, it had a lot of hype going into it. I knew we were both going to have our good stuff today.”

Crouse improved his ERA to 0.72 and Pallante improved his to 1.17. Both remain 5-1 on the season.

This game almost ended before extras. Clawson reached first on and error that would have been the last out in the top of the seventh. Then Pallante made one of his few mistakes to the next batter, Jeremy Ciolek, who clocked a hanging breaking ball off the left-center field wall.

One play after letting him down, Pallante’s defense picked him up and threw Clawson out by a mile at home to preserve the scoreless deadlock.

Radar guns consistently clocked Pallante’s fastball at 92-94 mph. Those guns went down when Crouse, a junior one year removed from draft eligibility, took the mound. One scout in attendance said his team would have Crouse near the top of its draft board next year.

San Clemente (14-6-1, 3-3 Sea View League) won the second game, 6-4. The Dolphins (11-10, 4-2 South Coast League) scored three runs (two unearned) in the first, but JSerra transfer Nathan Fleuriau shut them down for the rest of his five innings to pick up the win.

The Tritons play Aliso Niguel on  Monday before returning to league action next Thursday against Laguna Hills.

Dana Hills is slated to play Trabuco Hills on Monday and get back to league play the following day against Aliso Niguel.

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