Beck: Cocky or Just Confident? : Granada Hills Wants to Humble Him Early in Tonight’s City Final
Amid the discussion about tonight’s City 4-A championship baseball game, two elements stand out--curves and nerves.
Can the Granada Hills batters hit Rodney Beck’s curves?
Can the Grant players control their nerves?
The game to decide the best team in the City matches Beck, the Lancers’ top pitcher, against the heavy-hitting Highlanders from Granada Hills. Game time at Dodger Stadium is 7:30 p.m.
Beck, the senior right-hander with the Fu Manchu mustache and the menacing array of pitches, is 12-1 with a 1.62 earned-run average and has 134 strikeouts in 95 innings. Beck, who was drafted by the Oakland A’s last week, has won all three Grant playoff games.
Granada Hills has scored 49 runs in its past four games, including three playoff wins. Bob Allen, the Mid-Valley League’s co-most valuable player, is hitting .522. Scott Tosti is batting .471. Sean Casey, tonight’s other starting pitcher, is batting .447. Casey, a senior right-hander, is 11-4 with a 3.07 ERA.
Granada Hills, the top-ranked team entering the playoffs, is 17-5. Grant, seeded second, is 19-5. The teams have not met this season but waged an animated war of words this week.
The Granada Hills players are relishing the prospect of facing Beck.
“The only way he’s going to beat us is if he’s on his best game,” said Granada Hills shortstop Greg Fowble. “He’s known for being a great pitcher and we’re up to the challenge.”
Some of the Highlanders consider Beck cocky.
“It helps the opponent when the other players talk about themselves as he does in the paper,” Fowble said. “Hopefully, we can put him in the dugout so he can watch his own team play, since he wants to sit in the stands and watch himself play.”
Said Allen, the Highlanders’ right fielder: “He sounds cocky. I don’t like people that express their cockiness. It makes you want to beat them.”
Beck has another word for his alleged cockiness: Confidence.
“They’re entitled to their opinion,” Beck said. “I don’t feel I’m a cocky player. I don’t like to be thought of like that.”
And if the Highlanders want Beck, Beck wants the Highlanders.
“They still have to hit my pitches,” he said. “They still have to get base hits and score runs. And I’m not saying this conceitedly, but that’s going to be difficult. I’m a pretty hard pitcher to hit.”
Said Grant Coach Tom Lucero: “They’ve been handed a lot of runs in the playoffs. I don’t think they’ve faced a pitcher the level of Rodney Beck.”
“I think we’re a good hitting team,” said Granada Hills Coach Darryl Stroh, who will be trying to win his sixth City title in the last 12 seasons. “We’re certainly capable of being a real good hitting team. And Beck’s certainly as good as there is.”
Beck, a leading candidate for City 4-A player of the year if Grant wins, went the distance in the Lancers’ first two playoff games, then picked up the win in relief against San Fernando, throwing 4 innings of shutout ball on Friday.
“He threw 50 pitches against San Fernando,” Fowble said, “and 45 were curveballs. Forty of those were strikes.”
The Highlanders have seen a number of curveballs in batting practice this week, trying to prepare for Beck.
Said Stroh: “Any time you get a guy like that who can throw the ball over the plate, it’s going to be tough. Nobody really makes a living hitting curveballs.”
But will Beck even throw any curveballs tonight?
“I’ll throw whatever’s working at the time,” Beck said. “Basically, I’m going to go right at them. If the curve is working, I’ll throw a lot of curves. If the fastball is humming, then they’ll see a lot of fastballs. Whatever it takes to get them out.”
Beck also uses a knuckleball, which he used frequently against San Fernando.
“It’s that third pitch of his that they have to think about,” Lucero said. “It keeps them off stride.”
Lucero tabs his team as the underdog tonight based on Granada Hills’ experience. This is Grant’s first appearance in the finals since losing in 1964 to Birmingham. Granada Hills is 5-0 in championship games.
“But we should be favored,” he said, “because of Rodney Beck.”
If Grant has the edge in pitching, Granada Hills has the edge in experience. Four players--Fowble, Allen, Tosti and Dan Takahashi--were on the Highlanders’ 1984 City championship team.
“When you first walk out there,” Fowble said, “it’s like you’re in awe. Dodger Stadium, it’s such an experience. You’re playing where all your heroes have played. The feeling, it’s something I’ve never had before.
