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Prep Notebook JOHANNES TESSELAAR : Ludlow Had a Hard Act to Follow at El Camino, and He’s One Win Away

The pressure, Neils Ludlow said, was self-imposed.

“Nobody said anything to me,” he said. But even with the silence, Ludlow knew what it meant to take over as the softball coach at El Camino Real High.

“Coming off two straight City championships,” he said, “it was kind of expected of me to keep the tradition going.”

Tradition is one win away.

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South Gate Park is the site of today’s City 4-A championship game, featuring top-seeded El Camino Real and second-seeded Banning.

“They’re a good team,” Ludlow said of the Banning Pilots. “I look for it to be a very, very close game. Obviously, the team that makes the least mistakes will win.”

And winning is about all the Conquistadores have been doing lately.

El Camino is 18-0 going into the 2:30 p.m. game. The Conquistadores won their final 15 games last season and their second straight 4-A title for coach Natalie Davila.

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Ludlow, who had coached softball in church leagues but never at the high school level, took over when Davila retired.

Besides Davila, the El Camino team lost pitcher Laurie Romero to Florida State. Romero, the City Player of the Year last season, was 37-1 at El Camino.

Ludlow, 46, who is also the coach of the girls’ basketball team at El Camino, still expected the best from his first softball team.

“We expected to do well because we had a lot of talent,” he said. “We were a little bit skeptical going with a freshman pitcher. We wondered how she would react under pressure.”

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Beth Silverman’s reaction has been perfect. The 5-4 freshman is 14-0 this season. She threw five no-hitters.

Silverman will be matched on the mound today by Banning’s Lisa Bautista, who has thrown 17 no-hitters this season. Bautista, a senior, has thrown seven straight no-hitters in two separate streaks this year.

“If you’re rating the teams right now,” Ludlow said, “the pitching is pretty much even. I think we have the better supporting cast, and that might be the difference.”

El Camino is strong both on offense and defense.

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Karen Walker, a senior shortstop, is hitting .400. Walker, one of three starters back from last year’s team, is heading to UCLA next year on a softball scholarship.

Stacy Trapp, a sophomore first baseman/outfielder, has a team-high batting average of .450. Senior Teri Rupe, the catcher, is hitting .325.

“Almost anyone you pick out on the team is pretty good,” Ludlow said. “We’re a real well rounded team.”

The pressure that followed Ludlow at the beginning of the year has subsided somewhat. “It’s more of a nervousness, an apprehension as we get close to the championship game.”

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So what would a City championship in his first season mean to Ludlow?

“It would be the climax to a very great year for us. Our season has been very successful, regardless of what happens. The worst we can do is second in the City.

“And that’s not bad.”

At one point in the season, Kennedy’s baseball team lost five of six league games and was

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struggling, to say the least. In that stretch, the Golden Cougars made 28 errors.

Did Coach Dick Whitney think at that time at his team could finish its season at Dodger Stadium?

“I knew it would be kind of a miracle to get there,” he said. “But I believe in miracles.”

Thursday at Dodger Stadium, Kennedy will play Banning for the City 4-A title.

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Notes

Newbury Park’s Karen Westphal was named the Marmonte League’s softball player of the year for the second straight season. Newbury Park players have now won the award six straight years. Westphal, a senior shortstop, was also named to the Southern Section’s 4-A Division first team for the second straight year. Teammate Debbie Dickmann, a pitcher, was named to the second team. . . . A group of Southern Section all-stars defeated a team of City Section all-stars Saturday, 2-0, in a softball game at Cal State Northridge. The Southern Section victory in the game wasn’t unexpected, because four of the top City players did not participate. Karen Walker and Teri Rupe of El Camino Real and Lisa Bautista and Susan Miller of Banning still have one game left to play. That will be today in the City 4-A championship game. Three Southern Section pitchers--Hart’s Samantha Ford, Viewpoint’s Roxie Rafik and Antelope Vally’s Michelle Gravatt combined for 16 strikeouts. Hart’s Lorie Fausett was the game’s most valuable player, collecting two of the three hits the Southern Section had. The City had just five hits.

Kennedy’s junior varsity softball team won its first City championship last week, defeating El Camino Real, 19-2. Sophomore Marie Musumeci was winning pitcher, improving her record to 12-1. The Golden Cougars went 14-2-1 this season, while El Camino finished at 16-1. . . . Taft won the junior varsity golf team championship last week at Knollwood Country Club in Granada Hills. Taft had a score of 412, while Palisades was second at 446.


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