Wilson High's baseball team overcame several obstacles to reach today's City Section 3-A championship game, not the least of which was the theft of all its equipment.
"We played one game with only one bat," Coach Marty Romero said.
Despite that setback--and an 0-4 start--the Mules accepted donated equipment and swung into high gear for the playoffs, earning the chance to win their first championship since 1971.
Wilson (18-6) plays perennial title contender South Gate (22-11) at 4 p.m. at Dodger Stadium. The 4-A title game between defending champion Woodland Hills El Camino Real and Chatsworth will follow at 7.
"As a coach, you try to make your kids believe they are very capable of being in a game like this," said Romero, 27, a 1989 Wilson graduate who is in his second season as coach. "If you say something enough, they start believing it.
"We've talked about it enough. Now that it's a reality, you just hope they relax and go out there and play well."
Wilson, which finished second to Franklin in the Northern Conference, is led by junior left-hander Cory Campos, who will start today. Campos is 11-0 with a 0.60 earned-run average. He has pitched 17 consecutive scoreless innings.
Campos struck out 10 in six innings in the sixth-seeded Mules' 11-1 playoff-opening victory over Garfield. Last Thursday, he gave up three hits and struck out 13 in 10 innings in a 2-0, 11-inning semifinal victory over second-seeded Bell.
Sophomore second baseman Jose Medrano is batting .450 for the Mules and sophomore shortstop Jose Castanon is hitting .415.
Fifth-seeded South Gate is trying to win its fourth title in six seasons. The Pirates won championships in 1993, '95 and '96 under Mike Ryan, who has been the Rams' coach since 1988.
Senior right-hander Kaven Bonilla (7-2) will start for South Gate.
Junior left fielder Ricardo Chanocua, who is batting .350, and junior first baseman Milton Morales (.340) are the top offensive players for a team that finished second in the Southeastern Conference and has defeated Hamilton, Huntington Park and Roosevelt in the playoffs.
"I kind of expect both pitchers to be on their games, and if that happens it will be a good, tight ballgame," Ryan said. "But you don't know how playing at Dodger Stadium is going to affect the kids' nerves.
"Sometimes, funny things happen because it's a big place and they're not used to playing there."