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AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL / JEFF FLETCHER : Gonzalez Makes Most of Chance to Stand Up to Pitchers

Encino’s Rich Gonzalez is finally hitting--in every sense of the word.

A junior last season at Crespi, Gonzalez spent much of the year as the Celts’ designated sitter. He would play shortstop, then watch someone like Brad Farlow bat for him in the designated-hitter spot.

“We just wanted him to concentrate on defense,” said Scott Muckey, who coaches Crespi and Encino.

Gonzalez played a solid shortstop for Crespi. And now that most of the players who stood in front of him at Crespi are not playing for Encino, he’s gotten a chance to show what he can do with a bat, too. He is hitting .421 and has driven in 12 runs and scored 13 in 38 at-bats.

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Did Muckey make a mistake in not letting Gonzalez hit for Crespi?

“I don’t look at it that way,” Gonzalez said. “He made the decision. If you ask people, he knows more about baseball than anyone. I’m not bitter about it at all.”

He is a little startled by his success, though, considering he hasn’t batted on a regular basis since he played for the Crespi junior varsity in 1992.

“I thought it would take me half the Legion season to get back to it,” Gonzalez said, “but I’ve kind of surprised myself.”

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Mouse hangover: Looking for a reason Woodland Hills West (13-2) was upset, 11-1, by Las Virgenes (6-7) last Wednesday? Try this: the day before, about half the Woodland Hills West players went to Disneyland for El Camino Real High’s senior night.

But Woodland Hills West Coach Don Hornback said: “That’s why you’re supposed to have 18 guys on a team. You start alibi-ing and you never stop. Besides, it’s like Bobby Knight says, you need your lunch handed to you a couple times during the regular season. It teaches you how to lose.”

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Paper tigers: On paper, Panorama City figured to be one of the better teams in the area, but on the field, the team is 2-11, last in the Southern Division of District 20.

Coach Scott Smith was optimistic because his roster included Monroe pitchers Jorge Dorado (8-0, 2.20 for the Vikings) and Joel Zamudio (7-1, 1.64). But arm problems have kept Dorado from pitching at all and limited Zamudio to three innings.

“And his arm was hanging after those three innings,” Smith said.

Illustrating the kind of year it has been for Panorama City: The team has already hit into two triple plays.

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Odds and ends: Woodland Hills West pitcher Randy Wolf, the City 4-A player of the year, has been a mere mortal in legion ball, compared with what he did during the high school season. Wolf was 11-1 with a 1.05 earned-run average and 118 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings, leading El Camino Real to the 4-A championship. For Woodland Hills West, he is 3-1 with a 3.75 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 28 innings. . . .

Glendale has seven players with more than 10 stolen bases. The team is led by Mike Farver (22 steals), Chris Butler (19) and Ron Pirayoff (18). Andrew Spencer, Roberto Ruiz, Mike Bertran and Corby Foster have stolen 12 each. . . . Valley North outfielder Mark Lopez has stolen 26 bases in 27 attempts. Woodland Hills West outfielder Justin Martin has been successful on 14 of 15 tries. North Hollywood’s Alex Ramos has stolen 18 bases without being thrown out. Van Nuys East third baseman Cesar Martinez is perfect in 14 attempts. . . .

Van Nuys South’s Aaron Amitin reached base in 11 of 14 plate appearances over three games. . . . Lancaster South (7-7) has won five in a row. . . .

Burbank North right fielder Chris Wynn has thrown out two runners at first base. . . .

Westlake-Royal must be relying on pitching and defense because the team is 7-3 in District 16 and 10-6 overall, despite having only two players with more than 10 RBIs. Joel Mellinger has 13 and Gene Strojek has 12. . . .

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Quote of the week: Lancaster North Coach Frank Harper, after watching his team beat Palmdale West, 26-13, on Sunday: “We had our own Fourth of July show.”

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