PREP WRAPUP / ROB FERNAS : El Segundo Sets Scoring Record in Win Over Valley Christian
In grand style, El Segundo High’s baseball team became the most prolific scoring machine in Southern Section history Friday with a 21-11 victory over Valley Christian of Cerritos at Recreation Park.
The offensive onslaught, which featured a grand slam by junior Brett Newell and a three-run homer by sophomore Jeff Poor, moved the Eagles into the 2-A Division semifinals and to the top of the Southern Section list for season scoring.
El Segundo (26-3) has scored 351 runs, an average of 12 per game, eclipsing the previous record of 343 set by Montclair Prep of Van Nuys in 1981.
But just when the party gets going, here comes trouble.
Eric Mooney is gunning for the Eagles again.
St. Anthony’s left-handed ace will get his third crack at El Segundo at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, when the Camino Real League rivals meet in the semifinals at Cerritos College.
The teams split the previous meetings. Mooney and St. Anthony handed the Eagles their only league defeat, 4-3, April 4 at Clark Field in Long Beach, and El Segundo came back to beat Mooney, 3-0, May 9 at Recreation Park behind a one-hitter by Rob Croxall.
Friday, Mooney (8-5) threw out a runner at home with two out in the sixth inning and then shut down Santa Ynez in the seventh to preserve a 4-3 victory at Santa Ynez. It was his fourth save.
The victory extended a surprising season for St. Anthony. While top-seeded El Segundo was expected to get this far, the Saints (15-9), third-place finishers in the Camino Real League, were not.
“It’s a great thing to dream about, but I never really believed we’d be here,” St. Anthony third baseman Dave Losey told the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Losey is one of the big reasons the Saints have won three playoff games, all on the road. He drove in three runs Friday with his sixth and seventh hits of the 2-A tournament.
However, the key player for St. Anthony is Mooney. Any pitcher who can limit high-scoring El Segundo to six runs in two games is doing something right.
“We handled Mooney fairly easily,” said St. Bernard Coach Bob Yarnall, whose team swept St. Anthony in league play, 6-1 and 10-2. “But he seemed to get a little more pumped up against El Segundo.
“When his curveball is on, and he’s throwing it for strikes, he’s tough. The problem is his curveball is good one inning and no good the next.”
When asked to pick a winner, Yarnall didn’t hesitate.
“It seems like El Segundo’s pitching is faltering a little bit (in the playoffs), but that El Segundo team comes back too often,” he said. “I have to give the edge to El Segundo.”
The Eagles came from behind for the third consecutive game Friday, rallying from a 3-0 deficit in the first inning after Valley Christian’s Royal Lord III chased starter Croxall with a three-home homer before an out was recorded.
But it didn’t take long for El Segundo to catch up. The Eagles scored four runs in the bottom of the first, highlighted by Garret Quaintance’s two-run double to the left-center field fence, and opened a 14-3 lead with 10 runs in the second, capped by Newell’s grand slam to left-center.
Valley Christian, exploiting some shaky pitching by El Segundo, managed to cut the deficit to 14-10. The Eagles then pulled away with three runs in the fourth and four in the fifth, when Poor homered to left-center, to account for the final runs.
Left-hander Jason Wayt (8-1) picked up his second playoff victory in relief despite giving up six runs and four walks in 2 2/3 innings.
“It’s uncharacteristic for our pitchers to walk that many,” El Segundo Coach John Stevenson said. “Fortunately, the pitchers picked a day to do that when the bats were there.”
Croxall, who entered the playoffs with a 9-1 record, an 0.71 earned-run average and 30 consecutive scoreless innings, has been unimpressive in two postseason starts.
The right-hander gave up five hits and three runs in 4 2/3 innings Tuesday in El Segundo’s 9-5 victory over Santa Clara, and Friday he was pulled early after surrendering two singles and a home run to open the game.
“It just might not have been his day,” Stevenson said. “If I stayed with him, he might have worked his way out of it. I just don’t have that luxury in the playoffs. Those runs in the first inning count. If I knew were were going to score 21 runs, I probably would have stayed with him.”
Stevenson, following a pattern he began last year in the playoffs, would not say who his starting pitcher would be Tuesday. Right-hander Tate Seefried was the Eagles’ most effective pitcher Friday, retiring all seven of the hitters he faced to close the game.
Junior left-hander Brian Wise also did a creditable job, taking over for Wayt with two outs in the third and limiting Valley Christian to three hits and two runs in two innings.
“After the game Tuesday, I made sure (Wise) was ready,” Stevenson said. “I was pleased with the way he threw. He gave us some stability.”
With two hits and two runs batted in Friday, Seefried moved into the Southern Section all-time season list in both categories.
He has 51 hits, tying him for eighth place, and 47 RBIs, tying him for ninth. He is one RBI shy of the school record of 48 set by Heath Jones in 1987. Former South Bay standouts Scott Davison (Redondo, 1987) and Chris Donnels (South Torrance, 1984) top the section RBI list with 58 and 56, respectively.
After two impressive playoff victories, St. Bernard committed five errors Friday and was eliminated from the 2-A tournament by host Yucaipa, 5-4.
“We just didn’t come ready to play baseball,” Coach Yarnall said. “It was like we had jet lag for the first five innings. People didn’t want to field the ball and they didn’t want to hit the ball. I was surprised the score was as close as it was.”
Still, Yarnall said it was a satisfying season. Many considered this a rebuilding year for the Vikings, who will have five starters and 13 varsity players back next season, when they move to the 5-A Division Mission League.
“In all reality, we went farther than I thought we would,” Yarnall said. “Then when we won the first two playoff games as convincingly as we did, I thought we had a good chance to go all the way. But Yucaipa brought us down to earth.”
St. Bernard center fielder John Coleman stole a base to give him 43 for the season. The previous school record was 32 set by Ron Scotland in 1986.