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South Coast League : Capo Valley Survives Against Laguna Hills on Stark’s 1-Hitter, 1-0

Times Staff Writer

Meet Scott Stark and Chris Ashbach. The pitcher and the pin cushion.

Both play baseball for Capistrano Valley High School, and Tuesday both accomplished a great deal in the Cougars’ 1-0 South Coast League win over Laguna Hills (5-5-1, 14-9-1).

Stark, pitching at Laguna Hills, threw a one-hitter to keep Capistrano Valley (9-3, 16-6) in second place, a half-game behind Irvine (9-2, 18-8-1) which plays Mission Viejo Thursday.

Ashbach? He survived.

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Oh, he made a diving catch in the second inning that he turned into a double play to kill a Hawks’ rally. But the greatest accomplishment by the 5-foot, 6-inch second baseman was enduring the slings and arrows Laguna Hills pitcher Wayne Helm and the fates threw at him.

First, to the hero.

Stark struck out three and lost a no-hitter with two out in the seventh inning when Hawks first baseman Rob Milo singled to left. Stark had walked designated hitter Jeff Hendrickson earlier in the inning and now had runners at first and second.

The Cougars scored their run in the second inning when catcher Rob Sheehan homered off Helm (7-3). That’s quite an accomplishment, considering Helm’s ERA entering the game was 0.63 and that he throws a fastball around 90 miles an hour. It wasn’t a fastball Helm threw Sheehan, though. It was a high curveball that Sheehan hit over the center-field fence.

But with two runners on, right fielder Chris Sheff at the plate and Helm--who allowed only three hits and struck out 10--getting stronger with each inning, things didn’t look so good for Stark and the Cougars.

“I’m sure he (Stark) felt a little pressure in the seventh,” said Bob Zamora, Capistrano Valley coach. “That’s natural for a young pitcher.”

Zamora attempted to calm Stark, who will attend Stanford on a football scholarship next year, with some banter.

“I made a little joke about how guys who go to Stanford are supposed to always be poised,” Zamora said. “I thought it was funny. He didn’t laugh. Guys from Stanford are always so serious.”

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Stark induced Sheff to ground out to end the game and give Stark (8-1) his second complete game in two weeks.

Now to the heroic.

Ashbach smashed a Helm fastball into his left ankle in the fifth inning. The grimace on his face seemed to point to a broken bone. After several minutes on his back, Ashbach went back to the plate . . . and struck out on the next pitch.

In the seventh he was hit by Helm’s pitch on the elbow. More grimacing.

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“He was like a punching bag out there today,” Zamora said.

Ashbach is one of three sophomores starting in the Capistrano Valley infield. Along with fellow sophomores Charles Lockard (first base) and Bill Bardens (shortstop), the Cougars’ infield has turned a school-record 23 double plays. They accounted for 15 putouts Tuesday.

Which was all very nice, but not too comforting for the wounded Ashbach.

As he walked from the field a spectator called, “Hey. Aren’t you the one who got beat up today?”

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Ashbach, flashed the same grimace/grin he had given Helm when the pitcher apologized for hitting him with a pitch, and stopped. He shot a glance down at his swollen left ankle and a bruised left elbow.

“Yeah. I’m your guy,” he said.

In other South Coast League games:

Mission Viejo 7, El Toro 1--Three pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts to lead Mission Viejo (7-3, 16-5) and clinch a playoff berth at home. Starting pitcher Jack Bailey (7-4) struck out six in four innings, and Matt Lackie and Kyle Abbott provided strong relief.

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Dana Hills 11, San Clemente 2--Winning pitcher Bryan Hatch threw his fourth complete game to lead the Dolphins at San Clemente. Hatch (6-4) struck out six and allowed six hits. Catcher Tony Ferguson hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning.


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