DeFrenza a leading man

Daily Pilot

Marc DeFrenza said he hasn't felt nervous since he joined the drama club at Estancia High. Performing in front of people is what he lives to do.

"I'm just kind of used to everybody having their eyes on me," said DeFrenza, who is in his third year acting at the school.

DeFrenza is one act you don't want to miss on stage or on the mound.

He'll make you laugh in a sketch comedy. Even when the senior doesn't have to be in character, he can still turn in a great performance in spikes.

The next show for DeFrenza is a debut for him and a long-awaited one for Estancia. The Eagles (17-10) today play their first CIF Southern Section baseball playoff game in 16 years.

DeFrenza is going to start against Colony of Ontario in a Division IV first-round game at 3:15 p.m. Is there a better pitcher to get the nod for Estancia than one with the nickname "Drama?"

Coach Matt Sorensen gave DeFrenza the name. He has experienced plenty of DeFrenza's antics during his three seasons in charge.

It all began in Sorensen's first season. With a team coming off a last-place finish in the Orange Coast League, practice was a must in order to improve.

Somehow, a baseball practice got in the way of a different practice DeFrenza planned to attend that day two years ago.

The excuse DeFrenza gave to leave the diamond early was one Sorensen never heard a player use before. Sorensen has been around the game for some time, starring at Warren High in Downey in the mid 1990s and at Cal State Fullerton later that decade.

Sorensen was left stunned by DeFrenza's reason to take off.

"Hey, do you mind if I leave early?" DeFrenza asked Sorensen.

"What?" Sorensen responded.

"I have drama rehearsal," DeFrenza said.

That was the first time Sorensen heard of a drama kid involved in baseball.

"He was just a squirrelly sophomore at the time, so I told him, 'I'm not going to make anything mandatory. This is your life. This is your decision,' " said Sorensen, who saw DeFrenza walk away. "Kind of the situation here, it's a small school, and pretty much anybody who comes out for the baseball team makes the team."

It wasn't as easy for DeFrenza to just show up and play the next season.

He failed to get his act together in the classroom. Grades stopped him as a junior.

The only uniform DeFrenza wore was the one in school plays. With a grade-point average below 2.0, DeFrenza was academically ineligible to play.

For a pitcher, the only number you want below 2.0 is an earned-run average. DeFrenza made one appearance on varsity as a junior.

The missed season taught him something.

"Get it done in the classroom for sure," said DeFrenza, who understood why his grades suffered. "Not doing homework. Being lazy.

"I was able to play in the last three [games], but I played two of those three on JV. In the third one, I got pulled up to play against Calvary [Chapel in the regular-season finale]. I closed that one out."

The Eagles lost DeFrenza's lone varsity outing and a chance to make the playoffs. They failed to reach the postseason for the 15th consecutive season.

For Estancia to break through, it needed DeFrenza. Sorensen began seeing a change in the offseason.

The way Sorensen views coaching, it's up to him to get the most out of his players. He has done his job with DeFrenza.

"I've seen what he can do when he's mentally focused and … when his timing's right," said Sorensen of DeFrenza, who is 9-3 with a 1.85 ERA and has 85 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings. "A lot of it is his maturity. He's come a long way as far as maturity and he's able to focus now. He's taking things seriously. He's turning out to be a productive young man."

Last week, DeFrenza produced a victory in a crucial game.

For the second straight season, he faced Calvary Chapel in the league finale. At stake this time around was the league title.

DeFrenza wasn't even born when Estancia last claimed a league crown in 1991. He was proficient in 6 1/3 innings, allowing three hits, striking out three and only throwing 63 pitches in the Eagles' 1-0 victory.

Helping DeFrenza keep his pitch count low were two pickoff moves. They worked each time, catching a runner at second base in the third inning and one on first in the sixth.

DeFrenza sold the one with the runner in scoring position the best. His drama teacher, who attended the game, applauded him later.

"She actually was looking into center as were a couple of people," said DeFrenza, who stepped off the rubber and faked the throw to second base, only to fool the runner into believing the throw sailed into the outfield after a leaping shortstop failed to catch the imaginary ball.

The runner took off for third. Seconds later, DeFrenza tagged him out.

"My mom didn't even know what was going on," DeFrenza said. "She was like, 'Oh, God! Where's the ball?' "

If baseball doesn't work out, DeFrenza might have a future in acting.

Marc DeFrenza Hometown: Costa MesaBorn: July 4, 1992Height: 6-footWeight: 175 poundsSport: BaseballPosition: PitcherCoach: Matt SorensenFavorite food: PizzaFavorite movie: "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy"Favorite athletic moment: "Beating [Costa] Mesa and almost throwing a no-hitter against [the Mustangs] to win the [Battle for the] Bell [this season]."Week in review: Allowed three hits and struck out three in 6 1/3 innings during a 1-0 Orange Coast League win against Calvary Chapel that clinched Estancia's first league title since 1991.

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