After their teams engaged in a fourth-inning fight in Wednesday’s championship game of the La Canada baseball tournament, coaches from San Fernando and St. Francis high schools found a common enemy the next morning: newspapers.
Both Steve Marden of San Fernando and Tom Moran of St. Francis defended their players, claiming that the “bench-clearing” aspect of Wednesday’s battle was grossly exaggerated.
“Our kids don’t fight,” Marden proclaimed Thursday. “Our kids are well-disciplined and did not leave the bench.”
Well, they did, indeed, leave the bench Wednesday. But, Marden said, none crossed the third-base foul line, nor joined the fight.
Said Moran: “If any bench cleared, it wasn’t on the St. Francis side.”
Still, each coach disciplined players for their role in a fight that stopped play for 15 minutes during San Fernando’s 11-4 victory.
After St. Francis baserunner Matt Jones collided with San Fernando first baseman John Najar, the two wrestled to the ground. Reports differ as to what happened next, but when the dust cleared, both players were ejected and Manny Fernandez of St. Francis was nursing a bloody nose. Fernandez, a junior pitcher who was coaching at first base Wednesday, had to be restrained after he grabbed a bat from the dugout and headed back to the field.
In accordance with team rules, Jones will incur a one-game suspension for being ejected. Moran has yet to rule on Fernandez, who is scheduled to pitch today.
“I’m not sure I want to punish a kid for taking a punch,” Moran said.
Najar spent Thursday’s practice running extra sprints as punishment for Wednesday’s ejection, and Marden plans a team-wide running session today.
“I’m upset our kids were involved and I’m upset by the adverse publicity,” Marden said. “We’re beating this team, 10-0, and playing a fine game. I’m not interested in reading about an incident with two kids in a wrestling match. We finished the game and the kids shook hands after, and that’s it.”
Oops: After the first weekend of the season, Marmonte League teams have committed 30 errors in 11 games.
Camarillo, Newbury Park, Royal and Simi Valley combined for 28 errors. Channel Islands was flawless in its only game, Westlake committed two errors in as many games and Thousand Oaks did not play.
Simi Valley led the way with nine miscues, although the Pioneers recovered nicely to advance to today’s semifinals of the El Segundo tournament.
Paying his debts: After forgoing baseball his junior season, senior Mike Cassidy is the starting second baseman for St. Genevieve this year.
“I think Roland (De La Maza) threatened him,” Coach Kevin Kane said. “After all, the double play is a pitcher’s best friend. With Joe (Cascione) at shortstop and Mike at second, Roland has an experienced double-play combination.
“I think he also coaxed Mike into it. After helping Mike get all those assists during basketball, I think Roland told him that he owed it to him. That it was time to pay him back.”
Cassidy, an All-San Fernando Valley League guard, led Valley-area players with 11.1 assists a game this season. De La Maza led Valley-area pitchers with an 0.80 earned-run average and tied Roger Salkeld of Saugus for the strikeout lead (126).
Hard-nosed attitude: Harold Whiteside was a reserve catcher when Poly advanced to the City Section 4-A Division final in 1987, but he spent last season in the outfield. Now a senior, Whiteside is back behind the plate and already has earned a reputation as Poly’s Old Ironsides.
In last Saturday’s 4-1 win over Burbank, Whiteside took a throw from outfielder Shad Martinez, blocked the plate and tagged out a Burbank runner to end a rally in the third inning. Whiteside earned a red badge of courage in the process.
“He walked away with blood all over his nose,” Poly Coach Jerry Cord said of Whiteside. “He came up to me and said, ‘Coach, I think I broke my nose. But don’t worry about it. It doesn’t bother me.’ ”
Great expectations: Although Oak Park is the defending Southern Section 1-A Division boys’ track champion, Coach Kevin Smith wants the Eagles to do more than just retain their section title this year.
He said that the Eagles’ 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams are both capable of qualifying for the state championships, something they failed to achieve last season after romping to 1-A titles.
“We definitely want to make it to state,” said Smith, an Agoura High graduate. “I think our 1,600 relay is capable of running 3:15 to 3:16 this year.”
Three of four runners return from the relay team that set a school record of 3 minutes, 21.41 seconds last year: Seniors Jason Stein and Rich Frank and junior Kent Richter.
Down, but not out: The Kennedy track program was hit hard by academic ineligibilities this season, but co-Coach Pete Nelson said that the numbers (25 ineligible boys, six girls) sound worse than they are.
“Most of our good kids are eligible,” said Nelson, who has coached at Kennedy with Warren Farlow since the school opened in 1971. “We’re real thin (12 boys), but we’ve got all the events covered as far as dual meets go.
“We just can’t afford to lose anyone else. If that happens, we’ll be in trouble. The ineligibilities hurt because we lost a lot of kids who might have been potentially good.”
Staff writers Tim Brown, Steve Elling, John Lynch and John Ortega contributed to this notebook.