El Segundo's baseball team plays for its perennial Pioneer League title Friday; then the Eagles can get down to business.
In a down year for the Pioneer League, the Eagles can put the title away--in effect if not mathematically--with a victory over second-place Leuzinger, El Segundo's only real competition. Then the Eagles, third-ranked in the CIF 3-A Division, can start thinking about the playoffs and a May 10 double-header with South Bay rival Redondo. "League is a distraction to us," El Segundo Coach John Stevenson said. "Not including Leuzinger," he added.
After facing off Wednesday at Leuzinger, the two will play Friday night at El Segundo's Recreation Park. The Eagles had a two-game lead entering the week.
The two teams have generally dominated the league and both have good pitching. El Segundo, in fact, has one of its best staffs ever. At a level where two good pitchers can take a team all the way, El Segundo has four good ones--three of them underclassmen.
In fact, if El Segundo had some of its vaunted power lineups of the past, the Eagles might be unbeatable. Their 19-3-1 record has been fashioned on good pitching and defense and timely, but sporadic, hitting. The three losses have all been by one run--7-6 to Banning, 6-5 to Millikan and 1-0 to Hueneme.
"The pitching has been very good and very deep," Stevenson said. "Four solid pitchers--that's unusual for a high school team. All four are big horses, hard throwers. They're not cute at all."
Zak Shinall leads the staff. The 6-3, 200-pound senior is 8-2. Next comes 6-5, 195-pound sophomore Heath Jones at 5-1, and 6-3, 185-pound junior Dan Parente at 3-0. Junior Scott Talanoa, a 6-5, 250-pound three-sport star, rounds out the staff. He's 1-0.
The leader on the field is Willy Parsons, an outstanding hitter and shortstop who is closing in on the school record of 35 stolen bases set last year. He entered the week with 33. "He's probably our most valuable player," Stevenson said. The stolen base record-holder is outfielder Robert Markle, another three-sport player. He has 25 stolen bases this year.
The other offensive standout is catcher Dennis Reed. "He's got a super arm, he's a very good receiver. And a good hitter," Stevenson said.
Strong Up Middle
The Eagles are strong up the middle defensively, with Reed behind the plate, Joe Krebs in center field and second baseman Allan Goldman teaming with Parsons in the infield. "He (Goldman) does a great job. He probably turns one or two double plays a game," Stevenson said.
The Eagles have been ranked highly all season and Stevenson said the relative lack of competition in the league this year "shouldn't devalue what we've done. We've proved ourselves out of league," he said. Recent victories include a double-header sweep of Bay League playoff contender Palos Verdes.
The Eagles will tune up for the playoffs by facing 4-A power Redondo in a May 10 double-header beginning at 4 p.m. El Segundo will probably go into 3-A playoffs seeded behind Sonora and Rio Mesa, ranked No. 1 and 2 this week. Gahr is ranked fourth behind El Segundo.
After that? "I've never gone into (playoffs) yet when I didn't think we had a chance. You have to get hot for five games and get a little luck along the way," Stevenson said. In more than 20 years at El Segundo, Stevenson has won five CIF titles and finished second twice.
Leuzinger has not been as consistent as El Segundo, but the Olympians can throw some tough pitching at opponents. Junior John Ingram, who came into the week with 109 strikeouts in 79 innings, has earned the nickname "Dr. K," in reference to the New York Mets' Dwight Gooden and the score-card marking for a strike out. Teammate Scott Francis has thrown a no-hitter.
There are some other important league games this week, though none matching league leaders. In the Ocean League, Torrance (9-2 entering the week) finishes a two-game series Friday at home against Beverly Hills (5-6) and North Torrance (8-3) completes a two-game stand Friday at Culver City (5-5-1). Torrance and North High do not face each other again. In the Bay League, leader Redondo plays host to West Torrance at 7 p.m. Friday. In the top Marine League game, San Pedro is at Banning at 2:30 p.m. today.