Then: Since the Eagles did not attract enough players to field a freshman team, Serrano played on junior varsity as a freshman. The team finished undefeated. He played third base his first season and was occasionally called on to pitch. Because most of Bell’s varsity players returned last season, Serrano remained on the JV squad, where he quietly worked on fundamentals and waited his turn.
Now: With only one returning starter from last season’s team that was nine outs from reaching the City Section championship game, Serrano, a 5-foot-7 right-hander, has taken advantage of his opportunities. After giving up six runs in four innings against Los Angeles Lincoln in his first start on March 2, he came back five days later to throw a no-hitter in a 3-1 victory over Westchester in a pool-play game of the Southern California Invitational. In the championship game against Culver City on March 12, Serrano threw a one-hitter for a 2-0 victory.
Quote: “He’s just a kid who never quit working on his fundamentals and is now taking advantage of his opportunities,” Coach David Shemwell said. “I’d take 100 more like him.”
-- Dan Arritt
Sr., Pomona Diamond Ranch
Then: Klimczak piled up strikeouts and whittled away at the college offers before deciding on Boston College, where she will study pre-medicine. She was a Times’ All-San Gabriel Valley pitcher her junior season after going 20-4 with a 0.26 earned-run average and 289 strikeouts in 160 2/3 innings. This came after going 18-5 as a sophomore. Also an offensive threat, she batted .324, .366 and .439 in successive seasons.Now: Klimczak has a higher grade-point average (4.5) than hits given up per seven innings (2.5) over her career. Klimczak fired a four-hitter over 10 innings with nine strikeouts in a 2-1 victory Saturday over Placentia El Dorado in the semifinals of the Charter Oak tournament. Klimczak (8-1) had a run-scoring double in the ninth. “To beat El Dorado has lifted our team morale,” she said. Klimczak is batting .519 with three homers, 10 RBIs and a slugging average of .963. In the circle, she has 98 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings, and opponents are batting .118.
Quote: “She’s a dominant player,” said Don Fennell, the Diamond Ranch coach. “She pitches, she hits, she strikes out people.”
-- Martin Henderson
LYNDSAY DE PAUL
Jr., Villa Park
Then: De Paul had to be convinced by her parents to stick with swimming when twice-daily workouts began to take a toll in junior high, but her perseverance has paid off. De Paul, in her third year on varsity, has improved her times every season and is now the Spartans’ top swimmer. She placed second in 200-yard individual medley in a school-record time of 2:03.11 and finished fifth in the 100 butterfly (56.66) at the 2004 Southern Section Division I championships.
Now: De Paul, 16, has been training less, eschewing two-a-day workouts in favor of one concentrated afternoon session for the last year. Not only have any concerns about burnout been laid to rest, but De Paul holds or is tied for school records in three events: 200 IM (2:03.11), 100 freestyle (52.02) and 100 breaststroke (1:06.37). De Paul also went a lifetime-best time of 1:51.13 -- .03 off the Villa Park record -- in the 200 free.
Quote: “I didn’t like the sport very much in seventh grade, but eventually, I matured and realized, ‘I can actually get somewhere with this,’ ” she said. “It’s taught me a lot, and it’s good for me.”
-- Lauren Peterson