DIAMOND VISION

Erik Boal

The mere mention of the word senior around this time of year confronts

us News-Press reporters with the harsh reality that there are only a few

more weeks left in the regular season, and for some local athletes, their

high school careers.

When the L.A. City Section playoffs begin for Verdugo Hills High on

May 8, the aforementioned weeks then get whittled down to days.

Then, CIF Southern Section playoffs commence May 16 for area softball

teams and May 18 for local baseball squads, with the grim possibility of

every game being the last for many talented seniors.

So with no disrespect intended to the number of talented baseball

players who will graduate in June, here is a friendly reminder to go out

and watch some of the standout senior softball players in their last go

around before it is too late.

Topping the list of course is the area's best player on the area's

best team, Crescenta Valley senior pitcher Meredith Cervenka.

When it comes to discussing local pitchers over the past decade and

the word "legacy," the Long Beach State-bound right-hander has

established herself as one of the best to ever step in the circle.

Starting today at 3:15 p.m. at Montrose Park against Arcadia, Cervenka

has only six more Pacific League games before the Division II playoffs

begin.

Since Cervenka arrived at CV, the Falcons are 34-0 in league contests,

and seem strong favorites to once again go undefeated this year.

Although she has given up three runs this season, the three-time

News-Press All-Area Player of the Year is still gunning for an unblemised

0.00 earned-run average, and more important a CIF title.

Another individual who will take her talents to a Division I school is

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy first baseman/catcher Lacey Smale.

Enjoying another season of a .400-plus average and a .700-plus

slugging percentage, the smooth-swinging left-hander has just six more

Mission League games, of which the Tologs realistically need to win five

to make the playoffs.

Smale has definitely thrived on being a big fish in a little pond, but

once she arrives at Santa Clara in the fall, the 2000 first-team All-Area

selection will be more than ready to swim with the sharks.

Despite having never competed in a postseason contest -- a trend she

hopes to reverse this year -- Smale has earned All-CIF honors twice,

including a first-team selection last season.

La Canada will have a tough task filling the right side of its infield

next season following the departure of first baseman Heather Fowlie and

second baseman Lauren Guza.

Fowlie, who leads the team in hits and runs batted in and is second in

batting, earned second-team All-Area honors a year ago. The three-year

starter and team captain also fields her position as well as any player

in the area.

Guza -- a four-year starter and three-time All-Rio Hondo League

selection -- is closing in on the program's career record for hits, which

was set by Tricia Walton from 1992-1995.

The pair has only five more league games and a trip to the El Segundo

Tournament before the Division IV playoffs begin.

Another coach who will have to replace a pair of outstanding hitters

as well as fielders is Verdugo Hills' Darren FitzGerald.

Catcher Crystal Dingman and middle infielder Jennifer Lombardo were

both All-Area selections last season, and both are on their way again

this year.

Both players are batting over. 400 and are among the tops in the City

Section in runs scored and RBIs.

The tandem has only two more Sunset Six League games and a tournament

appearance before the postseason starts.

And last, but certainly not least, is Village Christian shortstop

Alyssa DePompa.

A three-year starter and two-time All-Alpha League selection, DePompa

and her sophomore sister, Dena, have the Crusaders in contention for not

only an Alpha League title but a legitimate shot at a Division V

championship as well.

DePompa and fellow senior, Nikki Peterson, have only five league games

remaining before the playoff pairings are announced.

So there it is, just a short list of the number of talented softball

players who will unfortunately be leaving the ranks of high school

competition when they graduate in June.

It is only one thing to read about their accomplishments in the

News-Press, but making a trip out to the ballpark is more than worth the

cost of gas.

Take it from this reporter, you won't be disappointed if you do.

* DIAMOND VISION is a weekly baseball/softball column that appears

Tuesdays. ERIK BOAL is a sports correspondent. He can be reached at

637-3228.

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