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Playoffs new experience for Guards

Jeff Tully

Heading into the playoffs, Bellarmine-Jefferson High Coach Hector

Perez is pleased to have a team of youngsters.

With a squad made up primarily of sophomores and freshmen, the


Guards open the CIF Southern Section Division V postseason at 3:15

p.m. Friday on the road at Lancaster Desert Christian.

It is Bell-Jeff’s first trip to the playoffs since 1995.

“The good thing about having a young team is they don’t know


anything about the playoffs, or who we’re playing,” Perez said. “They

have never been here before, so they really don’t know what to expect

and they’re not scared.”

In just his third season, Perez is reveling in a major turnaround

by his Guards. After finishing 2-8 in the Santa Fe League in 2002,

Bell-Jeff turned that around this season and finished second with an

8-2 mark.

The team put together the fine league effort after beginning the


season 0-10.

“This team has worked so hard to accomplish what they have this

season,” said Perez, whose team is 8-12 and is the only local school

in the baseball playoffs.

“We are trying to build this program for the future and the kids

are really starting to respond to us.”

Desert Christian (8-2, 11-8 in league) comes into the game after

finishing tied for the Desert Mountain League championship with


Boron. However, Desert Christian is the No. 1 seed from the league.”

The Guards have a fine pitching duo and a hitting contingent that

had four 10-run, mercy-rule results in league play.

On the mound, senior Bryan Vargas went 4-1 in league with a 2.20

earned-run average and his brother -- Fabio, a junior -- was 4-0 with

a 1.0 ERA.

At the plate, Bell-Jeff is paced by sophomore outfielder Joey

Diaz, who is batting .648 with 22 runs batted in.

“I know Joey’s stats seem awfully high,” Perez said. “But we went

back and checked and those numbers are legit. He had so many games

where he had two, three or four hits. He just really lit it up this


Also swinging a hot bat is freshman shortstop Aaron Molina, who

has a .500 average and sophomore catcher Derek Leiphardt, who is

hitting .480 with 15 walks.

“These guys don’t care who they’re playing in the playoffs,

they’re just happy to be in,” Perez said.

“This will be something where we use it for experience, and

hopefully the players can get something out of it.”