Kevin Clancy, Esperanza High School's right fielder and leadoff hitter, is a tough guy to figure out.
And a tough guy to get out.
Clancy, who is hitting .882 (15 for 17) in the Aztecs' last six games, had two hits and scored three runs Friday to lead Esperanza to an 8-3 win over top-ranked El Dorado in an Empire League game on the Aztecs' field.
The senior had reached base 17 straight times in four games until he struck out in the top of the sixth inning Friday. The CIF Southern Section doesn't keep a record for consecutive times on base, but Clancy has raised his batting average from .230 to .420 during the streak. He's one of Orange County's hottest hitters and, after Friday's game, he made a bid to become one of the county's most enigmatic players.
Clancy is a bundle of energy on the field. He's the kind of guy who sprints to first base on a walk and sprints back to the dugout after a strikeout. Another Charlie Hustle.
But off the field, he is a contradiction in more ways than one.
In a postgame interview, Clancy was very relaxed, mellow, and his voice was soft--hardly what you'd expect from a guy who had just spent the day scurrying and diving around the bases.
Asked if he regretted having to hit for a fifth time, with two out in the sixth inning and the game all but decided, Clancy hesitated and said, "Yeah . . . no. No. I wanted to keep the streak going."
It didn't seem like it. Clancy looked at two straight strikes and swung and missed at a third.
Then, asked if he felt any pressure because of the streak, Clancy replied, "No. I didn't get any sleep last night, but every time I got up there, I felt great."
Slightly strange. Just like Friday's game.
El Dorado and Esperanza, the county's Nos. 1 and 4 teams, respectively, combined to walk 20 batters.
Aztec left-hander Steve Halweg, a control pitcher who had walked just 10 batters this season, suffered through one of his worst outings, walking six in 4 innings Friday.
But he allowed just one hit to improve his record to 7-0 and help the Aztecs gain sole possession of first place. Emmitt Cohick relieved Halweg in the fifth and gave up two hits in the final 2 innings.
"Halweg had a bad game and he throws a one-hitter--you gotta love guys like that," Esperanza Coach Mike Curran said.
Three El Dorado pitchers--Steve Gill, Jeff Petredes and Rob Hanna--combined to walk 12. Gill couldn't make it out of the first inning, as he walked four batters and was relieved by Petredes, who allowed a sacrifice fly but struck out Larry Nix to end the first.
But Petredes was hit in the second. Esperanza knocked the Golden Hawk right-hander for five runs on six hits, including an RBI double off the right-field fence by Eric Cox and a two-run double to right-center field by Dave Moralez.
In other Empire League action:
Loara 3, Katella 2--Mike Golia doubled in the winning run in the bottom of the sixth and pitched a five-hitter for the Saxons (2-1-1, 10-3-1) at Boysen Park in Anaheim. The Knights (3-1, 10-5) left the tying run on third in the seventh.
Kennedy 11, Los Alamitos 10--Glen Mares singled, moved to third on a single by Todd Bristow and scored on a ground ball by Robert Wilson in the bottom of the sixth to break a 10-10 tie for the Irish at Brookhurst Park in Anaheim.
Mares hit his third home run of the season in the fifth with a man on to give Kennedy a 10-3 lead. Los Alamitos scored three runs in the fourth and four in the fifth to erase the lead. Pinch-hitter Jeff Olsen started the rally in the fourth with a two-run home run.
Pacifica 2, Cypress 1--Toby Christopher threw a three-hitter with six strikeouts and Bobby Thome hit a two-run home run in the third inning to help the Mariners at Pacifica High. Tony DeRosa added two hits for Pacifica.