The Mary Star baseball team’s penchant for last-inning dramatics spelled doom for another Santa Fe League opponent Friday.
This time it was Willie Sanchez who took center stage by leading off the bottom of the seventh inning with a home run at Fromhold Field in San Pedro, lifting the Stars to a 9-8 victory over Cantwell and extending their winning streak to a school-record 12 games.
The previous Friday, George Pisano’s two-out grand slam in the bottom of the seventh gave Mary Star a 6-3 league triumph over Miraleste.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” said Mary Star Coach Frank Ponce De Leon. “We always seem to gear up whenever we need a big hit. The players dig down deep. That kind of character has been missing from a Mary Star ball club for a long time. In past years, we’ve been losing those one-run games.”
So far, this is Mary Star’s year.
By stretching their winning streak to an even dozen, the Stars (7-0) opened a two-game lead in the loss column over Cantwell and Miraleste (both 6-2) in the Santa Fe standings and eclipsed the previous school record of 11 straight wins set by the 1979 team.
Ponce De Leon remembers the 1979 team for two reasons: he was the starting catcher and Mary Star captured the Santa Fe League title.
Ten years later, the Stars are hoping to repeat that feat with a team that appears to be improving and growing closer together with each game.
“The players on this team are like brothers,” Ponce De Leon said. “It’s unique when you get a team that gets along. You don’t find that chemistry too often.”
The team spent Friday night together enjoying a spaghetti dinner given by Pisano’s parents.
On the field, the Stars have displayed a winning chemistry.
Sanchez, who caused a stir before the season when he transferred from San Pedro High, appeared he might end up the goat after giving up a home run to Cantwell’s Adrian Sandin in the top of the seventh that tied the score, 8-8.
But Sanchez redeemed himself minutes later when he belted a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence as Mary Star, ranked eighth in the Southern Section 2-A Division, improved to 15-5 overall.
Chadwick baseball Coach Jim Drennen, whose team notched its sixth straight win Friday with an 8-3 victory over Webb, says the Dolphins are more talented than the 1987 team that reached the CIF-Southern Section Small Schools final.
“I definitely feel we have a better team this year,” he said. “We had more seniors in ’87, but this team has more talent.”
At the head of the class is senior pitcher-outfielder Greg O’Riordan, who earned his second save Friday with three innings of relief. The right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.10 ERA and is hitting .370.
Drennen says O’Riordan, an honor student, will attend Fordham University in New York, where he plans to play baseball and study business.
“He wants to work on Wall Street as an investment banker,” Drennen said. “Donald Trump is his hero.”
Sophomore catcher Todd Seneker is the other big gun in Chadwick’s arsenal. He leads the team with a .500 batting average and 16 RBIs, and has performed admirably behind the plate, Drennen said.
Seneker delivered a two-run double in Friday’s win over Webb, helping the Dolphins move closer to their third Prep League title in four years. They lead the league by two games with a 5-0 record and are 9-4 overall.
Chadwick, ranked fourth in the Small Schools poll, plays at sixth-ranked Rio Hondo Prep on Tuesday and returns home to face Pasadena Poly on Friday.
“If we can win one of those two going into the last week of the season,” Drennen said, “we’ll be in good shape.”
Redondo celebrated its first boys’ league tennis championship since . . . well, since anyone can remember.
“The last one was a long time ago,” Coach Ted Atteberry said. “I know they had not won a championship while I’ve been at the school.”
Atteberry, who started teaching at Redondo in 1981, watched the Sea Hawks end the drought Wednesday with a 15-3 win over Mira Costa to clinch the Ocean League title with an 11-1 record.
Redondo and South Torrance finished with the same league records, but the Sea Hawks were awarded the title because they won more sets in head-to-head competition. Redondo beat South at home, 11-7, and lost a tie-breaker to the Spartans after the teams played to a 9-9 deadlock at South.
Atteberry’s son, Ted Jr., completed league play with a 34-2 singles record, and the doubles team of juniors Harry Seltzer and Jeff Steinberg went 36-0.
Despite Redondo’s success, the team has been overlooked in the CIF-Southern Section 3-A Division coaches’ poll. South, on the other hand, was ranked ninth this week.
“We weren’t expected to be real strong,” Atteberry said. “That could be part of the reason.”
Atteberry coached tennis at Aviation for 10 years until the school closed in 1981. After a break from coaching, he took over the Redondo team in 1986 and has watched the Sea Hawks slowly rise to prominence.
“We put in an awful lot of time on the courts,” he said. “The kids that come out are not real experienced, but they’re a very hard-working group and very coachable. There are no secrets. We just put in the hours.”
Redondo will make its third straight appearance in the playoffs beginning May 16.
North Torrance’s baseball team completed a big week in the Ocean League on Friday night with a 7-2 victory over host Redondo. It was the Saxons’ sixth straight league win and kept them tied for second with Mira Costa at 7-3.
Wednesday, North handed first-place Culver City (9-1) its only league loss, 3-2 in eight innings.
The Saxons and Mira Costa will temporarily settle second place when they meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday at North.