“The first two or three innings are the hardest of the whole game. Once you get past that, you play your own game. The thing is, you’re more pumped up than usual. The coaches have told us, ‘You’re much stronger than usual.’ The first few innings, there will probably be a lot of balls thrown away.”
Fowble remembers two seasons ago when the Highlanders played El Camino Real at Dodger Stadium.
“Their shortstop’s first throw went into the stands,” he said. “We know that stuff. We have four guys that have been there. Our coach has been there five times. That helps a lot. They don’t know what it’s going to be like. We do.”
Allen was a pinch-hitter in the 1984 title game.
“The thing I remember most is walking out of the hallway and seeing the stadium at eye level. It’s huge. It’s awesome,” he said.
“There is a lot of adrenaline. I threw a ball into the stands warming up from the outfield.”
The Grant players seem unworried about playing at Dodger Stadium.
“We’ll be all excited once we get there,” Beck said. “But once we warm-up, I don’t think it will be a factor. It’s the same type of baseball field, just another diamond.”
Perhaps, but Stroh likes his team’s experience.
“I suppose it helps a little bit,” Stroh said. “It’s all relative to who you’re playing and how much being there adversely affects them.”
Stroh has witnessed players crumbling under pressure.
“I’ve seen it destroy people,” he said. “It’s overwhelming. The excitement, playing before the biggest crowd you’ve ever played before in your life. It’s not like another game.”
THE MATCHUPS Granada Hills
BOBBY OLSEN SENIOR CATCHER
Hasn’t had much of a chance to hit, but has the intangibles behind the plate that Coach Darryl Stroh likes. A good fielder with a quick release.
MARK KESSLER SENIOR FIRST BASE
Has .254 batting average, but his 10 RBIs are tied for fourth on the team. Had 5-1 record and 3.00 earned-run average as Granada’s No. 2 pitcher.
DAN TAKAHASHI SENIOR SECOND BASE
Hit only .114 during the Mid-Valley League season, but has rebounded in playoffs for six hits in 10 at bats with five RBIs. A three-year starter.
GREG FOWBLE SENIOR SHORTSTOP
One of the Valley area’s best with the bat and glove. Has .360 batting average. On-base percentage is near .500. Drafted in eighth round by Cleveland Indians.
SCOTT TOSTI SENIOR THIRD BASE
Hitting .471 in 34 at-bats. A three-year starter, he missed part of the season with a shoulder separation. He missed two playoff games after being suspended from school.
DEAN YOSHITANI JUNIOR LEFT FIELD
A tough No. 2 hitter, he is adept at moving runners over and getting on base. Has .379 batting average. Is third on the team with 19 runs scored.
SEAN BROWN SOPHOMORE CENTER FIELD
Should be one of the area’s top college and pro prospects in two years. Has good speed and a very strong and accurate arm. Hitting .319.
BOB ALLEN SENIOR RIGHT FIELD
Leads the team in batting average (.522), hits (35), home runs (3) and RBIs (29). In the playoffs, he’s 6 for 11 with five RBIs and two homers.
DAN GINNETTI SENIOR DESIGNATED HITTER
Started last two games at third base, replacing Tosti. After a slow start, he raised his batting average to .292 with 12 runs scored in 48 at-bats.
SEAN CASEY SENIOR PITCHER
Has 11-4 record with one save and a 3.07 earned-run average. Has won Granada’s three playoff games. Batting .447 with two homers and 16 RBIs.
1986, Game by Game
Granada Hills 15, Monroe 5
Granada Hills 7, Westchester 5
Granada Hills 4, Polytechnic 1
Granada Hills 3, Chatsworth 2
Venice 8, Granada Hills 2
Granada Hills 6, Van Nuys 0
Granada Hills 3, Kennedy 2
Granada Hills 13, Birmingham 10
Granada Hills 8, San Fernando 3
Granada Hills 8, Monroe 5
Granada Hills 5, Van Nuys 3
Granada Hills 3, Kennedy 2
Granada Hills 8, Birmingham 5
San Fernando 11, Granada Hills 4
Monroe 7, Granada Hills 6
Granada Hills 4, Van Nuys 3
Kennedy 4, Granada Hills 3
Birmingham 4, Granada Hills 2
Granada Hills 10, San Fernando 2
*Granada Hills 16, San Pedro 8
*Granada Hills 9, Canoga Park 6
*Granada Hills 14, Polytechnic 7
*Playoff games Grant
SEAN PETTWAY SENIOR CATCHER
Varsity starter for three years and two-time selection to All-East Valley League team. Has .442 batting average with six doubles, three homers and 17 RBIs.
