Prep Rally: Hart’s Matt Quintanar has his Roy Hobbs moment

Hart celebrates its 7-3 win over Royal.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. It was a fun start to the Southern Section high school baseball playoffs. Some upsets, some drama, some big-time performances. Now the fun really begins with tremendous second-round matchups.

The Natural home run

In the 1984 baseball movie, “The Natural,” the final home run hits a light bulb and looks like a fireworks show with so much drama and excitement as players celebrate in the dugout. That was pretty much the scene at Hart High for the opening round of the Division 2 playoffs when Matt Quintanar hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning for a 7-3 win over Royal. About the only thing missing was exploding lights. The ball went over the scoreboard in right field and onto a roof as players celebrated on the field.


It was one of those rare baseball moments that youngsters dream of participating in.

Can the Indians keep their run going?

Here’s the link to complete schedule for Tuesday’s playoff games.

Other memorable openers included San Dimas prevailing in 11 innings over Arcadia, 3-2, and Crescenta Valley knocking off No. 2-seeded South Hills in Division 2, 2-0.

This week the big seeds finally make their debuts. In Division 1, Orange Lutheran is ready to unleash its unbeaten pitchers, Oliver Santos and Louis Rodriguez. In Division 2, No. 1-seeded Arlington has so many good pitchers that the opponents better be ready to bunt and bunt and bunt to try to push across any run.

The City Section will announce its playoff pairings on Monday. The top three seeds for the Open Division appear pretty certain: 1. Granada Hills, 2. Birmingham, No. 3 Roosevelt. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. The championship game for the City Section in Open Division and Division I will be played at Dodger Stadium on May 28 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Play like Jack

Jack Gurevitch of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is a top hitter who makes sure he's having fun every game.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Picture a little kid eating an ice cream cone as it spills onto his face, hands, shirt. Everyone watching is smiling and laughing while enjoying the entertainment. That’s how first baseman Jack Gurevitch plays baseball.

He acts like a kid let loose in a candy store, always having fun. His personality is contagious and attracts the attention of teammates, opponents and fans.

“I’m a very talkative guy,” said Gurevitch, a senior first baseman and pitcher for Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. “I have a lot of personality and like to express it. My mom, for my whole life, has told me, ‘If you’re not having fun, why are you doing it?’ I always try to make the game fun.”

In four years at Notre Dame, Gurevitch has been the hitter pitchers least want to face.

“When he hits the ball, it sounds differently,” coach Tom Dill said. “If they get two strikes on him, it’s not over. He can hit anything.”

A profile on one of the most-liked and entertaining players in the Southland.


Pitcher Sydney Somerndike of Villa Park.
(Villa Park)

It’s fun time in the Southern Section softball playoffs. The first round really didn’t produce a whole lot of competitive games. But the second round Tuesday in Division 1 will finally start to separate the contenders from the pretenders.

There’s Chino Hills at No. 1 Oaks Christian, Murrieta Mesa at Norco, Beaumont at Los Alamitos, Camarillo at Esperanza, Roosevelt at La Mirada, South Torrance at Pacifica, Gahr at La Serna, Villa Park at Orange Lutheran.

The Villa Park-Orange Lutheran game matches pitchers Sydney Somerndike and Brianne Weiss. The winner figures to have a good chance to reach the championship. Here’s updated pairings.

In the City Section, a change in coaching at Granada Hills seems to have turned around the fortunes of the Highlanders who have beaten El Camino Real and Birmingham in recent games while going 6-2 under JV coach Dennis Mealey, who took over for suspended coach Ivan Garcia.

The City playoff pairings were released Saturday. El Camino Real received the No. 1 seed and Granada Hills No. 2 in the Open Division. Here’s the link.



Max Thomas raises his arm after winning the 200 in 21.44 at the Southern Section Division 3 track finals on June 13, 2021.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

The Southern Section track and field championships will take place Saturday at Moorpark High.

The sprint races will have some all-out competitions featuring the likes of Max Thomas from Servite, Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra, Rayshon Luke of St. John Bosco and Patrick Ize-Iyamu of Chaminade.

For girls, Alyssa Thompson of Harvard-Westlake, the nation’s No. 1 junior soccer player, finally has time to compete in track and will get to show off her speed.

One controversy is that Mira Costa’s Dalia Frias, the top 3,200 runner in the state, was disqualified from the prelims after showing up late for her heat race. She was allowed to compete later in another heat but a protest was filed and upheld. She will be able to compete in the 1,600. It remains to be seen if the school can appeal the decision.

Absent from the meet will be Newbury Park distance stars Colin Sahlman and Lex Young. They’ve decided to pursue races outside of the CIF postseason, and Friday both came through with record performances.

Sahlman set a state record for 1,500 meters at 3:39.59 at the Sound Running meet at JSerra. It was the fifth-fastest time in U.S. history.


