With victories in 33 of its last 34 games, West Covina has earned a berth in the American Legion Baseball World Series that starts today in Kokomo, Ind.
West Covina, which won five of six games in the Region 8 playoffs last week to advance to the double-elimination tournament, is 45-6 overall. Coach Bill Viverto said his team's success has a lot to do with its early-season trip to Ohio for a national invitational tournament.
He said the team's record of 5-4 at the tournament was nothing to brag about but it was an eye-opener for his team.
"That's where the kids realized that there are other excellent players and teams in the U.S.," Viverto said. "It was a real enlightening trip."
The team has lost only two games since and has been churning out base hits and runs in bunches. West Covina is averaging more than 10 runs a game, including 65 in its six games in the regionals.
The leader has been first baseman and pitcher Larry Gonzales, an Edgewood High standout last season who will attend the University of Hawaii in September. Gonzales has a 12-1 pitching record and a 0.93 earned-run average as a pitcher and has a .420 batting average with 10 home runs on offense.
"Our strength is definitely our offense," Viverto said. "We have an excellent hitting team and we execute very well. That's our power and Larry Gonzales is our stopper on the mound, no question about it."
Other top players for West Covina include second baseman Albert Salgado, shortstop Mark Razook, third baseman Ron Height, right fielder Ray Hopson and catcher Tom Henderson.
"Henderson's our catalyst," Viverto said. "He has caught every inning of every game. I think he's by far the best defensive catcher in the Western United States."
It will be West Covina's first appearance in the American Legion World Series since 1971. West Covina won back-to-back championships in 1970 and 1971.
Former University of Washington middle-distance running standout Anne Phillips has been named women's cross country and track coach at Pomona-Pitzer College, Athletic Director Curt Tong has announced.