The Loara High School baseball team was ready to meet Fountain Valley pitcher Bob Sharpnack Saturday for the championship of the 32-team Loara Tournament. That is to say, any dread the Saxons might have felt was safely disguised as bravado by game time.
However, Sharpnack, probably one of the two best pitching prospects in the county, was not in any shape to face Loara (4-1). He had already expended his best efforts against a palm-sized muscle-building device during the bus ride to Glover Stadium.
In his place, Fountain Valley's jack-of-all-trades, Don Snowden, pitched virtually the entire game. The arm may have been different, but the result was about the same, a 4-1 victory by Fountain Valley (6-1) on a two-hitter.
To the disappointment of the Saxons, who had screwed up their courage specially for the challenge, Sharpnack made only a cameo appearance Saturday. He threw his opening pitch--it was high and outside--and promptly abandoned the mound with a sore bicep.
"I asked him, 'What's the matter?' " Baron Coach Tom DeKraii said. "And he said he'd been using this squeezy grip thing to strengthen his grip. I didn't know it, but I guess he'd gotten carried away doing it on the bus, and all the way up here, he was squeezing, squeezing, squeezing.
"He apparently overworked his bicep, and it got stiff and cramped up. He's going to be a high draft choice, and I'm not going to cheat the kid out of his career just to win a preseason tournament."
Snowden, who has been known to do everything from playing right field to helping coach the team, according to DeKraii, is the type whose pitching effectiveness stems as much from his head as his arm.
"We always say he's the smartest kid in the program," DeKraii said.
Snowden hit two Loara players, and brushed back several more, and walked six, but recorded eight strikeouts.
The Barons led 2-0 after Jim Reach and Snowden got on base with identical singles to left field in the top of the fifth inning. Reach stole second and scored on Snowden's hit, and Mike Irwin dropped a hit over the outstretched glove of Saxon pitcher Randy Hodge, allowing Snowden to score.
Loara pinch-hitter Rich Milo led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, the Saxons' first hit of the game against Snowden. He moved to second when Dale Kojac was hit by a pitch, and took third when Snowden threw the ball into center field while trying to pick him off.
Carlos Vargas' sacrifice fly brought Milo home, and Loara trailed by just a run, 2-1. Then Snowden walked Ray Odegard and Curtis Henson to load the bases.
But with two out, Kojac was somehow caught standing several yards off third base when Henson took ball four. Baron catcher Terry Reichert threw to third baseman Jim Doyle, who tagged Kojac to end the inning, and Loara's best opportunity.
Fountain Valley scored its final runs in the top of the seventh when Jeff Olson walked and Reach took first on a fielder's choice when Loara tried to throw out Olson at second.
A bunt by Snowden induced Saxon first baseman Sean Angotti to commit a throwing error to first base, allowing Olson to score. Reichert drove Reach home with a powerful line drive to left field.
In other Loara Tournament action:
Los Alamitos 10, Edison 7--The Griffins scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to overcome a 7-6 deficit and win the seventh-place game at Los Alamitos.
Gary Renko doubled with one out in the sixth to drive in two runs and give Los Alamitos the lead. Kevin Jeanotte added a run-scoring double with two outs. Travis Tarchione had a three-run homer in the fourth and two singles for Los Alamitos (4-1), and Robbie Katzaroff was 3 for 4 with two runs and an RBI.