HARLEN BERK SENIOR FIRST BASE
Has .278 batting average and is fifth on the team in hits (22) and RBIs (12). One of four Grant players with a single, double, triple and home run.
DAVID WACO JUNIOR SECOND BASE
The No. 9 hitter in the Lancer lineup, he has a .294 batting average and a .375 on base percentage. Has scored nine of the 21 times he reached base with a hit or a walk.
MATT SIMPSON SENIOR SHORTSTOP
The slick-fielding shortstop is the cornerstone of one of the top defensive infields in the Valley area. Has .234 batting average as Grant’s No. 9 hitter.
DONNY HUSSEY SENIOR THIRD BASE
Of his 16 hits, only three were for extra bases. Has batting average of .258, but supplemented that with 17 walks. Has scored 13 runs.
JUAN GUERRERO JUNIOR LEFT FIELD
Leads the team with 29 runs scored and is second with nine stolen bases. Hitting .291 with 10 walks as the leadoff hitter. His 25 hits are fourth best on the team.
JASON PETERSON SENIOR CENTER FIELD
Has batting average of .388, third best on the team. Leads the Lancers in triples (2), homers (5), RBIs (18), stolen bases (14) and times hit by the pitch (6).
PAT CHAWKI SENIOR RIGHT FIELD
Doesn’t have a hit in 14 at-bats despite striking out just three times. A defensive specialist with a good arm and good speed in the outfield.
DANNY KARPIN SENIOR DESIGNATED HITTER
He is a DH without power. He has only two doubles in 26 hits. Has a batting average of .394, second on the team. Is also tied for second with 17 RBIs.
RODNEY BECK SENIOR PITCHER
Has a 12-1 record and 11 complete games. Has 134 strikeouts and only 37 walks in 95 innings. Batting average is .362 with three homers and 18 RBIs.
1986, Game by Game
Fairfax 5, Grant 2
Grant 7, Sylmar 5
Grant 8, Hollywood 3
Grant 4, Cleveland 1
Hart 12, Grant 6
Simi Valley 16, Grant 0
Grant 2, Polytechnic 0
Grant 13, Verdugo Hills 3
Grant 11, Fairfax 0
Grant 6, Sylmar 3
Grant 3, North Hollywood 2
Polytechnic 6, Grant 0
North Hollywood 4, Grant 1
Grant 14, Hollywood 4
Grant 9, Verdugo Hills 3
Grant 4, Fairfax 0
Grant 8, Sylmar 3
Grant 12, Polytechnic 8
Grant 5, North Hollywood 2
Grant 6, Hollywood 0
Grant 8, Verdugo Hills 2
*Grant 2, Reseda 1
*Grant 3, Birmingham 2 (9 innings)
*Grant 7, San Fernando 3
*Playoff games Past City 4-A Champions
Year Champion 1939 Fremont 1940 Dorsey 1941 Dorsey 1942 Fremont 1943 Fremont 1944 Washington 1945 Dorsey 1946 Fremont 1947 Fremont 1948 Fremont 1949 Fairfax 1950 Dorsey 1951 Washington 1952 Garfield 1953 Wilson 1954 Dorsey 1955 South Gate 1956 Garfield 1957 N. Hollywood 1958 Dorsey 1959 Van Nuys 1960 South Gate 1961 Banning 1962 Washington 1963 Fremont 1964 Birmingham 1965 Cleveland 1966 Birmingham 1967 Venice 1968 Gardena 1969 Birmingham 1970 Wilson 1971 Monroe 1972 Venice 1973 Sylmar 1974 Monroe 1975 Granada Hills 1976 Granada Hills 1977 Cleveland 1978 Granada Hills 1979 Granada Hills 1980 Sylmar 1981 Kennedy 1982 Cleveland 1983 Chatsworth 1984 Granada Hills 1985 Kennedy