Despite some major off-field distractions, Ocean View High has been on a championship roll this school year and no one is more aware of that than Pete Montrenes.
A senior right-hander for the Seahawks' baseball team, Montrenes will step to the mound at Dodger Stadium at 10 this morning to face La Quinta in the Southern Section Division IV championship game.
The Seahawks will be vying for their fourth championship of the year. They already have won a section title in boys' basketball and section and state titles in girls' volleyball.
"This means everything to everyone here," Montrenes said. "The support we get from each other is second to none. I've never seen anything like it."
For students at Ocean View, the smallest of six schools in the Huntington Union High School District, athletics have prospered despite obstacles.
Montrenes and fellow students showed up for fall classes only to find the district had leased the school's 11-acre athletic field. In its place was construction on a home improvement warehouse store and city-run tennis courts.
Only the baseball field was spared, but it had to be shared by everyone, including the football team.
In March, a controversy broke out between the school board and students and parents, who claimed the board reneged on a promise to build a lighted football stadium on a strip of remaining land that was once part of a soccer field. The school board denied it ever promised a stadium, just a field for soccer and track.
Meanwhile, winter and spring rains turned the construction area into a quagmire and only recently has work, about three months behind schedule, resumed.
Montrenes said all the turmoil helped to rally Ocean View's student body. Athletics gave students something to look forward to as a group.
"We all had to deal with this construction thing together," he said. "Having winning teams in all three seasons so far was great. It just brought us so much closer the whole year around."
Ocean View baseball Coach Steve Barrett, who has guided the Seahawks to their first section final, credits the athletes for overcoming adversity.
"It's been like our lucky stars have been lined up all year," Barrett said. "With what we have gone through at Ocean View, our going to the finals is a great accomplishment."
The Seahawks' record was 7-9 at midseason, when, during a meeting, Montrenes reminded his teammates what their success would mean for the school.
"We started off kind of shaky," Montrenes said. "We had the meeting and we said we were done losing. We knew we had the talent to win. We said we had to be a family. Everyone had to sacrifice for the good of the team."
Since then, Ocean View (21-10) has won 14 of 15 games.
Montrenes has been the leader on and off the mound. He has pitched three no-hitters, struck out 114 and given up only 13 earned runs in 90 innings. His earned-run average (1.01) is second-best in the county.
Dave Demarest, coach of defending Division IV champion La Quinta, will send his ace, Jason Garcia (12-1), to pitch against Ocean View today.
"Most coaches think Montrenes is the best in the county," Demarest said. "He's good, but I have confidence in my guy too. Both teams are playing well. This is the way it should be, two teams playing well coming down to the final."
Montrenes would have it no other way.
"We at Ocean View just want some respect," he said. "We just want to show everybody athletically that we belong.
"This will be a dogfight," he said. "We have all the respect in the world for La Quinta and Coach Demarest. We have our hands full, but we will come out fighting. We're there for one reason only: To win another title for our school."