Banning Girls Aim for 4-A Softball Crown, Boys Face Kennedy Tonight for Title

Times Staff Writer

Color the first two weeks of June black with red trim.

That's what Banning High wore for Wednesday's City 4-A girls softball championship. And it's what the Banning baseball team will be decked out in at 7:30 tonight when the Pilots play Kennedy for the City 4-A title at Dodger Stadium.

The city playoffs may look like Banning Week, but it wasn't in the script. The girls team was supposed to be there, but the baseball team finished third in the Marine League and has surprised Coach Dan Evans with its 3-0 playoff record against supposedly tougher San Fernando Valley teams.

Evans, who says his team has two good pitchers "and a bunch of midgets," said the surprise is that his largely sophomore-junior team, which played unemotionally during the season, has loosened up during the playoffs. They have taken on some of the characteristics of some of Evans' past teams, noted for manic displays including the Worm--where players flop into the dirt and wriggle around en masse.

"These guys were probably more noisy in their English classes than in games," Evans said. "Then the playoffs came along and they went crazy. They did the Worm against Granada Hills (in last week's semifinal). The kids tell me they want to do the Worm in Dodger Stadium. I don't care."

Evans has to care more about his pitching. Staff ace Joey Pardo, who started in the wild 12-11 victory over Granada Hills, has a sore arm and won't start. Sophomore right-hander Mike Ortiz, 2-0 in the playoffs, will. "He's pitched well. He deserves it," Evans said. Ortiz made second team all-league as an outfielder and hitter but didn't pitch much during league play.

Other key players include catcher Mondo Ponce, third baseman J. D. Diaz and outfielder Danny Garcia.

The Pilots are 16-10 overall. Kennedy, 17-5, finished second in the West Valley League to Granada Hills and has had a roller coaster season, but may be the hottest team in the city. Kennedy started 7-0, then lost five out of six. They won their last six league games. Counting playoffs, Kennedy has won nine straight, including a 3-2 victory over San Pedro, the Marine League champ.

Ace pitcher Eric Evans, a junior right-hander, has won six of those nine, including all three playoff victories. He will pitch tonight.

Neither team hits consistently, though both have had high-scoring playoff games.

"After we won that first (playoff) game, there was just a turnaround," Evans said. "I would have bet $100 we'd beat Granada. We just put it together at the right time. The only thing I told 'em was win the next four and nobody will remember we finished third in the league.

"There's going to be a lot of people there (tonight) from Wilmington. We look at it like it's a party. We hope to make it a big party."

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