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San Pedro’s Taylor Is a Cool Customer

There are distinct signs when a pitcher has begun to collapse under pressure: sweat on the hands, pacing on the mound, panic in the eyes.

Right-hander Steve Taylor of San Pedro reacts differently to pressure.

“I don’t want to sound overconfident, but I don’t get nervous at all,” he said. “I become calmer and have a tendency to smile.”

Yell at him, load the bases against him, threaten to hit one of his pitches into San Pedro Bay. All that produces is one of Taylor’s sinister grins.

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It’s three weeks into the baseball season and Taylor is off to a terrific start.

He came close to pitching consecutive no-hitters in shutouts of Santa Monica Crossroads and San Fernando, striking out nine in one game, 13 in the other. He had a streak of 14 1/3 innings without giving up a hit.

He did run into trouble Saturday, with several errors contributing to a 7-4 loss to El Segundo.

Taylor is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior who has been on varsity since his freshman year.

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“He’s legit,” San Fernando Coach Armando Gomez said. “He doesn’t quite have command [of his fastball] but is wild enough to keep you guessing. You can tell he’s a gamer. Everybody knew he had a no-hitter and he was still getting after it.”

Jerry Lovarov, San Pedro’s coach for 43 seasons, said Taylor has the skills to rank among the best players in school history. He also plays third base.

“He has that take-charge attitude,” he said. “He’s starting to fully develop. He’s starting to use his whole body more.”

As a sophomore last season, Taylor was 7-4 with a 2.21 earned-run average. Last fall, he distinguished himself as a starting quarterback, passing for more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns.

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Ask him whether he receives more joy from throwing a touchdown pass or striking out a batter and he’ll be noncommittal.

“They’re equal,” he said. “Whether it’s a strikeout or touchdown, I’m pretty excited.”

It’s exciting for San Pedro (5-2) to have a player the caliber of Taylor, who played on a Senior Little League team that lost in the World Series final in Maine last summer. He has a 3.5 grade-point average and respects everyone.

“Trash talking is not something I do,” he said. “I go out and give 110%. I show by my actions and not words.”

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Taylor helped improve his pitching by copying different throwing angles from Dodger pitcher Kevin Brown. He relies mainly on a fastball that’s in the high 80-mph range.

“It has a lot more movement than it had a couple years ago,” he said.

Two weeks ago against San Fernando, Taylor was two outs from his second no-hitter, then gave up a single.

“I was kind of bummed, but I had to finish the game and get the win,” he said.

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The Tigers loaded the bases. Their players were convinced they could rattle Taylor. Except he didn’t crack. He got the final out to complete a 2-0 victory.

“I was smiling,” he said.

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Los Angeles Price (33-2), which won its fourth consecutive state Division V boys’ basketball championship, was one of the best-coached and most disciplined teams in last weekend’s tournament at Sacramento.

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And its players deserve a sportsmanship award for their graciousness in victory. They applauded the losing team, Modesto Christian, as the players left a news conference. It was classy and heartfelt.

And watch out for Price’s 6-6 sophomore forward Marcus Palmer, who displayed the potential to be a top player.

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Respect comes when your opponent offers praise. For UCLA-bound Trevor Ariza of Westchester, he improved his skills so much this season that L.A. Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani said Monday, “I think he’s the best player around right now.”

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Junior Trevor Plouffe, a pitcher and shortstop for Encino Crespi continues to fulfill high expectations and more.

He has led the Celts to a 7-0 start, going 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 18 innings. At the plate, he has a .480 batting average with 17 runs batted in.

“He’s been very good,” Coach Scott Muckey said. “His stats speak for themselves. He’s already one of the best players we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

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Another Crespi player making a major contribution has been outfielder Ollie Linton, who’s eight for 16 with 12 runs scored.

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Burbank won its first Foothill League baseball game since the 2000 season with a 3-1 victory over Saugus.... Junior first baseman Corey Barthel is the hottest hitter for unbeaten Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley (6-0), going 10 for 14 with four doubles.... Freshman outfielder Gabe Cohen of North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake is batting .471 with three doubles.... Rialto (5-0) won the Chino tournament and Chris Alder was selected tournament most valuable player for collecting 11 hits and two pitching victories.

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Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.


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