The High Schools : San Fernando Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

Many high school baseball coaches prefer to call the pitches for their team. At San Fernando, Coach Steve Marden not only orders the pitch selection, he serves up a sideline side order as well--location.

If a ball is slammed into center, blasted off the fence in left or lined into the gap, Marden’s immediate call to his catcher is: “Hey, where was that pitch?”

Of course, that’s if the pitches are hittable. And lately, they haven’t been.


Marden benched pitcher Hector De La Cruz because the junior left-hander walked five batters in 2 1/3 innings in a 13-12 loss to Kennedy on March 16.

“I’m not going to let a pitcher lose any more games for us,” Marden said. “I’ll use a shortstop, a center fielder or a right fielder before I allow us to lose another baseball game like that.”

Sound enough reasoning, except that Marden made this statement after De La Cruz pitched a scoreless seventh inning to earn a save in San Fernando’s 9-7 win over Cleveland on Thursday.

Rhetorical devices aside, Marden was forced to use De La Cruz because he had already used his three other pitchers in the preceding 24 hours. San Fernando starting right-hander John Najar--who pitched in relief in the Tigers’ 12-12 tie with Cleveland on Wednesday--was removed after, you guessed it, walking three consecutive batters to force in a run in the third inning.

It is no surprise that Marden has lost patience: San Fernando’s Frank Serna walked 11 on Wednesday and three teammates combined to walk eight more Thursday. Pitching was supposed to be San Fernando’s strength this season--Serna and De La Cruz were a combined 7-1 and Serna issued only 11 walks in league play all last season.

And although De La Cruz picked up a save, it wasn’t easy. He walked two of the first three batters to put the tying runs on base before recording the final out.

Out of left field: Forgive Kennedy baseball Coach Manny Alvarado if he can’t quite find the words to describe the play of left fielder and designated-hitter Garret Anderson. Perhaps it is because Anderson--who did not play baseball last year and was on the basketball team until February--has not been around long enough for his coach to come to grips with his immediate success.

“I’m not surprised . . . well, I can’t say that,” Alvarado said. “I am surprised in that he came out so late and he didn’t play last year, but after the first time I saw him swing the bat . . . “

Anderson, a junior, has not only exceeded Alvarado’s expectations, he has outproduced two better-known teammates. Anderson has 19 runs batted in, more than two-time Times’ All-Valley selection Gino Tagliaferri and Times’ second-team selection Shawn Madden. After nine games, Anderson has three home runs, five extra-base hits and 12 hits in 27 at-bats (.444).

“We didn’t expect this kind of success until after spring break,” Alvarado said. “If by then.”

It was a break of another kind that led to Anderson’s breakthrough.

“He looked great (in preseason drills) until we started throwing him the breaking ball,” Alvarado said. “Then he looked horrendous.”

Alvarado asked assistant Andy Montes to work with Anderson and the payoff has been impressive.

“The problem was that he wasn’t seeing the ball,” Alvarado said. “Now when I ask if he’s seeing it OK, it seems like he’s always just hit it over the fence.”

Lights out: Darkness and time limits have taken their toll on Newbury Park’s record, giving the Panthers a 10-1-3 mark that seems more appropriate for a team wearing blades.

“People say it sounds like a hockey record,” Newbury Park Coach Gary Fabricius said, “and I say, ‘Yeah, we’re only a game out in the Smythe Division.’ ”

The record is impressive, ties notwithstanding. Fabricius isn’t sure what to make of Newbury Park’s quicker-than-expected start, but he’s not complaining.

Said Fabricius: “Every coach we play seems to be saying, ‘Yeah, our ace pitched yesterday,’ or, ‘Our ace pitches tomorrow.’

“We say, ‘Fine, give us your Nos. 2 or 3. Twos and threes, we’ll take them.’ ”

Wait till this year: Anyone who thinks graduation has left Chatsworth Coach Bob Lofrano’s cabinet empty might want to discuss it with Dave Krider, who ranks the top 25 high school teams in baseball, football and basketball for USA Today.

Last year, Chatsworth was ranked No. 1 for most of the season. The rebuilding Chancellors are currently ranked No. 13 by Krider.

Hart, which is 35-2 in 1 1/2 seasons, is ranked No. 5.

And now batting, hmm, uh . . . . : Highland Hall’s baseball team has benefited from the addition of a freshman leadoff batter who seems an unlikely choice to be wearing a Hawk uniform. Tum Ratanatraiphob was born in Thailand and shuttled back and forth between California and his homeland throughout his childhood.

With all the travel, he missed out on Little League and had no baseball experience before joining the Highland Hall varsity. Coach Dave Desmond knew Ratanatraiphob had athletic ability, so he started his sales pitch early in the school year.

“I had seen him in gym classes and I knew he had speed and he seemed very coachable,” he said. “He seemed uninterested but the day before practice started he said he would play.”

Ratanatraiphob does pose a problem when Desmond phones in linescores after games--complete with proper spellings of names. “Then he’s Vanna White’s worst nightmare,” Desmond cracked.

Ratanatraiphob, a 5-foot-3, 110-pound second baseman, is batting .222 but has seven walks and seven stolen bases through four games.

Same wavelength: When Cleveland Coach Ray Todd walked up to assistant Marty Siegel moments after Wednesday’s game with San Fernando, Siegel sensed something was wrong.

Todd was conducting an interview after the 12-12 tie when he turned to Siegel, and then turned ashen.

“He said, ‘Talk to this guy for me, I have to sit down,’ ” Siegel said.

Todd, 55, was hospitalized in intensive care for two days because of heart palpitations. Todd, who had bypass surgery three years ago, was released from Westlake Medical Center on Friday and is expected to return to school this week.

“I knew right away what was wrong,” Siegel said. “He didn’t have to say anything.”