Playoff Game Proves to Be No Day at the Beach for Rolling Hills
Two days before its biggest game of the year, the Rolling Hills High School baseball team went to the beach on Wednesday.
The Titans weren’t there to work on their tans or to catch the waves. Dressed in practice uniforms, they staked out a stretch of sand at Torrance Beach and played a rousing game of Frisbee baseball.
For the record, the sophomores and juniors beat the seniors, 6-5.
“You have to do something to break up the monotony,” said Rolling Hills Coach Garry Poe, who has made the Frisbee game a pre-playoff tradition. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Poe wanted his players loose for their CIF Southern Section playoff opener on Friday against El Dorado of Placentia, the top-ranked team in the 5-A Division. He also wanted them to be prepared. He did a thorough job of scouting El Dorado by using information from Orange County newspapers.
When Rolling Hills opened a 10-3 lead in the top of the fourth inning, Poe felt good about the Titans’ game plan and their chances of pulling off a stunning upset.
But, as fate would have it, Rolling Hills only set itself up for a cruel letdown. El Dorado stormed back with a 10-run inning in the bottom of the fourth and went on to win, 14-12.
“They were on the ropes, and we couldn’t put them away,” Poe said. “I thought we were well-prepared. The kids didn’t hold them in awe. Our attitude was great. We didn’t get a case of nerves or anything. It was just a matter of making some mistakes at the wrong time.”
After taking a 4-3 lead through three innings, Rolling Hills scored six runs in the fourth. Junior outfielder Robert Mitchell was the highlight of the outburst, hitting a grand slam.
“Everything was upbeat, and then we got careless,” Poe said. “You don’t get careless against good teams, and (El Dorado) is a good team. They’re not quite as good as I thought they’d be. But it’s pretty tough for me to demean them, because they beat us.”
During its 10-run rally in the fourth, El Dorado roughed up three Titan pitchers--starter David Breneman and relievers Eric Reidt and Frank Nastanski, who suffered the loss. Errors also hurt Rolling Hills.
“If someone had told me we would be up 10-3 with Breneman on the mound, I’d have said, ‘No one is going to catch us,’ ” Poe said. “It just wasn’t his day. It’s too bad, because he pitched so many big games for us this year. We wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for him.
“He’s such an intense kid. He was excited. I think he tried to do something special instead of just pitching his normal game. It was a disappointing end for him. I felt bad.”
Poe also felt bad when he heard the two other Bay League teams in the playoffs--champion North Torrance and runner-up West Torrance--had lost. It marked the second straight season that all of the Bay League teams were eliminated in the first round.
Poe sensed that El Dorado Coach Steve Gullotti did not have much respect for the Bay League.
“The guy’s attitude before the game was, ‘I really don’t know about the Bay League. What goes on?’ ” Poe said. “I felt like saying, ‘Well, we’ll show you what the Bay League is like.’ ”
If nothing else, Rolling Hills earned some respect and threw a scare into El Dorado. Poe only wishes it had been more than a scare.
“It would have been great,” he said. “The third-place team from the Bay League knocking off the top seed. Oh my.”
Overpowering is the best way to describe El Segundo’s 10-0 win over Anaheim in a 4-A baseball playoff opener on Friday night at Recreation Park.
The No. 2-seeded Eagles collected 11 hits, including two home runs, while three pitchers--Heath Jones, Chris Ashelford and Jose Sanchez--combined to throw a no-hitter.
It was El Segundo’s first no-hitter since Scott McGregor did it in 1972.
Coach John Stevenson said he removed Jones after four innings because he wants the 6-5 right-hander fresh for the remainder of the playoffs.
“Jones will start every game,” Stevenson said. “That’s our plan.”
That means Jones (8-3) will be on the mound again Tuesday when El Segundo (22-8) meets Hueneme of Oxnard (17-7-1) in a second-round game. Starting time is 3:15 p.m. at Recreation Park.
Was Stevenson reluctant to remove Jones from Friday’s game?
“It was early enough that there wasn’t the pressure to leave him in,” the coach said. “One more inning it would have been tempting to say, “Let’s let him get it.’ The whole idea was to save innings for the future. Plus, we wanted to keep the other guys sharp.”
Ashelford threw two innings and Sanchez, pitching for the first time this season, struck out two batters in one inning of relief.
Sanchez, the starting catcher, is fully recovered from a shoulder injury that hampered his throwing early in the year.
“Sanchez was awesome,” Stevenson said. “He’s our hardest thrower. I don’t know how long he can bring it like that, but if we need someone for an inning or two, he can be real tough.”
Sanchez was also tough at the plate. He went 2 for 4 with three RBIs and set a school record with his 11th home run of the season.
With 45 RBIs, Sanchez is also closing in on the single-season school record of 48 set by Jones last season. Jones, who was 2 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs on Friday, is right behind Sanchez with 43 RBIs.
Hueneme, the second-place team from the Channel League, has fared poorly against El Segundo. The Eagles beat Hueneme in the 1979 4-A championship game, again in the second round of the 1986 3-A playoffs and earlier this year, 11-1, in the San Luis Obispo Tournament.
San Pedro learned the identity of its first-round opponent for the L. A. City 4-A baseball playoffs on Friday, when El Camino Real defeated Taft, 13-1, in a tie-breaker for fourth place in the West Valley League.
San Pedro (19-5), which will play host to El Camino Real (9-11) at 3 p.m. Wednesday, brings a nine-game winning streak into the playoffs.
Pitcher Joey Camello was instrumental in the Pirates’ late-season surge. Since being brought up from the junior varsity team, the junior right-hander is 6-0 with an 0.00 ERA.
“He was just a reserve on the JV team,” San Pedro Coach Jerry Lovarov said. “He didn’t even play. I noticed he had a pretty good arm. We changed his (pitching) motion a little bit, and he’s worked out well.”
Lovarov was in desperate need of pitchers after most of his staff was declared academically ineligible early in Marine League play.
But after starting 3-3, the Pirates finished 12-3 and co-champions with Banning.
Redondo’s Scott Davison continued his assault on the record books and any team that stands in his way on Friday.
The senior pitcher-shortstop improved his record to 16-0 and hit two home runs to lead the Sea Hawks to a 12-4 win over host Lompoc in the first round of the Southern Section 4-A playoffs.
Fourth-seeded Redondo (28-2) will play host to Orange League champion Valencia of Placentia (16-8-1) in the second round at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday.
In improving his career record to 46-5, Davison gave up five hits and two runs and struck out nine in 5 innings.
Redondo had already built a 10-2 lead with the help of Davison’s seventh and eighth home runs of the year. They were the 21st and 22nd homers of his career, leaving him tied for fifth on the all-time Southern Section list.
Davison, already the Southern Section career leader in hits and RBIs, went 3 for 4 to become the state’s all-time hit leader with 146.