Mike Kline is angry. The Carson High baseball coach believes four Banning players illegally participated in an unauthorized adult league during the high school season and should be declared ineligible for all future games.
That means they would have to miss the City Section playoffs, which begin Tuesday.
Normally, Kline said, he would not make this kind of fuss. But after what happened before Carson's game against Banning on May 11, Kline wants what he believes is an inequitable situation to be corrected.
"Let's be fair," Kline said. "That's all I'm asking."
Banning played host to Carson on May 11 with second place at stake in the Pacific League. Before the game, Kline said Banning Coach Syl Saavedra told him that a Banning assistant had witnessed three Carson players illegally playing in the aforementioned adult league on May 10.
After talking to the players--all of whom acknowledged playing in a pickup game, not a regulation league game--Kline called the City Section athletics office. Unable to reach director Hal Harkness, Kline said he talked with Lee Joseph, an athletics administrator who informed Kline that pickup games were allowed but games in an organized league were not.
To be safe, however, Kline said Joseph told him to bench his players rather than risk a forfeit.
Catcher Carlos Delatorre, outfielder Andy Martinez, Carson's No. 3 batter, and pitcher Ignacio Mares, who was scheduled to start against Banning, did not play. Without the three starters, the Colts lost, 6-3. Banning moved into sole possession of second place.
Without evidence to clear his players, Kline benched Delatorre and Martinez for Carson's last two league games--a victory over Gardena and a loss to league champion San Pedro. Mares played against San Pedro and was the losing pitcher in a 5-2 decision.
Upon investigating the matter, Kline said he discovered that his players had played in a practice game in the adult league after the conclusion of its regular season. He also turned up evidence that four Banning players had participated in the league in April, when Kline said the adult league and the high school season were both in full swing.
According to a league official who requested anonymity, shortstop Carlos Olea, pitcher Mario Soto, and outfielders Jose Morales and Albert Castro all played for a team called Cafeteros, which is coached by Soto's father, Ramon, and plays its games at a Torrance elementary school.
A player in the adult league, who also requested anonymity, said Olea and Soto played against his team on April 5.
Kline thought that if Banning's players had competed in the league, they should be declared ineligible.
So far, though, Kline says City administrators have not listened to his protests. According to Kline, the people who witnessed the Banning players participating in the adult league are reluctant to come forward and identify the players in person because they fear reprisal.
The league official said he is willing to sign a statement and produce an umpire's roster, which all players are required to sign during games. But he said a meeting last week with Chuck Didinger, a Banning administrator, and a telephone conversation with Harkness have discouraged him from pursuing the matter.
"If they don't believe me with the paperwork I (presented), they sure won't believe me when I talk to them," the official said.
Kline said in his last conversation with Harkness, he was told the issue was considered dead because there were no witnesses willing to identify the Banning players. Harkness could not be reached for comment.
"I kind of understand that to a point, but I do not understand why he was willing to turn his back on all this evidence I had," Kline said. "I can give them a letter and all the documentation they need."
There is a hitch. Although Olea was identified by the league official and an opposing player as having played for Cafeteros, he apparently did not sign his name to the umpire's roster during any games he allegedly played in.
"He never signed," the league official said of Olea, who is Banning's top batter with a .458 average. "That kid is smart."
Banning Principal Augustine Herrera said the players deny ever playing in the adult league during the season.
"It's all hearsay that these kids played in that league," Herrera said. "I don't know where to go if people are not willing to come forward. There either has to be an admission of the young people involved or someone who was there willing to say, 'Yes, I saw them.'
"If we had that evidence, we'd sit (the players) down. Mr Saavedra would sit them down if he had known. I know he runs a clean program, as far as he can. He would love to hear from whoever is out there with information."
But Kline wonders if that is true. The coach, who is in his second season at Carson, says Banning is attempting to blow off the situation as if nothing had happened. Carson, meanwhile, lost two of its last three games with a team weakened by the absences of key players. The Colts finished in third place.
