Exodus Baffles Ecklund

He has coached four Southern Section championship baseball teams. He has 350 career victories in 22 seasons at Fillmore High. He was elected to the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame last week.

So how does Coach Tom Ecklund--Mr. Baseball in Fillmore--react when four starters quit his team?

"It's interesting, frustrating," said Ecklund, 50, who said he has never had this many players quit at once.

Who would quit on a coach who has produced 14 league titles and the second-highest win total in Ventura County history?

"You tell me," Ecklund said. "I really don't know. A lot of them didn't like the roles they were given. We're starting three sophomores now."

Clearly defined roles and teamwork have been staples of Fillmore's success under Ecklund, but now that the Flashes have lost their starting second baseman, third baseman, shortstop and designated hitter, two of whom pitched, the team has struggled to a 1-4 start.

One of the players, shortstop/pitcher Felipe Ordaz, said he quit because of a back injury he sustained in football. He said Isaac Jimenez, Josh Underwood and Jose Becerra were the others who quit.

Jimenez, a senior second baseman who was among Fillmore's best hitters, said he was unhappy about a position change.

Underwood, a senior, was out of town during Fillmore's spring break last week. and Becerra, a sophomore, couldn't be reached for comment.

"I guess they got tired or bored or thought baseball was boring this year," said Ordaz, a 5-foot-7 junior. "I like (Ecklund). I think he's a good coach. He's a good disciplinarian, and that's what we need.

"But I guess the other guys don't like him."

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Wows and vows: On Tuesday, James Park enjoyed the biggest night of his coaching career when his Thousand Oaks volleyball team defeated Royal and ended the Highlanders' Marmonte League winning streak at 66 games.

On Saturday, Park topped off the week by getting married.

"I'm bringing my team on my honeymoon," Park said.

He's not kidding.

Today, he and wife Kate head for Las Vegas, where the Lancers will compete in the Easter Classic.

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Closing in: Saugus baseball Coach Doug Worley is approaching his 300th career victory, and if he continues to get the kind of pitching he did in No. 297 Friday, the wait should not be long.

Junior right-hander Brandon Hernandez threw a one-hitter, walking none, in a 3-0 victory over Burroughs that lifted the Centurions to 6-3. Worley, in his 18th season, is the only baseball coach Saugus has had.

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Prowling the bases: Who needs three-run homers when you can scoot around the bases like Oak Park? The Eagles swiped 10 bases in 11 attempts Tuesday and beat Crossroads, 11-5. In six games, Oak Park (4-1-1) is 35 for 38 in stolen-base attempts.

"Our game is speed," Coach Mike Bolyog said. "We just felt we could take advantage of the speed situations. We take a lot of extra bases. But that's the most (stolen bases) I've seen in a game."

Tops among the thieves is Tyler Blondi (13 for 15). But the Eagles have also gotten strong pitching from Todd Schultz (21 strikeouts in 15 innings, 1.20 earned-run average) and Camron Marcarelli (2-1 record, 1.79 ERA). Brian McMullen has made a smooth transition from guard on the basketball team to catcher. He has nine hits in 13 at-bats.

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Coach and pronouncer: Burbank High tennis Coach Clyde Richards led the Bulldogs to a Southern Section championship last season and has them off to a 6-1 start this season against tough competition.

But equally impressive is how this math teacher rattles off the names of some of his players--Vazghen Zaghiyan, Stratos Christianakis, Varand Ghazikhanian, Rafi Hovanessian and Yamil Sarmiento.

"That's the hardest part of coaching these guys," Richards said. "They're good kids."

Burbank's only defeat this season was against Hawaii Punahou, which has won 26 state championships.

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Fong stays put: Richard Fong couldn't parlay his status as the Times' Valley Football Coach of the Year during the off-season, so now he is staying at St. Genevieve.

Fong was a runner-up for jobs at Burbank, Burroughs and Canyon.

He had applied at La Canada and Agoura but decided not to interview for those positions.

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