The Preps : Southern Section Baseball Playoffs : Hitting Slump Forces Mater Dei to Rely on Its Pitchers, Pena and Corliss

Times Staff Writer

Mater Dei High School enters the opening round of today’s Southern Section 5-A playoffs with the best one-two pitching combination in the division, but the question is whether pitching will be enough to get the Monarchs into the title game June 3 at Dodger Stadium.

Coach Bob Ickes is armed with right-handers Tony Pena (10-1) and Scott Corliss (7-2), but his offense is slumping as it heads into its home game against Long Beach Wilson at 3:15 p.m.

Mater Dei (20-5) is seeded fourth, but Ickes is concerned about his team’s lacking of hitting.


“I hope we snap out of it,” Ickes said. “We’re a better hitting team than we’ve shown. If not, we’re going to be living off Pena and Corliss.”

Wilson (13-11-1) has lost three of its past four games, including a 10-8 decision to Long Beach Poly, which was Poly’s only victory in the Moore League.

Pena will oppose left-hander Gabe Gonzales (7-5), a junior who has experienced control problems in losing his past two starts. Pena’s only loss was to San Jose Bellarmine last month.

“I was surprised that we kept a seeding after losing to Servite (8-1) last week,” Ickes said. “We were almost shut out in that game, and we haven’t been shut out in two years.”

In today’s other 5-A games:

Fontana (14-7-1) at Westminster (18-7-1): Eric Culpepper, who was a freshman reserve when Fontana lost to Esperanza in the 1986 4-A championship game, will be the starting pitcher for Fontana. Culpepper is 6-1 with 45 strikeouts. Third baseman Brian Spinuzzi (.355) and shortstop Jim Quiroz (.358) are the team’s leading hitters.

First baseman Ryan Klesko, a member of the Junior Olympic team last summer, has collected 100 career hits for Westminster. Brett Grebe (7-3) has 95 strikeouts and has driven in 31 runs.


Nogales (19-6) at El Dorado (18-8): Humberto Reyes (7-3, 55 strikeouts) or Armando Plascencia (6-1, 51 strikeouts) will start for Nogales. The duo are also the team’s leading hitters. Nogales was 13-1 entering league play.

El Dorado is led by shortstop Phil Nevin, batting .341 with seven homers. Nevin has signed a national letter of intent with Cal State Fullerton.

Ocean View (17-9-1) at Beverly Hills (16-8): Beverly Hills will have a distinct home-field advantage with its cozy park nestled inside its track. The dimensions are 300 feet to left field and 220 feet to right with a 20-foot fence. There is very little foul territory.

Sophomore Randy Karliner (8-2) will start for Ocean View. Third baseman Gary Christopherson is hitting .440 with four home runs.

Los Alamitos (14-13) at Culver City (20-6): Los Alamitos drew a wild-card game for the second time in three years and responded with a 16-0 victory over Bishop Montgomery to make the field. Right fielder Anthony Napolitano is batting .427 with five homers.

Outfielder Todd Steverson is ranked among the top players in the state, and pitcher Mauricio Estavil is coming off a no-hit game for Culver City. Estavil has struck out 29 batters in his last two games.


Hacienda Heights Wilson (12-10) at Fountain Valley (17-8): Fountain Valley won its first league title in 10 years with pitcher Steve Montgomery (7-3) winning three key games in the last two weeks. Montgomery has allowed only three earned runs in his last 26 innings.

Loyola (12-10) at Loara (14-11): Loyola hit six home runs in one game, including four in one inning, earlier this year against Alemany. Outfielder Ryan Lefebvre, nephew of Seattle Mariners Manager Jim Lefebvre, leads the team with six homers.

Loara has won eight of its last 10 games after a 3-7 start. Every starter batted .300 or better in league play, with third baseman Matt Drager hitting .471.

In the 4-A division:

Valencia (11-10) at Buena (18-2-2): Five players, including Keef Leasure, quit the team three weeks ago but Valencia managed to qualify for the playoffs. Left fielder Randy Roskelly is the best of the rest.

Jason Isaacs (6-0, 42 strikeouts) will start for top-seeded Buena. Shortstop Matt Anderson is batting .556.

Hemet (19-6) at Mission Viejo (18-6): Mike Aho (8-0, 59 strikeouts) will start for Hemet. Catcher Terry Picchiottino has hit six homers and teammate Geoff Clark has hit three.


Shortstop Eric Ekdahl, who has signed with Pepperdine, leads Mission Viejo with a .444 batting average and has scored 30 runs.

Downey (17-7) at Santa Ana (16-9): Dan Kramer (6-3, 78 strikeouts) will start for Downey. Third baseman Mike Thibodeaux (.410) and first baseman Dan Kramer (.423) are the team’s top hitters.

