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Marden of San Fernando Throws Down the Gauntlet : Prep baseball: Coach challenges Southern Section teams to battle City squads head to head for supremacy in area-wide tournament.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The door is open, the welcome mat is out and the porch light is on. The invitation is cordially extended. Come one, come all.

Help settle the argument.

San Fernando High baseball Coach Steve Marden would like to establish a top-flight preseason tournament in the San Fernando Valley region and is seeking--if not daring--area Southern Section teams to join the field.

In fact, Marden would like to add as many as 12 Southern Section teams to the San Fernando tournament field, setting the stage for a natural rivalry with the 12 City teams that already have committed to play.

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A discussion long has raged over the relative quality of teams from the two sections, and Marden hopes that a favorable response from Southern Section teams would help settle the issue.

Marden’s wish list includes some of the area’s best Southern Section teams.

“Let’s get Thousand Oaks or Simi Valley, and I’ve heard good things about Notre Dame,” Marden said. “Montclair Prep says they can play with anybody, so let’s see it. Crespi would have to be in there too.”

If 12 Southern Section teams agree to compete, Marden said, he can guarantee that each Southern Section team would play five City teams and vice versa. Every team is guaranteed five games in the round-robin tournament, which would be played at several sites.

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The tournament, in its third year, is set to begin on either March 6 or 7. The second and third rounds would be held March 10 and 12, and the final games are set for March 17 and 19.

City teams Birmingham, Carson, Cleveland, El Camino Real, Franklin, Granada Hills, Grant, Kennedy, Monroe, Narbonne, Poly and San Fernando already have agreed to play.

Unfortunately, most Southern Section schools have committed to play elsewhere. Like many schools, Montclair Prep, the two-time Southern Section 1-A Division champion, is entered in the Westside tournament. Simi Valley, Notre Dame, Saugus and Crespi, to name a few, already have agreed to play in other events.

“Everybody ties up the schedule a year in advance,” Montclair Prep Coach Walt Steele said. “I’d be up for it otherwise.”

Others also said they found the idea intriguing and predicted that Southern Section teams would be interested if Marden can organize a similar event in 1993.

“We’re locked into our schedule for this year,” Saugus Coach Doug Worley said. “But I think it’s a great idea. It’s going to be hard to pull it all together with only a little bit of notice, though.”

Last year’s eight-team San Fernando tournament included three of the teams (San Fernando, Narbonne and Franklin) that played in the City 3-A and 4-A championship games at Dodger Stadium. Narbonne, the defending 3-A champion, won the tournament.

Scheduling conflicts between the two sections prevented intersectional play in the first two years of the preseason tournament.

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“It’s an opportunity for quality (Southern Section) teams to play some quality City teams,” said Marden, who encouraged interested coaches to contact him.

Marden’s event could help fill a regional tournament void. The Holt-Willis tournament, which was held annually during the spring break, is expected to be mothballed. Because of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s move to a year-round calendar, the spring break for City schools will last two days. The Holt-Willis tournament, once known as the Holt-Goodman, has been filled exclusively by City teams for the past few years.

The Thousand Oaks High tournament, which typically drew a few City teams, was temporarily canceled last spring but will be resumed April 13-15.


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