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Halcovich Upsets Valley’s Best Plans, 8-1

Times Staff Writer

Coach Scott Muckey and his Valley College Monarchs have a problem: What to do with Canyons’ Frank Halcovich?

They can’t ignore him, and trying to fool him, as Canyons proved at home Thursday, just doesn’t work.

Backed by an 11-hit attack, Halcovich threw a four-hitter at Valley to beat the Monarchs for the third time this season. In doing so, Halcovich ruined the Monarchs’ day because they thought they had devised a way to stop Halcovich and the Cougars.

The plan backfired.

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The result was an 8-1 Canyons win, a 3-0 series lead for the Cougars and Halcovich’s 10th straight win. The right-hander, who has not lost this season, also lowered his earned-run average to 1.63.

“He’s got our number,” Muckey said. “He’s got everybody’s number.”

Everybody wishes Halcovich would stop calling. Valley batters tried to crowd the plate, step back after a pitch, then crowd the plate again in an attempt to confuse Halcovich.

“I didn’t even know that they were doing that,” Canyons Coach Mike Gillespie said. “After that first inning, Frank and (Pete) Kuld came in here and told me.”

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It didn’t take long for Halcovich to adjust.

After giving up a solo home run to Ron Dale and an infield single to Sal Villasenor in the first inning, Halcovich retired all but eight of the last 32 batters, nine by strikeout.

“They’ve seen me twice,” Halcovich said. “So I thought they were just trying to get to my head. But if they’re trying to do that and hit at the same time, they’re not going to hit too much.”

That’s rare for the Monarchs, the Valley-area’s best hitting team. But it’s not rare when they face Halcovich. In three games against Valley this season, Halcovich hasn’t lost and has given up 17 hits and only three runs in 27 innings. In those three games, Canyons has outscored Valley, 23-3.

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“We kept our little tradition running,” Muckey said. “We seem to get only one run in each game.”

Valley’s Plan B--starting Dennis Moeller at pitcher, bringing in long-relief specialist Dave Cossairt after two and mopping up with Chris Haslock--also went awry. And Halcovich had something to do with that, too. He homered off Moeller in the first inning.

But Halcovich was hardly a one-man gang. As Canyons’ 27-4 record indicates, it is a team of team players. Chris Cota singled to lead off the first and was soon at third base after Don Erickson walked and Scott Drury singled.

Kuld, the Canyons catcher, then stepped to the plate.

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“The bases were loaded and Moeller had two strikes on Kuld,” Muckey said. “I thought for sure that the third strike was coming.”

Kuld had a different idea. He slugged the next pitch over the right-field fence for a grand slam. Halcovich’s homer followed two batters later.

“It was nice,” Kuld said. “I’ve struck out a few times against them, but I normally get about two hits against him.”

On Thursday, he got three, including another home run. In the 16 year-history of Canyons baseball, Kuld is only the second player to hit 11 or more home runs in a season. He and teammate Drury are quickly closing in on the school record for most home runs in a season, 16, set by Bill Bluhm last year. Drury has nine home runs.

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Mathematically, Valley (9-4, 20-9 overall) still has a chance at winning the Mountain Valley Conference, which will send only its first-place team to the state tournament. Realistically, the Monarchs are hurting.

“That was it,” Muckey said. “We needed to sweep the last two games against them.”

Canyons, which is first place in conference at 12-1, has a three-game lead on Valley. If Valley ties Canyons for the conference title, Canyons would go to the state tournament because it has won more games in the the five-contest series between the two teams.

Canyons, ranked No.1 in the Southland Poll by sports information directors, is fielding, some believe, its finest team ever.

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Said Muckey: “It’s the best team I’ve ever seen them have.”

Gillespie downplays the notion quickly, saying that the team has a long way to go.

“This a good team, a real good team,” he said. “But, position by position, I can’t really say this is the best team we’ve ever had.”

Canyons has won the state championship twice, and has been the runner-up twice. It has won the Mountain Valley Conference title 10 times.

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Asked if he thought Canyons was on its way to another conference championship and possibly another state title, Kuld said, “We still have games to play. We still have to play Valley again Saturday.”

The Cougars play at Valley at noon Saturday.

VALLEY--Moeller, Cossairt (1), Haslock (8) and Halen.

CANYONS--Halcovich and Kuld.

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WP--Halcovich (10-0); LP--Moeller (0-3).


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