Leuzinger baseball Coach Derrel Thomas, never one to lack confidence, fired the first fastball of the Bay League season this week when he said: “Last year we held our own. This year we’re going to take it all.”
Other coaches may disagree with the former Dodger, but Leuzinger certainly has to be considered a contender for the Bay League crown after its impressive performance in the Costa Mesa/Newport Tournament.
The Olympians (7-2-1) bested a strong field of Orange County schools by winning four games in the tournament, capped by Wednesday’s 6-4 victory over Estancia of Costa Mesa in the final. They’ll bring a five-game winning streak into their league opener Wednesday against Inglewood at Sentinel Field.
Thomas, in his second year as head coach, said the tournament title was exactly what his team needed after it opened the season with a 2-2-1 showing in the El Segundo Tournament.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “The kids are playing their hearts out. We’ve had ups and downs. Sometimes we play excellent baseball, and sometimes we seem to get down.
“It was a letdown for me not to do better (in the El Segundo Tournament). The kids felt they let me down. I knew we were a better team than we showed. It was just a matter of proving it. We expressed a desire to win.”
Senior pitcher Tyrone Scott and sophomore outfielder Marvin Johnson shined for Leuzinger in the Costa Mesa/Newport Tournament.
Scott, a hard-throwing left-hander, came through with his best performance of the early season Tuesday in a 14-4 semifinal victory over Capistrano Valley, giving up two hits and striking out 14. The next day, he collected a run-scoring double in the championship game against Estancia.
Thomas, who saw his share of talent during a 15-year major league career, says the 6-2, 170-pound Scott has pro potential.
“I feel Tyrone Scott will be a No. 1 draft choice for someone in June,” he said. “There has been a lot of interest in him. I get calls from scouts asking when Tyrone is pitching. They speak very highly of him.”
Scott built a reputation as a dominating pitcher last season with several fine efforts. Unfortunately for the young hurler, several of his best games resulted in losses because of Leuzinger’s lack of support and the rigorous competition in the Pioneer League. The Olympians placed third behind Redondo and El Segundo and finished with a 12-16 overall record, bowing out in the first round of the CIF Southern Section 4-A playoffs to Fullerton, 1-0, as they squandered a Scott pitching gem.
This season he’s off to a 3-1 start, thanks in part to the emergence of a young outfielder who nearly didn’t win a spot on the varsity.
Johnson, who bats sixth, connected for home runs against Capistrano Valley and Estancia. His two-run shot in the sixth inning provided the winning margin in the title game.
“He started practice as someone hoping to stay with the varsity,” Thomas said. “Once I saw him swing the bat, I had to play him. He has an excellent swing, devastating power and he can run like hell.”
Johnson did his running last fall for the football team as a tailback and linebacker. His ability to excel in two sports inspired Thomas to compare him to another athlete known for his versatility.
“This kid can be the next Bo Jackson,” the coach said.
However, Thomas stressed that Leuzinger is more than a two-man team. He said that pitchers Jose Silva and Tavo Lopez, outfielder Alex Sanchez and first baseman Carlos Rodriguez need to come through for the Olympians to win the Bay League title.
“We have 17 players and I try to get them all as much playing time as possible,” he said. “But it’s difficult. I still want to establish a winning attitude and put a winning team on the field. We want to bring a winning tradition back to Leuzinger.”
Here’s a first: The championship game of the San Luis Obispo Baseball Tournament will be played Saturday in El Segundo.
The game was moved to Southern California after Friday’s scheduled meeting between El Segundo and host San Luis Obispo was rained out. Because El Segundo has tournament and league games nearly every Saturday, San Luis Obispo Coach Dale Overland agreed to make the trip.
El Segundo (6-3) will play a doubleheader Saturday, facing Crespi at 11 a.m. in the first round of the Palos Verdes/Redondo Tournament and San Luis Obispo at 4 p.m. in the nightcap. Both games will be played at El Segundo Recreation Park.
The Eagles won two games in San Luis Obispo before the rains came. Senior right-hander Rick Clark pitched a six-hit shutout over Lowell, 3-0, Wednesday and sophomore right-hander Brett Newell hurled a complete game Thursday in a 12-5 win over St. Ignatius. Newell is the son of El Segundo football Coach Steve Newell.
Defensively, El Segundo received big efforts from shortstop Mark Lewis and outfielders Kenny Talanoa, Erik Evans and Jeremy Carr.
Serra opened the Camino Real League with a bang Wednesday. Senior Jeff Hazelitt pitched a no-hitter, striking out five and walking three, and the Cavaliers collected nine hits in an 11-0 win over host Pius X of Downey.
Serra Coach Darren Fleming was surprised by Hazelitt’s no-hitter.
“He’s not overpowering,” he said. “He’s not going to throw the ball by anyone. He just had exceptional control.”
Outfielder Torrie Sweet was the offensive star for the Cavaliers, batting 3-for-4 with four RBIs. Serra improved to 4-3 overall.
Gardena running back Khybdeed Hairston signed a letter of intent this week with Cal State Northridge. The 5-11, 165-pound senior rushed for 908 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 17 passes for 186 yards last season.