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San Fernando Fights to Win in Tournament Title Game

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

In a manner of speaking, it all boiled down to first base.

That is, St. Francis High had plenty of trouble getting anyone there, and when it did, there was trouble of the first order.

San Fernando defeated St. Francis, 11-4, in the championship game of the La Canada tournament Wednesday night at La Canada High in a 2-hour, 58-minute game that was marred by a bench-clearing brawl in the top of the fourth inning.

San Fernando (3-0) took a 7-0 lead in the first and, with right-hander Frank Serna in control, St. Francis managed only two hits in the first 3 1/3innings. The Tigers held a 10-0 lead with one out in the fourth, when the game turned from rout to riot.

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St Francis’ Matt Jones, attempting to beat out a ground ball to third, ran into first baseman John Najar, knocking the San Fernando player to the ground. Najar got a glove on the ball, which rolled into foul territory.

Jones attempted to scramble back to the bag and became entangled with Najar, who appeared to have tried to trip Jones on his way back. The pair tackled each other, and seconds later, the benches cleared and several other skirmishes broke out.

Najar and Jones were ejected and there was a 15-minute delay as tournament officials and umpires decided whether to continue.

After the game, two squad cars from the L. A. Sheriff’s Department waited in the parking lot to keep the peace.

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St. Francis’ Manny Fernandez, who was on the bench when the fight broke out, picked up a bloody nose after joining the melee. He returned to the bench and grabbed a bat, turned around and headed toward a tangled pile of players before he was forcibly restrained by several teammates.

“What happened had nothing to do with baseball,” St. Francis Coach Tom Moran said. “It’s not good for baseball, it’s not good for either school.

Moran said he “will discipline any player who left the bench,” and that Fernandez, like many others in the brawl, simply lost control.

“He was just out of it,” Moran said. “He had a bloody nose, and he was just not thinking straight. Believe me, I will take care of anyone who came off the bench.”

Najar suffered a badly bruised eye, and even Serna took a blow to the head.

“It’s too bad this had to happen, because it really takes away from some good performances by a couple of our kids,” said San Fernando Coach Steve Marden, who had little chance to enjoy the first tournament victory in his 11 years at the school.

Serna (2-0) was almost unhittable in his five innings on the mound, allowing no runs on two hits. The senior struck out five and walked one before leaving in the sixth.

“He had done what we wanted,” Marden said. “It was already 10-zip at that point, and besides, his eye was starting to swell up.”

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San Fernando (3-0) received most of its offense from senior shortstop Bobby Corrales, who had four hits in five at-bats. Corrales drove in the first run in the first inning, as the Tigers rocked Knights’ right-hander Erik Hagge for seven runs in one-third of an inning.

“He just never got untracked,” Moran said of Hagge. “Of course, they had a lot to do with that. That’s a very good high school baseball team.”

Corrales finished with five runs batted in. St. Francis did not score until the seventh, when it spanked San Fernando reliever Jess Vasquez for four runs.


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