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3-A Baseball : Pitchers Arrive in Time to Lead Helix, Santana Into Title Game

A couple of late bloomers, Helix High School’s Rick Navarro and Santana’s Paul Newark, pitched their teams into the San Diego Section 3-A championship game Saturday afternoon.

Navarro, who won only two games his junior year at Helix, continued his amazing turnaround this season with a 5-hit, 5-1 victory over defending champion Mt. Carmel in Saturday’s first game at Grossmont College.

Newark, a junior who wasn’t able to convince his coach of his pitching ability until the final month of the season, threw his second consecutive playoff shutout to lead Santana to a 13-0 victory over Grossmont in the second game.

Helix (25-2) and Santana (23-7) will meet for the championship Thursday at the University of San Diego.

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Helix will be playing in its first final since 1982 and looking for its first section title in 25 years. Santana, 3-A champion in 1984 and ’86, will be playing in its fourth championship game in five years.

Last year, Santana qualified for the final by beating Grossmont, and on Saturday, Newark helped the Sultans do it again.

He allowed just six hits, walked one and struck out four. When it got tough, Newark threw strikes and relied on his center fielder, Jeff Wagner, to chase down fly balls. Wagner had seven putouts, six when Grossmont had runners in scoring position.

Newark’s task was made even easier by the Santana offense, which scored three runs in the first and four in the second, then scored in third, fourth and fifth.

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Santana’s 16-hit attack was led by left fielder John Barnhill, who went 4 for 5, and Newark, who had three hits and three runs batted in.

Newark drove in two runs in the first inning with a double, and Darrin Forster capped a four-run second with a bases-empty home run as Santana moved ahead, 7-0.

From there, the only question was whether Newark would be able to continue the Santana pitching staff’s scoreless-innings streak--which stands at 21--in this year’s playoffs.

Newark started the streak in the opening round Tuesday, when he shut out Torrey Pines, 4-0. Saturday’s start was only his fourth of the season.

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“I really wanted to pitch all year but I couldn’t convince him (Santana Coach Jim Saska) that I could do it,” said Newark, now 5-0. “Finally, he caught me in the bullpen one day, and I got my chance.”

Helix hadn’t qualified for the playoffs in the past five years, but thanks in large part to Navarro’s turnaround, it is a game away from the its first championship since 1963.

Navarro, a senior left-hander who went 2-4 last year, improved his record this season to 13-0 by beating Mt. Carmel.

Navarro, who once relied solely on a curveball, can now throw his fastball past hitters, as he did to record nine strikeouts against Mt. Carmel.

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“He’s sneaky fast,” Jerry Schniepp, Helix coach, said.

Sam Blalock, Mt. Carmel coach, agreed: “It seemed like our kids were getting good swings at him, but we weren’t getting anything done. You have to give him credit.”

Navarro walked only one batter and was in control all the way, especially after Helix scored five runs in the third to take a 5-0 lead.

Damon Chase singled in the first two runs, and Richie Haar doubled in two more as Helix chased Mt. Carmel starter and loser Joey Brownholtz.

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Mt. Carmel’s only run, preventing Navarro’s sixth shutout of the season, came in the fifth, when Marcus Lee doubled, moved to third on an error and scored on a throwing error by center fielder Rich Pedrin.


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