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Kendall Gets His Chance, Torrance KO’s Mira Costa

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Torrance High catcher Jason Kendall didn’t have many opportunities Friday to extend the state’s longest hitting streak.

Because he was walked intentionally twice, Kendall had only one at-bat in the Tartars’ Southern Section playoff opener against Mira Costa. In fact, he saw only one pitch.

For Mira Costa, it was one too many.

Kendall hit a first-pitch curveball from Mira Costa ace Jason Garner over the fence in left-center field for a two-run home run in the third inning to spark Torrance to a 5-3 victory in a 4-A Division game at Torrance Park.

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The home run snapped a 2-2 tie and extended Kendall’s hitting streak to 32 games. That moves him within a game of the state record, set this season by Jakob Jenson of Highland Hall in Northridge.

If Mira Costa Coach Jim Beaumont had a chance to do it over again, he would have taken the bat out of Kendall’s hands.

“I should have walked Kendall in the third inning, even though there was a guy on first,” Beaumont said. “I walked him every other time and he got us that time. But you can’t spend all day walking people.”

Instead, Beaumont watched in frustration as the heart of Torrance’s lineup battered the Mustangs. Antone Williamson, Eric Gonzales and Kendall--the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters--were a combined five for six with three walks, three runs scored and all five of the Tartars’ runs batted in. Gonzales led the way with three hits and three RBIs.

“They’re very tough hitters, and their stats have proved that,” Beaumont said. “Not that we did a poor job of hitting today, because I think we had our share of hits. But we certainly don’t have anybody to match up with the middle of their lineup.

“I don’t know of any team that has three guys in a row like that. We haven’t seen anything like that, even against El Segundo. (El Segundo has) some real good hitters, but not three in row like that, no way.”

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Kendall said he was looking for a breaking pitch from Garner when he stepped to the plate in the third. Gonzales, who had singled, was on first.

“Me and Jason played on the Dodger rookies team over the summer, and I knew he wouldn’t come at me with a fastball,” Kendall said. “I was looking for a curve. He sort of hung it and I hand-shot it. At first I didn’t think it was out. I guess the wind took it a little bit.”

Kendall now has a school-record 48 RBIs in 26 games.

Torrance (21-5), which will travel north of Santa Barbara to play Dos Pueblos of Goleta (16-8) in the second round Tuesday, got a great relief effort Friday from Williamson. The third baseman took over for starting pitcher Kris Radcliffe with one out and runners on first and second in the sixth inning. Garner, one of Mira Costa’s top hitters, was at bat.

On Williamson’s first pitch, a slider, Garner hit a soft, half-swing line drive to shortstop Ryan Shannon, who doubled up Greg Gilmer at second to end the inning and preserve Torrance’s 5-3 lead.

Williamson shut the door on the Mustangs in the seventh, earning his second save in a playoff game. He also saved Torrance’s 5-A Division opener last season against Edison of Huntington Beach.

“He’s the guy we’re going to put on the mound in that situation,” Tartar Coach Jeff Phillips said. “If they beat him, they did a hell of a job because that kid is focused and poised and he’s a winner.”

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Another player who has become a valuable asset to Torrance is Shannon. The shortstop’s diving catch on a line drive to end the third inning cost Mira Costa two runs and a 4-2 lead. The Mustangs had runners at second and third.

“When you’re 12-13, like we are,” Beaumont said, “that seems to be the way the luck goes.”

Rolling Hills’ last baseball season came to a disappointing end as visiting El Toro shut out the Titans, 3-0, on a one-hitter by right-hander Rob Johnson in a Southern Section 4-A playoff opener.

It was the best outing of the season for the 6-foot-4 Johnson (6-5), an All-American quarterback headed to USC on a football scholarship.

The same cannot be said for Rolling Hills ace Kirt Kishita. The senior right-hander struggled with his control--he walked six--perhaps because he was pressing. His streak of 61 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run ended with two outs in the second on a one-run single by Chris Adams.

“I guess I was overthrowing my curve,” Kishita said. “Usually I throw it nice and smooth, but today I was trying to get a grip on it and really get that big break off of it.”

The loss was an emotional one for Rolling Hills Coach Garry Poe, who is expected to be chosen coach at the district’s new high school--Palos Verdes Peninsula. He coached the Titans for 21 seasons.

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“The next time you look up at that scoreboard, it’s gonna say Panthers up there instead of Titans,” Poe said. Then, pointing to his uniform, he said, “Now I’ve got to go in there and take this off.”

As expected, the Morningside girls’ track team successfully defended its Southern Section 2-A title Friday at the divisional final at Cerritos College, scoring 90 points to easily outdistance second-place St. Bernard (46) and third-place Torrance (38).

The Monarchs won six events, with junior sprinter Santisha Arnold leading the way with victories in the 100 (11.96 seconds) and 200 meters (24.59). She also helped the 400 relay team set a national season-best time (46.03) and ran on the victorious 1,600 relay (3:49.14).

Hawthorne’s boys came up short in their bid to beat out powerful Compton for the 4-A title, but the Cougars’ Demond Smith won the 300 intermediate hurdles (37.97) and the 400 relay team anchored by Erik Allen held off Compton and double sprint winner Ricky Carrigan to win in 41.81 seconds.

El Segundo’s baseball team barely survived its first-round playoff game. Now it will have to survive one of the longest bus rides in school history.

The Eagles (25-4) lost a coin flip Saturday, putting them on the road for their second-round game in the Southern Section 3-A playoffs Tuesday. Their destination: Calexico (14-6), located inland on the Mexican border.

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“I’m not sure how long it takes to get there, but you got to figure it’s about six hours,” El Segundo Coach Craig Cousins said. “But I don’t think our kids are going to care. It’s not unusual for us to take eight- and 10-hour rides in the summer when we travel all over Montana and Canada to play in (American Legion) tournaments.”

After what happened Friday, the Eagles are lucky to be playing anywhere.

El Segundo pulled out a 1-0 victory over visiting Garden Grove when Lawrence Norris doubled home Brett Newell with no outs in the eighth inning. The second-seeded Eagles were held to three hits by Garden Grove pitcher Joe Aguirre, who walked 10 but continually escaped trouble.

Fortunately for El Segundo, junior right-hander Matt Gangawere (10-1) had his best outing ever, according to Cousins. A last-minute replacement for left-hander Brian Wise, who missed the game with stomach flu, Gangawere gave up four hits, struck out nine and walked one.

The L.A. City Section 4-A Division baseball playoffs, otherwise known as “Banning vs. The Valley,” will continue Tuesday for the top-seeded Pilots when they meet Poly in the semifinals at a site to be determined Monday.

Banning (19-6) advanced Friday by beating Monroe, 5-0, behind a one-hitter thrown by senior right-hander Mark Chavez (7-3). It marked the third time the Pilots have beaten a San Fernando Valley school this season.

On Wednesday, Pilot ace Mike Busby threw a no-hitter in a 4-0 victory over Van Nuys in a playoff opener. Earlier this season, they defeated San Fernando in a nonleague game.

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Banning Coach Syl Saavedra says his team now has the confidence needed to break the Valley’s dominance in City baseball. A Valley team has won the 4-A title every year since 1973.

“Now our kids know the Valley teams are not invincible,” Saavedra. “In past years, no way could we beat them.”

Standing in the Pilots’ way is Poly, another Valley school that advanced Friday with an impressive 17-1 victory over Chatsworth. Tuesday’s winner will advance to the title game Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

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