Sandkamp's Heroics Came Too Early to Help Eagles

TIMES STAFF WRITER

J.J. Sandkamp could only sit and suffer.

The pitcher Calvary Chapel had leaned on could only offer moral support in Saturday's Southern Section Division V championship game. Sandkamp had to watch the Eagles lose to Sierra Madre Maranatha, 6-2, at Blair Field.

"This hurts," said Sandkamp, a senior. "It's no fun taking a loss like this."

Getting here had been nothing but fun and games for Sandkamp and the Eagles. He had, after all, won the team's four playoff games, including a 10-inning marathon against defending champion Big Bear in Tuesday's semifinals.

But under Southern Section rules, a pitcher is limited to 30 outs per week. Sandkamp hit the ceiling in his 3-2 victory over Big Bear.

So he was limited to being the team's designated hitter Saturday, leaving him in a perfect spot to watch the Eagles' season end on a down note.

Matt Herr started, but didn't get out of the first inning. Herr (7-5) walked the first four batters, then hit the fifth. He went only two-thirds of an inning, giving up five runs on one hit.

Cody Hamilton relieved and pitched well. He went 6 1/3 innings, allowing only one run. But he was no Sandkamp.

"I don't think it would have mattered if I pitched," Sandkamp said. "We didn't really hit their guy."

The Eagles got only two hits off Jon Crabb. Still, with Sandkamp on the mound, Calvary Chapel's two unearned runs might have stood up.

"J.J. loves to pitch in games like this," Coach Joe Walters said. "He's so mentally tough. He just shuts teams down."

And has all season.

Sandkamp was 10-2 with a 1.27 earned-run average and 80 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings. His run through the playoffs was extraordinary.

He threw a five-hit shutout against top-seeded North Hills L.A. Baptist in the second round. Sandkamp struck out nine in the 4-0 victory.

Sandkamp then beat fourth-seeded Big Bear. He struck out nine and allowed only two unearned runs.

"I had a great playoff, I can be happy about that," Sandkamp said. "I was fortunate that the Lord gave me a strong arm."

The Eagles were fortunate Sandkamp was at Calvary Chapel. He spent his first two years at Fountain Valley, then transferred.

Fountain Valley won the Division I title Friday night with a 3-2 victory over Lakewood. Sandkamp sat out last season, then led the Eagles to the title game.

"I have no regrets about coming here," Sandkamp said. "We did our best."

But with Sandkamp on the mound, the Eagles' best is always a little better.

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