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Player Suspensions Slow but Don’t Stop Granada Hills, 16-8

Times Staff Writer

For a stretch of about 90 minutes Friday, Granada Hills baseball Coach Darryl Stroh was having a day to forget.

At 2 p.m., an hour before his Highlanders were to play San Pedro in the opening round of the City 4-A playoffs, Stroh discovered that three of his players, including two starters, had been suspended from school for disciplinary reasons. The players--Scott Tosti, Greg Fowble and Kevin Hopper--apparently were involved in a fight at school on Friday.

At 3:30 p.m., after an inning and a half, Stroh found his Highlanders, ranked No. 1 in the City Section going into the playoffs, down by five runs.

“I really thought it was going to be a long day,” Stroh said.

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Indeed, it was a long day for Stroh--but also a productive one.

The Highlanders, batting around in three different innings, rallied from a 6-1 deficit to defeat San Pedro, 16-8, at Granada Hills to advance to Tuesday’s quarterfinals. The Highlanders (16-5) play host to Canoga Park, which defeated North Hollywood, 10-7, Friday.

Whether Stroh will have Fowble and Hopper back for Tuesday’s game remains uncertain. Those two received one-day suspensions, which will be served Monday, for their part in the fight, in which Tosti apparently hit another student. Tosti was suspended for two days and will not play against Canoga Park.

“This guy pushed Scott,” said Fowble, “and Scott socked him in the nose. I jumped on Scott and pulled him off.”

Allen Donen, an assistant principal at Granada Hills, said a decision on whether Hopper and Fowble will be allowed to play in the next game will be made on Tuesday.

There will be a Tuesday for Granada Hills because Sean Casey settled down after a shaky beginning to pitch six innings and improve his record to 8-4. Casey, a senior right-hander, gave up six runs and seven hits in the first two innings and was nearly replaced by Mark Kessler.

“They were getting a bunch of dink hits, nice hops off the infield,” Casey said. “They were just lucky hits.”

And that’s one of the reasons Stroh stuck with Casey, who before the game had his uniform number, 40, shaved into his hair on the side of his head. Casey was inspired to go for the scissors by former Granada Hills pitcher Frank Halcovich, who earlier this season shaved his number 40 into his hair.

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Halcovich, who was in attendance Friday, has been working out with the Highlanders since leading College of the Canyons to the state community college baseball championship on Monday.

Two years ago, Halcovich helped Stroh win his fifth City championship. The Highlanders are favored to give Stroh No. 6 this season, but the team hardly resembled a title contender early on.

With runners at second and third and two outs in the first, San Pedro’s Mike Blasing hit an infield single to short. Jack Demonte followed with a single to make it 2-0.

Demonte’s slow chopper skipped by third baseman Dan Ginnetti, who was playing for Tosti, and shortstop Charles Fowlks, who was filling in for Fowble.

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Granada Hills cut the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on Sean Brown’s double that scored Bob Allen.

But the Pirates, who finished the season 10-11-1 and placed fourth in the Marine League, jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the second, scoring four runs after two outs. Three of the runs came home on hits that bounced over infielders’ heads, while another scored on an infield single.

“It was frustrating,” Allen, the Highlanders’ right fielder, said of the Pirates’ ping-pong offense. “But I knew we could come back. Everyone just started hitting the ball.”

Granada Hills sent nine men to the plate in the second inning, scoring four times. Dean Yoshitani walked with the bases loaded, Dan Takahashi had a sacrifice fly and Allen and Casey followed with RBI singles to cut the lead to 6-5. After Casey’s single, Buzzy Luna replaced starting pitcher Paul Carranza and got out of the inning.

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But after facing four batters in the third, Luna, brought up from the junior varsity team for the playoffs, was gone. Kessler started the Highlander third with a triple. Kent Lowry’s sacrifice fly tied the game.

Fowlks walked, went to second on a wild pitch and to third on Yoshitani’s single. John Matich replaced Luna and gave up a triple to Takahashi to put Granada Hills ahead, 8-6.

Allen then hit his second home run of the season over the right-field fence to put the Highlanders ahead, 10-6. Allen finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Carranza returned to pitch, but the Highlander attack continued. Casey and Brown reached base on errors, and Casey scored on Ginnetti’s single to center. Leonard Miller became the Pirates’ fourth pitcher of the inning and promptly walked Kessler. Two batters later, he walked Fowlks to force home a run. In the inning, Granada Hills sent 13 batters to the plate.

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Casey allowed only two more runs, including Rodney Garcia’s solo home run in the sixth. Kessler pitched a scoreless seventh for Granada Hills. Two San Pedro errors in the sixth helped the Highlanders score four times.

Fowble, who watched the game in street clothes, is hoping he’ll be in uniform Tuesday.

“I could have never played in another high school game had we lost,” Fowble said.


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