Young, a junior, ran the second-fastest 5,000 meters in U.S. history at the meet in San Juan Capistrano.

Young finished in 13:43.95 to pass Gerry Lindgren’s 1964 mark for second. Only record-holder Galen Rupp has run faster.

The City Section will hold its prelims on Thursday at Birmingham. Dijon Stanley of Granada Hills will be an athlete to watch in the 200 and 400. Carson’s Reign Redmond should dominate in the girls’ sprints. Football star Arlis Boardingham of Birmingham is trying to win a City title in the triple jump.


It was appropriate that the Southern Section swimming championships were held at Santa Margarita, because the Eagles won Division 1 championships for boys and girls. It was the eighth consecutive championship for the girls and second in a row for the boys.

Freshman Teagan O’Dell set a Division 1 record in the 200 IM. Justina Kozan won the 100 butterfly in 52.65.

Loyola junior Rex Mauer had a championship meet. He won the 500 in 4:13.90.

In the City Section, Palisades’ girls’ team won its 30th championship. San Pedro won the boys’ crown.


Magic of high school sports

Libero Grant Steuerwald has provided a big lift for Loyola's No. 1 volleyball team.

The No. 1 high school volleyball team in California was in deep trouble. Los Angeles Loyola lost its first set to Redondo Union in the opening round of the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs and was down 23-18 in the second set.

Coach Michael Boehle had already made a startling change earlier in the set. He put in a player no one had seen or heard of all season. Grant Steuerwald, 5 feet 7 and 115 pounds, looked like a fifth-grader playing libero for the Cubs. He barely came up to the shoulders of his teammates.

“People ask me if I’m a freshman,” he said.

In January, he broke his left elbow and tore his triceps skiing in Colorado.

“I was going down a hill, and my right ski came off. I hit a tree. Trees always win,” he said.

For three months he was sidelined. Finally cleared to resume practice a week ago, the junior said he wasn’t expecting to be inserted into the opening playoff game. Boehle felt something needed to change.


“I had to make a decision,” he said. “I knew even though he didn’t have the reps, he could come in and steady us down.”

So there was this small kid on the same court with Loyola’s 6-5 Dillon Klein, the No. 1 recruit in the nation headed to USC. And Steuerwald was coming through by fulfilling the duties of the libero — receiving serves, passing and making digs.

It was so stunning to see someone so tiny making a huge impact in a high-caliber playoff game at the Division 1 level. It was an example of the magic of high school sports and how anyone possessing the fundamentals of a particular sport can step forward and contribute, particularly playing the libero position in volleyball.

Loyola will play Newport Harbor for the Division 1 championship on Saturday night at Long Beach City College.

Here’s a profile on Loyola’s Rudy.


Boys’ Division 1 lacrosse has turned into an all-Orange County semifinal. Corona del Mar will take on Mater Dei on Monday and Foothill will face St. Margaret’s.


In Division 1 girls, the championship game will match Santa Margarita against Foothill at Downey. Santa Margarita defeated Redondo Union 14-12 and Foothill defeated Palos Verdes 20-9.

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Mater Dei will honor its three Heisman Trophy winners, Bryce Young, Matt Leinart and John Huarte, during a private May 24 ceremony at the Santa Ana campus.

Mater Dei's Heisman Lane sign will need to be updated by adding the name of Bryce Young '21.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Expect an update with the campus sign that has a Heisman Lane and mentions Huarte and Leinart. Young is the reigning Heisman winner from Alabama.

Notes . . .

Former Mater Dei and USC receiver Bru McCoy has committed to Tennessee. . . .

UCLA assistant Jack Grover has been hired to take over the Harvard-Westlake water polo program. . . .

Junior relief pitcher Evan Miranda from Orange Lutheran has committed to Texas. . . . .

Destiny Melton is the new girls’ basketball coach at Calabasas. . . .

Former Los Altos guard Jarod Lucas is transferring from Oregon State to Nevada. . . .

Michael Puopolo is the new football coach at Royal. He’s a former Oak Park assistant.

From the archives: Byron Ellis

It was 2003 when Byron Ellis was an A student at Venice High and star running back. He signed with Colorado. He wanted to be an NFL player but also had a fallback goal: doctor.

In 2015, Ellis graduated from medical school and became an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado.

Here’s a 2015 story detailing his journey.

Here’s the 2003 story about his high school days.



From the New York Times, a story on the search for the next tennis star.

From, a story on how high school sports can better serve students.

From the New York Post, the story on a mom raising two major league pitchers and a USC rower.

Tweets you might have missed


Until next time...

Have a question, comment or something you’d like to see in a future Prep Rally newsletter? Email me at, and follow me on Twitter at @latsondheimer.

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