Santa Ana catcher Julio Vargas has hit 17 career home runs and is a two-time All-Southern Section selection. Third baseman Bob Reimers has stolen 14 bases and has 33 hits.

South Hills (16-7) at Sunny Hills (18-8): Jason Giambi (6-2, 50 strikeouts) will start for South Hills. Outfielder Shawn Wooten is the team’s best hitter with a .500 batting average.

Brian Veronda (4-1), who teamed with Ryan Frace to throw a no-hitter in his last start, opens for Sunny Hills. Sunny Hills won only its second league title in the school’s 29-year history.

Upland (21-5) at Western (15-10): Upland is the fourth-seeded team but lost a series of coin flips and finds itself on the road in the first round. Jason Davis (10-1, 60 strikeouts) will start.


Western shortstop Troy Babbitt is among the top players in the county with a .436 batting average. Babbitt is also 4-1 as a pitcher with a 2.12 earned-run average.

Troy (16-7) at J.W. North (19-7): Tom Wilson (8-1, 87 strikeouts) will start for Troy. The Warriors had four players with 20 or more RBIs, led by third baseman Matt Carter with 30.

Mario Dorado (6-1, 51 strikeouts) starts for North. Outfielder Bobby Madrill is the team’s top hitter with a .344 batting average.

La Habra (14-8) at San Gabriel (13-8): La Habra needed a 9-6 victory over Irvine to reach the field of 32 teams. Shortstop Tim Moore is the top hitter in the county with a .508 batting average. San Gabriel surprised Hart to win the Foothill League title.

Capistrano Valley (16-9) at Anaheim (17-9): Center fielder Buster Nietzke batted .405 with eight doubles and 31 runs scored for Capistrano Valley. Don Mosebrook (9-3, 74 strikeouts) will start.

Anaheim has won 13 consecutive games with second baseman John Barber (.390) and shortstop Jose Gonzalez (.384) leading the attack. Robert Fernandez (5-2) will start.


Chaffey (13-10) at Foothill (18-7): Chaffey had nine hits in a 9-0 wild-card victory over Arlington to reach the playoffs. Isaac Sagasta, 6-feet-1 and 225 pounds, will start. Shortstop Chris Edwards is the team’s leading hitter.

Kent Donnelly (8-3, 81 strikeouts) starts for Foothill. Donnelly is batting .389 with 27 RBIs and 12 doubles. Every Foothill starter is batting at least .300.

In the 3-A division:

Calexico (11-9) at Tustin (18-8): Ruben Niebla (6-2, 51 strikeouts) will start for Calexico. Catcher Juan Flores is batting .333 with six triples.

Monty Jones (9-2, 110 strikeouts) starts for Tustin. Jones, who has signed with Cal State Northridge, is also batting .379.

Bonita (16-8) at Kennedy (20-5): Chris Romero will start for Bonita, which finished one game behind Ontario for the Hacienda League title. Outfielder Brent Iannicello is the team’s best hitter.

Kennedy won its first league title in 20 years with the most victories (20) in the school’s history. Pitchers Greg Hansell and Pete Montera had nine shutouts between them in 21 games.


Saddleback (13-12) at Laguna Hills (22-4): Mike Arroyos (6-4, 53 strikeouts) will start for Saddleback. Arroyos also leads the team with a .367 batting average.

Fourth-seeded Laguna Hills counters with Ron Kortman (10-1). Outfielder Chris Sheff is batting .422 with 24 stolen bases. Laguna Hills has won 19 of its last 20 games.

Glenn (14-10) at Trabuco Hills (14-7): Eddie Navarro, who won five games in the Suburban League, starts for Glenn. Second baseman Ray Gutierrez is the team’s top batter with a .400 average.

Third baseman David Lowery is batting .400 with five homers and 27 RBIs for Trabuco Hills. Trabuco Hills has already won Southern Section football and basketball championships this school year.

Pacifica (14-10) at Estancia (19-6): Gabe Javage (9-1, 1.56 ERA) starts for Estancia. Shortstop Jason White is batting .353 with 19 stolen bases, and teammate Rob Nye leads the team with a .403 batting average.

La Quinta (21-5-2) at Ontario (14-9): La Quinta has qualified for the playoffs for the 12th consecutive year under Coach Dave Demarest. Designated hitter Jason Parsons has nine homers with 38 RBIs.


Hard-throwing Calvin Ford, who won five games in the Hacienda League, starts for Ontario. Ford is also the team’s best hitter.

Orange (15-11) at Palm Desert (21-3): Shortstop Al Rodriguez leads Orange with a .443 batting average. Rodriguez had 40 hits for a mediocre team.

Second-seeded Palm Desert outscored its opponents, 186-86, hitting 50 doubles and 14 triples. Shortstop Chris Clapinski (.522) and outfielder Rawley Jacobson (five homers) are the team’s top hitters.