The adult league official said he warned the Banning players about playing for Cafeteros after the start of the high school season. He said Carlos Garibay, Banning's ace pitcher, stopped playing for Cafeteros once the high school season began.
But he said others did not think anything of it.
"I warned Mario (Soto) and Carlos Olea and a few others," the official said.
What was the players' reaction?
"They smiled," he said.
With Redondo ace pitcher Ted Silva sidelined because of the flu, Frank Bignami stepped forward Friday and showed why the Sea Hawks are considered to have the best two-man rotation in the South Bay.
Bignami pitched a three-hitter and hit a two-run homer to lead Redondo over Lynwood, 8-0, in a first-round Southern Section 4-A Division playoff game at Redondo. It was the Sea Hawks' first playoff victory since 1988, the year pitcher-shortstop Scott Davison led Redondo to the 4-A semifinals.
Friday, Bignami did a good Davison impersonation. The senior right-hander only needed 95 pitches and 1 hour 40 minutes to dispatch Lynwood, the runner-up from the San Gabriel Valley League.
Bignami struck out two and walked three to continue his fine pitching over the latter part of the season. Since losing to Santa Monica and Montclair Prep in the first week of the season, Bignami is 6-1. His only second-half loss was a 4-0 setback to Westchester in the Redondo tournament.
Because of Silva's weakened state, Redondo Coach Tim Ammentorp said he might come back with Bignami against Upland (18-6) in Tuesday's second-round game at Redondo. If the Sea Hawks (19-7) get past that game, Silva presumably would be fresh for a possible meeting with top-seeded Rio Mesa of Oxnard in Friday's quarterfinals.
Redondo assistant Mike Neily, the former North Torrance coach, likes the Sea Hawks' chances in the playoffs.
"With our pitching, we could go all the way," Neily said.
In all, four of eight South Bay teams got past the first round of the Southern Section baseball playoffs Friday.
Peninsula (19-7) defeated visiting Katella, 6-3, and will play host to Moore League champion Lakewood (17-5) in a second-round 5-A Division game Tuesday.
Other area winners were El Segundo over Canyon of Canyon Country, 7-3, in the 3-A Division and Chadwick over L.A. Lutheran, 17-3, in the Small Schools Division. El Segundo right-hander Matt Gangawere pitched a complete game to improve to 12-0, and Chadwick shortstop Chris Gordon was four for four with six runs batted in, including a grand slam that highlighted a 10-run first inning.
El Segundo (27-2) won a coin flip and will play La Serna of Whittier (14-5) at Recreation Park on Tuesday. Chadwick (11-5) will also be home against Providence (14-1).
The three area Pioneer League teams in the 4-A playoffs were eliminated. South Torrance was beaten by top-seeded Rio Mesa, 7-2. Errors hurt West Torrance in a 3-2 setback at Beverly Hills and a inside-the-park home run by Sunny Hills' Brent Howes in the seventh inning sent Torrance to a 3-2 loss at Torrance Park.
One more victory will put the Mira Costa boys' volleyball team in the Southern Section 4-A Division final Saturday.
The Mustangs (16-4) advanced to the semifinals with a 11-15, 15-11, 15-2, 15-7 victory over San Marcos of Santa Barbara on Friday night at Mira Costa. Outside hitter Cameron Green had 23 kills and teamed with setter Zane Smythe to lead the Mustangs to their 15th consecutive victory.
Next up for Coach Mike Cook's second-seeded team is Sunset League champion Huntington Beach, which rallied for a 13-15, 14-16, 16-14, 15-13, 15-7 victory over third-seeded Loyola. Mira Costa and Huntington Beach meet at 7:30 Tuesday night at Fountain Valley High in Orange County.
The season came to an end for the fourth-seeded Peninsula and South Torrance volleyball teams. Peninsula was swept by host Santa Barbara, 15-11, 15-3, 15-11, in a 4-A match, and South's lack of height proved its undoing in a 6-15, 15-7, 15-13, 14-16, 15-13 loss to host Crespi of Encino in a 3-A match.