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Prep Notes : ‘What Happened?’ Surprising Mary Star Starts to Win Baseball Games

Mary Star baseball Coach Frank Ponce De Leon fielded more than the usual number of phone calls Tuesday morning. Most were from parents and friends wanting to know the secret behind the Stars’ success of late.

“They were all asking, ‘What happened?’ ” said Ponce De Leon, whose team upset Banning, 11-3, Saturday and St. Bernard, 16-12, Monday to improve to 6-5 and extend a three-game winning streak. “I’m sure it opened the eyes of some of the teams we play.”

Explanations were in order after Mary Star, which lost in extra innings to lowly Centennial this season, knocked off two of the South Bay’s top teams. It was only the second loss in eight games for St. Bernard, which was ranked No. 1 in the area by The Times last week. Banning leads the Pacific League with a 3-0 record, 6-3 overall.

“That’s baseball,” Ponce De Leon said. “That’s the only thing you can say.”

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The victories over Banning and St. Bernard reinforced Ponce De Leon’s belief that Mary Star is better than it showed in some of its early games.

“Realistically, we should be around 7-3,” he said. “We lost two games where we were ahead that we should have won. We were one throw from winning both games and lost because of errors. A 6-5 record really doesn’t show how good a ballclub we are.”

The Stars are still making errors (six against St. Bernard), but their hitting has made up for defensive lapses. Mary Star slugged 11 hits in its win over Banning and erupted for 14 Monday at its home park, windy Fromhold Field in San Pedro.

Although it was a non-league game, Ponce De Leon was especially satisfied with the win over St. Bernard. It broke a four-year, eight-game losing streak against the Vikings, who dominated Mary Star in the Camino Real League. The Stars are in the Santa Fe League this season.

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“We finally hit against them,” Ponce De Leon said. “Maybe (St. Bernard) was looking more toward league play. But every time you put the uniform on, you have to play to win.”

Junior catcher Miguel Galaz continued his torrid hitting for the Stars by driving in four runs on two hits, including a three-run homer in the fourth inning. It was Galaz’s third homer of the year.

Others who have contributed include third baseman Willie Sanchez, a recent transfer from San Pedro who has two home runs, and shortstop Richard Negrete, perhaps Mary Star’s best all-around player.

Mary Star plays its Santa Fe opener April 5 against Cantwell. The Stars finish their pre-league schedule today against Avalon at Fromhold Field.

High-scoring baseball games are nothing new to Fromhold Field. The park, which sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean at the southern tip of San Pedro, has been the scene of many a home-run derby.

Ponce De Leon says the combination of strong winds and cozy dimensions usually results in high scores. On Monday, Mary Star and St. Bernard combined for 26 hits in the Stars’ 16-12 win.

“If you hit the ball and get it up in the jet stream, it has the possibility of getting out,” he said. “It’s definitely a hitter’s ballpark. When you look at the ERAs of our pitchers, it can be deceiving.”

Said Bishop Montgomery Coach Bob Anderson: “No lead is safe there.”

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On the road:

- El Segundo and Rolling Hills began play Wednesday in the San Luis Obispo Tournament. The teams play three games through Friday before returning home.

- Bishop Montgomery will travel up the coast next week to play non-league games Thursday at Dos Pueblos in Goleta and Saturday at Santa Maria.

- St. Bernard begins play Saturday in the St. Paul Tournament, facing host Crespi of Encino at 11 a.m. The Vikings will play four games in the tourney, which lasts through Wednesday.

PREP NOTES--Carson forward Vincent Washington, a 6-5 senior who averaged 17 points and 8.3 rebounds a game, has been named to the All-L.A. City 4-A Division basketball team. Westchester’s Zan Mason, a 6-7 forward headed to UCLA, and Sam Crawford, a 5-9 guard, were repeat selections. . . . Banning rallied for a 5-4 win over San Pedro in an error-filled game Tuesday to take sole possession of first place in the Pacific League baseball race with a 3-0 record. San Pedro dropped to 2-1. Each team committed three errors and will get another crack at each other at 3 p.m. today at San Pedro. . . . Maybe Bishop Montgomery can compete in the Angelus League. The Knights evened their league record at 1-1 and improved to 9-1-1 overall with a 5-3 victory over Mater Dei on Tuesday.


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