Prep Rally: Why Dodger Stadium is the ultimate goal for City Section baseball teams

Bret Saberhagen pitched a no-hitter for Cleveland against Pacific Palisades for the City title at Dodger Stadium in 1982.
Bret Saberhagen pitched a no-hitter for Cleveland High School during a 13-0 win over Palisades for the City Section championship at Dodger Stadium in 1982.
(Courtesy of Linda Saberhagen)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. It’s the biggest weekend of the City Section baseball season. The annual championship game will be played on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. It’s a dream come true for the players, coaches and fans.

Dodger Stadium memories

Chatsworth players celebrate 2-0 win over Birmingham in City Section Open Division championship game at Dodger Stadium.
(Craig Weston)

There’s one big perk for playing high school baseball in the City Section. You know that every season, the championship game in the highest division will be played at Dodger Stadium. It started in 1969 and has happened at the end of every season since except the COVID-19 seasons of 2020 and 2021.


It means that the semifinals every year are meaningful and pressure filled. You’re one win from reaching Dodger Stadium. On Wednesday, there will be a doubleheader at USC for the Open Division semifinals. No. 1 seed Granada Hills will play No. 4 Carson at 6 p.m. with No. 3 Birmingham facing No. 2 Palisades at 3 p.m.

Also the Division 1 finalists will get to play at Dodger Stadium in the morning game Saturday. The Tuesday semifinals at USC have Sun Valley Poly playing Kennedy at 3 p.m., followed by Sylmar taking on San Pedro at 6 p.m.

Memories from City finals of the past are plentiful. My favorite is being in the press box and watching Bret Saberhagen of Reseda Cleveland throw the first and only no-hitter in championship history in 1982 against Palisades. NBA coach Steve Kerr played for Palisades.

Kevin Farlow of Granada Hills Kennedy hit a walk-off home run in the 1985 final against Banning.

Randy Wolf of El Camino Real twice won City titles at Dodger Stadium. So did Jon Garland of Kennedy. Both became major league pitchers.

“Walking down the tunnel as a high school kid, stepping on the field for the first time, it’s pretty unbelievable,” Garland said in 1998. “There’s nothing like the big dog pile at the end. It’s crazy. You might get spiked and you wouldn’t know it.”

Chatsworth has won 10 titles at Dodger Stadium, the most of any school.

It’s the greatest sports event for high schools who compete in the City Section.


 Crespi celebrates walk-off win.
Crespi celebrates its walk-off win over South Hills in the Division 2 final.
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

What a championship weekend it was for Southern Section baseball at Blair Field.

The best comeback was pulled off in the Division 2 final, when Crespi scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to defeat South Hills 6-5. Here’s the report.


The Division 1 final was intense and well played before a packed stadium. Santa Margarita and JSerra went after it pitch by pitch and inning by inning. It was finally settled by a walk-off single in the eighth that made JSerra a 1-0 winner. Collin Clarke was the tough-luck losing pitcher. He retired 18 batters in a row.

Here’s the report.

In Division 6, Castaic won the title in only its second year having a varsity program. Here’s the report.

Southern Section teams have this week off before beginning the Southern California regional championships next week. Most teams are expected to participate, though JSerra has opted out.


Pacifica High pitcher Brynne Nally (5) is congratulated by catcher Catherine Benitez after retiring the side.
(Nick Koza)

It was the hitters in charge at the Southern Section and City Section softball finals.

In the Southern Section Division 1 final, Garden Grove Pacifica did something few teams have done this season: outslug Norco.


Pacifica won 15-9. Here’s the report.

In the City Section Open Division final, Carson and Granada Hills slugged it out. Carson led 10-0. Then Granada Hills had a 10-run inning to tie it. It went to the eighth inning before Carson won 12-11.

Carson High's Rylee Gardner (26) is congratulated at home plate by her teammates after her home run in the third inning.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Here’s the report.

Softball teams are off this week before the Southern California regionals begin, but Pacifica and Norco have opted out and won’t participate. It has become a yearly theme. Softball players begin their important club seasons, and some coaches and players have decided it’s more important than a regional high school championship.


The Miracle in Venice

Nine months after brain surgery for a football injury, Nathan Santa Cruz of Venice ran the anchor leg in the 4x400 relay
Nine months after brain surgery for a football injury, Nathan Santa Cruz of Venice ran the anchor leg in the 4x400 relay.
(Craig Weston)

Nine months ago, Nathan Santa Cruz suffered a head injury while playing football for Venice. Medical personnel on the field were there to provide immediate support. He was transported to nearby Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and underwent emergency surgery. On Thursday, he ran the anchor leg as Venice set a school record in the 4x400 relay while qualifying for this weekend’s state championship.

It took nine months for him and his family to finally feel comfortable enough to talk about that uncertain night, which was the opening game of the high school football season.

Here’s a report at how it unfolded, the heroes who came to his immediate aid and the importance of having certified athletic trainers when a medical emergency occurs.

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New free-throw rule

Harrison Hornery of Mater Dei shoots a free throw.
(Nick Koza)

The National Federation of State High School Assn.’s Basketball Rules Committee has approved the elimination of one-and-one free-throw situations for boys and girls for next season, awarding two free throws for any foul in a bonus situation.

Teams will reach the bonus after the fifth foul is called in each quarter instead of the previously required seven fouls each half. Team fouls will reset each quarter. Previously two free throws, known as the double bonus, were awarded on the 10th foul of a half.

