With a 14-4 win over Antelope Valley, Saugus clinched the Golden League championship Tuesday. It came as a surprise to many.
Before the season, most observers expected Saugus to finish no higher than third, while many picked the Centurions as low as fifth. But Saugus had special inspiration this season: the memory of Kevin English.
"People don't realize what motivates us," assistant coach Bill Bolde said. "Our drive and our remembrance of Kevin English brought us to the top."
English, a second baseman on last year's team, was killed in an auto accident during the second week of February. English, who had been attending Valley College, was working out with the team in preparation for the season.
Last year, English was named Saugus' most improved player. After he died, the players decided to wear a black "KE" patch on their uniforms.
The Centurions clinched a tie for the title last week with a 9-7 victory over Quartz Hill. It was an emotional time.
"A lot of kids wept after the game because he was watching us," Bolde said.
Painted on the right-field wall at the Saugus field are league championship banners from the 1978 and 1984 seasons. Bolde will paint this season's title banner on the wall Saturday, but with the addition of the letters "KE".
"It's been a driving force for our entire season," Bolde said. "He had a lot of love for the game, a lot of heart, and a lot of desire. He was a kid who gave back more to the program than what he was given. We never let the players forget there's a patch on their sleeve."
A scholarship fund of $500 to be awarded to the team's most improved player each year has been established in memory of English, Bolde said. In addition, English's number has been retired and a tree was planted behind the dugout in his memory.
"We go into every game knowing we're doing it for Kevin," Bolde said. "He was the kind of guy that you hoped everyone would grow up to be."
Add English: Valley College baseball players also wear black armbands with a white "KE" on them.
"When the accident happened we called off practice and the kids got together," Valley Coach Scott Muckey said. "He had only been working out for three weeks, but he was enthusiastic and hard working."
Short on providence: The Providence baseball team, ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section Small Schools Division, played the first four games in the Delphic League with only nine players.
The Pioneers started the season with 11 players, but two were declared ineligible.
If an injury had occurred during a game, the Pioneers would have been allowed to play with eight. But, if a player had been ejected, the game would have been forfeited.
"We had a really close play at the plate once," Coach Marc Saraceno said. "Our catcher popped off to the other team and I got a little worried."
Now Saraceno can stop worrying--he's got a 10th player. Larry Kuklin, who played last season but missed most of the first half of this season because of a job commitment, has joined the team. Saraceno said he also plans to add three or four players at the conclusion of the junior varsity season.
The Pioneers (7-0 in league) are led by Jeff Cirillo and Kevin Miller, who share first base and most of the pitching duties. Cirillo has struck out 80 batters in 52 innings and is batting .492.
Good intentions: Campbell Hall's Jessica Ackroyd has signed a letter of intent with Georgetown. Ackroyd was named to the Small Schools Division's first team and was the most valuable player in the Delphic League last season. The middle blocker led the Vikings to the semifinals of the Southern Section playoffs before losing to Flintridge Prep.
The 18-year-old is currently a member of the Southern California Volleyball Club, a junior development program. She participates on the No. 1 team, which is ranked by the United States Volleyball Assn. as one of the top five junior teams in Southern California.
Add Volleyball: Ron Beick has been named coach of the Thousand Oaks girls volleyball team.
Beick, 29, will replace John Price, who left Thousand Oaks after three years to coach the Cal State Northridge men's team this season.
In three years at Venice and five years at University, Beick's record was 110-29. His University teams were runner-up four times and third once in the City 4-A playoffs. He spent five years as the coach of the West Los Angeles Volleyball Club.
Thousand Oaks finished 1-11 last season in the Marmonte League, but Beick is optimistic.
"The girls are very excited and the administration is very supportive of the program," Beick said. "That's what it takes to build a winning program."
Real victories: The Taft baseball team was never in contention for the West Valley League championship. But the Toreadors' have kept another team out of the running--Taft's only two victories were against El Camino Real.
Had the Conquistadores defeated Taft twice, they would be tied for first place. Instead, they are tied for second.
"I don't know what it is," Taft Coach Art Martinez said. " Maybe it's the rivalry. The players have grown up playing against and with each other. But I can't figure it out because El Camino Real is an outstanding team."