Mauricio Estavil of Culver City would have liked to have made a more graceful exit from prep baseball than the one he had to endure last week.
The Centaurs' star left-handed pitcher and outfielder would have preferred ending his high school career at Anaheim Stadium in the CIF-Southern Section 5-A Division championship game.
He would have liked to have thrown a no-hit game in the 5-A final and brought his third-seeded team a Southern Section title.
But that was not to be.
In a first-round playoff game at Culver City High on Thursday, Thousand Oaks, the third-place team in the Marmonte League, treated Estavil like an ordinary pitcher. Worse than that, the Lancers gave him the bum's rush, routing the Centaurs, 10-1, and ousting them from the playoffs.
Estavil, who had an 8-0 record in Ocean League play as Culver won the league championship, had the worst day of his prep pitching career.
During the season, he had pitched a no-hitter, two one-hitters, three two-hitters and a three-hitter. But his outing against Thousand Oaks was more notable for the three batters he hit, for the five bases on balls he issued, for the nine runs he gave up--five of them earned--in 4 2/3 innings than for the five hits he surrendered to the Lancers.
"It was not a very good time to have a bad day," Estavil said.
He had no excuses for his performance. "I knew they were a good-hitting team, but I wasn't nervous. It just wasn't there.
"My fastball and curve ball weren't there. I tried to finesse, but that didn't work. I knew I didn't have my fastball, and I tried to mix it up with my curve--but I wasn't getting that over either."
Both pitches worked well for him for most of the season and last year, when he was a part-time pitcher who was more noted for being a hard-hitting right fielder. But even pitching only once in a while last year, he tossed a no-hitter and struck out 17 batters in another game.
In his four years on the Culver varsity, he hit and pitched well enough to attract attention of college and major league scouts, well enough to earn a scholarship to Pepperdine University, where he plans to enroll next fall.
Against Thousand Oaks, he had a day "like all good left-handers do at some time in their lives," said Art Harris, who scouts for the Dodgers and was the coach of strong baseball programs at West Los Angeles College and Venice High.
Harris said that he has seen enough of Estavil on good days to realize that his poor performance last week was an aberration. "A good left-handed pitcher at the high school level can be overwhelming, and he has been overwhelming.
"I remember him on one gray afternoon when the hitters weren't even flinching but were just standing there, trying to react. He throws the ball very well."
He hits and plays the outfield the same way and will probably be used both as a pitcher and outfielder at Pepperdine. Bill Springman, Pepperdine's top assistant who does much of the recruiting for the Waves, said he feels that Estavil, a 6-foot, 175-pounder who bats from the left side, "will help us out pitching . . . and at the plate," either as a designated hitter or as an outfielder.
As a pitcher, Springman said, Estavil "has a fastball, curve and change, and he throws them all for strikes. He keeps hitters off balance and is a very, very good competitor."
Estavil said that in both Little League and Babe Ruth youth baseball he was "a pitcher most of the time, but in high school I concentrated on hitting." He said that other colleges were interested in his hitting but that Pepperdine also wanted him as a pitcher.
He said that he doesn't know yet whether his hitting or pitching will take him farther if he should get the chance to play major league baseball. And he is likely to get the chance, if not in this June's major league draft, then after his junior year at Pepperdine--the soonest he can be drafted if he continues to play college ball.
Harris thinks that Estavil has the potential to play in the major leagues but that he will benefit from playing in college. "He's the kind of kid who certainly will be followed closely when he gets to Pepperdine, and, within the normal progression, he should be considered a professional prospect.
"One, he can hit. Two, he can throw. Immediately, that's two pluses." In three years at Pepperdine, Harris said, "he should fill out and is going to get stronger. If he shows some signs of hitting for power, that's another plus."
Harris said that he thinks Estavil might have a brighter future playing every day in the outfield, but that he does not rule out the possibility that the youngster could pitch in the major leagues--if he gets someone to work with him on pitching and develops "a good off-speed pitch and (a better) breaking ball."
Estavil's favorite players are Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, both known for their hitting, although Ruth was an excellent pitcher early in his career for the Boston Red Sox before he was sold to the New York Yankees.
Not surprisingly, Estavil said that he "always considered myself as a hitter, but it depends how far my pitching goes. You never know." Estavil, like Harris, believes he needs more specialized coaching to develop as a pitcher.
Estavil was born in Madrid after his family fled Cuba for Spain, and he and his family came to the United States when he was about 2 years old. He said he has seen Ruth only in newsreels but that the baseball immortal made a deep impression on him.
"He was left-handed, and I liked the way he played and swung the bat."
He said that if he is drafted in June, he will accept an offer from a major league team only if he is picked in an early round and is offered good money.
If he is a late-round draft choice, he said, "I'd go to college because I want the education to fall back on. Baseball is a long, hard pull."
Harris said that Estavil is a legitimate candidate for this year's draft but that the fact that he has "committed to Pepperdine might scare off some people."
Estavil will probably spend the next three years pitching and hitting for Pepperdine because," he said, "I'll get a chance to play every day. But I also want to pitch because you have control of the game."