Here’s the link to changes.


It was revenge time for Loyola, the best volleyball team in Southern California during the regular season. Unfortunately for the Cubs, they were upset in the Southern Section Division 1 pool-play tournament by Corona del Mar, then had to wait for a second chance in the Southern California regionals.

The Cubs avenged that loss by beating Corona del Mar, then knocked off Newport Harbor to win the Division I regional championship.


Loyola swept all three of its opponents, going 9-0 in sets.


Jordan Coleman roars with approval after handing baton to Dijon Stanley.
(Craig Weston)

What a night it was at the City Section track and field championships for Granada Hills and Carson, which won team titles for boys and girls, respectively.

Granada Hills broke a 21-year-old City record in the 4x100 relay.

Dijon Stanley and Jordan Coleman of Granada Hills and Reign Redmond of Carson were the stars and should be prominent when the state championships take place Friday and Saturday at Buchanan High in Clovis.


Here’s a report from the finals at El Camino College.

At the Southern Section Masters Meet, Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra tied his state record in the 100 meters, running 10.14 seconds. His Serra teammate, Brazil Neal, won the 200. They will lead a large contingent of Southern Section athletes at the state championships.

Gardena Serra High's Brazil Neal, right, leads the field in the 200-meter dash at the Masters Meet on May 20 in Moorpark.
(Nick Koza)

Here’s a report from the Masters Meet.


Matthew Robles of Warren won the Southern Section individual golf championship by shooting a course-record 62.
Matthew Robles of Warren won the Southern Section individual golf championship by shooting a course-record 10-under-par 62 at Riva Ridge Golf Course.
(Josh Buell)

There’s lots of former Southern Section golfers on the PGA tour, from Tiger Woods (Western) to Collin Morikawa (La Canada).

It’s not too far-fetched to think that Matthew Robles of Warren could join them one day.

At the Southern Section individual golf finals, Robles, a junior, shot a 10-under 62 to set a course record at River Ridge Golf Course and win the championship.

Here’s the report.

The City Section championships saw Jahan Battu of Granada Hills make a birdie on the 18th hole to win the individual title. Granada Hills also won the team title. Here’s the report.

The Southern California Regional Championship will be held Wednesday at Los Serranos Golf Course in Chino Hills.

Here are the pairings.


It’s time for seven on seven passing tournaments to begin.

St. John Bosco won the tournament at Millikan on Saturday and Bishop Amat won at Charter Oak.


But the player who impressed me the most at Millikan was quarterback Husan Longstreet of Corona Centennial. The transfer from Inglewood who will be a junior in the fall has the best arm you’ll see all year. He’s still learning the Huskies’ offense but still helped Centennial reach the semifinals.

He’ll be scary good with all the weapons in the Centennial arsenal with its receivers and good offensive line.

St. John Bosco clearly has another outstanding secondary that is two deep at cornerback and will be relying on Peyton Woodyear to step up and be more of an impact player at safety, not to mention the best group of linebackers anywhere.

Notes . . .

Don Barbara is no longer the baseball coach at St. John Bosco. He took over the program in 2015. The school is looking for a replacement. . . .


Long Beach Poly is sending its football team and seven on seven girls’ flag football team to Nike’s Oregon headquarters in August to play in games. The girls will play Irvington on Aug. 24 and the boys’ team will play Bishop Gorman on Aug. 25. . . .

Jake Knesel is the new football coach at Banning in the Inland Empire. He has coached at Arroyo Valley and Beaumont. . . .

Adam Yassaman is the new boys’ soccer coach at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. . . .

Brian Weathersby is the new boys’ water polo coach at Santa Margarita. . . .

Lori Huckler has retired as girls’ basketball coach at Walnut. Her teams won 27 league titles for basketball and softball. . . .

Gerald Aquiningoc is moving from Long Beach Wilson to Long Beach Poly to coach girls’ volleyball. . . .

Junior receiver Aaron Butler of Calabasas has committed to Colorado. . . .

Scott Fullerton has stepped down after 29 years coaching baseball at Moorpark High. The Musketeers were known for their excellence on and off the field. . . .

Kevin Honaker has resigned after 14 years coaching girls’ basketball at Valencia. . . .

Kai Werring is the new girls’ soccer coach at Agoura. . . .

Simi Valley baseball player Aiden Nykoluk has committed to Western Oregon. . . .

Junior quarterback Nate Bennett of Oaks Christian has committed to Baylor. . . .

In big basketball news, Carter Bryant has transferred to Corona Centennial. He played for Sage Hill last season, where his father was head coach. He has committed to Arizona. . . .


Jaqari Miles of West Ranch has committed to Montana State for basketball.

From the archives: Tiare Jennings

Shortstop Tiare Jennings of St. Anthony was the Gatorade state player of the year in 2020.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

A collegiate All-American for Oklahoma, the No. 1 seed in the NCAA softball tournament, Tiare Jennings continues to create excitement with her hitting power.

The former Long Beach St. Anthony standout is in her junior season. She’s batting .425 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs. She was the Gatorade state player of the year during her senior year in 2020, which was the season halted because of the pandemic.

She participated in a Times series entitled, “Season Interrupted,” describing how she would deal with the pandemic. Here’s a look back.


From the Review Journal, a story on Dedan Thomas Jr.’s basketball commitment to UNLV.

From, a story on the Ivy League fighting to keep its no scholarships rules.

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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