There's another Brett in the El Segundo High School baseball lineup and Eagles Coach John Stevenson may have the most storied baseball program in the South Bay, but tradition will probably have little impact on Friday's El Segundo-Leuzinger showdown in the Pioneer League.
The 7:30 p.m. game is the capper of a pivotal home-and-home series between the two league front-runners, who also met Wednesday.
Both come into the week 6-0 in the Pioneer League, with little competition from the three other teams. So Friday's game at Recreation Park in El Segundo could decide the title and affect CIF rankings and playoff seedings as well.
El Segundo came into the week 17-7 and rated ahead of Leuzinger in a local poll. However, Leuzinger entered the week with a 17-6 mark and is rated ninth in the latest CIF 3-A poll, with El Segundo out of the Top 10.
The teams met in an early season tournament and El Segundo escaped with an extra-inning 8-7 victory.
"We should have beaten them. We were pretty evenly matched," said Leuzinger Coach Dennis Bowman. "We're a better team now than we were then. We've come from behind in four of our six league wins. We've both probably been looking ahead (to playing each other) so it's good that we're finally playing. There's no margin for error in a 10-game league; you're probably talking about 10-0 or 9-1 to win it."
Stevenson agreed that "everything seems to point to" the teams being even, though they go about their game differently and Stevenson believes his team has played a tougher schedule.
El Segundo has tradition on its side, with a long list of CIF titles and alumni in the majors, topped by George and Ken Brett and Scott McGregor. However, Leuzinger has been a Pioneer League bully since Bowman took the helm. He recently coached his 100th victory. The Olympians also have produced a few famous alumni, including George Foster.
Bowman said that he appreciates the depth of Stevenson's program and accomplishments.
'That Man's a Legend'
"The (Leuzinger) players are hungry to get that loss out of their mind," Bowman said. "We're not in awe. As a coach I'm very well aware of the awesome success he's had in the program. John Stevenson has probably forgotten more about the game than I'll ever know. That man's a legend. He's the little Earl Weaver of the South Bay."
In comparing programs, Bowman characterized Leuzinger as "the little scrapper on the block," but he added, "We're aware of what it takes to be a championship club. We're prepared."
Leuzinger's scrappy image illustrates the difference in the clubs this year: El Segundo tries to bombard its opponents, while Leuzinger scratches for runs.
In the tradition of Earl Weaver, Stevenson prefers to play for the big inning: "We go out and try to slam the ball. We may blow some innings along the way but we'll put five, six, seven runs on the board at one time."
The Eagle lineup features power hitters in Gary Shultz, Devan Alo and Mark Hammond and designated hitter Dennis Reed, and dependable table setters in leadoff man Robert Markel (31 stolen bases) and infielders Kemer Brett (a nephew of George), Willie Parsons (28 stolen bases) and Brian Handy.
Catcher Gary Meza, a good thrower whom Stevenson calls "one of our most improved players," rounds out the starting lineup.
Right-hander Jim Hudson heads the pitching staff and carried a 9-4 record into Wednesday's game. All four losses were shutouts against strong teams. Hudson has a 3-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and is highly regarded by pro scouts and college coaches. "He's been our man. He's had a superb year," Stevenson said. Hudson also quarterbacked the football team but his future is in baseball.
Zak Shinall (3-2) and talented sophomore Scott Talanoa (5-1), a slightly wild but hard-throwing right-hander, round out the staff.
Shutout Over Redondo
Leuzinger counters with its own ace, Tony Johnston, whose 7-1 record includes a 2-0 shutout over Redondo and a one-hitter against Miraleste. Johnston's strength is his ability to throw his fastball to locations and mix it with a hard curve. "He can move his fastball, take a little bit off it and can bring a good curve when he has to," Bowman said.
Scott Francis and Scott Baldus back up Johnston on the mound. Jaime Villa catches.
Leuzinger has only one real horse in the middle of the lineup in first baseman Ruben Jauregui, who is batting .433 with 15 extra-base hits and 29 runs batted in. The only other hitter with power is outfielder Dan Scharer. Everybody else, particularly leadoff man David Sweet (.328), third baseman Chris Ferrara (.340), sophomore DH Alfred Galvan (.422) and sophomore shortstop Johnny Blood (.321) peck for their runs.