Trevor Painton, a junior who began the season as the No. 3 pitcher for the Sunny Hills High School baseball team, has become more than the ace of the staff this week.
He is the staff--the stopper in the Lancers' rotation of one.
Painton threw a complete-game, nine-hitter and struck out three Wednesday to lead Sunny Hills to a 6-1 victory over Fullerton in a Freeway League game on the Lancers' field.
The victory kept Sunny Hills' Southern Section playoff hopes alive. If the Lancers, who reached the 3-A semifinals last year, can beat Fullerton again on Friday and if Troy beats Buena Park, Sunny Hills will advance to the tournament as the league's No. 3 team.
Painton (2-4) throws two pitches--a fastball and a curve. But he spotted both pitches well Wednesday, walked only two, and received good support from a defense that didn't commit an error.
It was an outstanding performance by a pitcher who hasn't had an outstanding season. But it may not be enough to satisfy Sunny Hills Coach Doug Elliott, who will probably ask the right-hander to do it again on Friday.
The Lancers' top pitcher, senior David Wackerman, began serving a three-day suspension from school Wednesday for missing a Saturday detention last weekend. Their No. 2 pitcher, senior Brian Olynyk, was ruled academically ineligible last week.
Elliott said there is a remote possibility that Olynyk could return to the team by Friday, but, as of now, Painton is his man.
"To be honest with you, I don't have anyone else who can pitch Friday," Elliott said. "Do you want to pitch? I'll suit you up. If Trevor can go, we'll start him. What have we got to lose?"
Nothing, really. Elliott could use shortstop Saul Lopez or third baseman Robbie Tash, who have pitched about two innings each this year, but he'd rather go with an experienced player.
Painton may not have an excellent record, but he's been pitching well lately. He's not overpowering, but he has good control.
He ran into trouble just twice Wednesday. In the fifth inning, the Indians loaded the bases but couldn't score. In the seventh, they used doubles by Steve Pearson and John Mele to score their only run.
The Lancers scored single runs in the second (on Stewart Richardson's solo homer) and third (on an error), then broke the game open with four runs in the sixth.
Freshman center fielder John Montgomery drove a bases-loaded single past a drawn-in infield for two runs, and sophomore left fielder Kevin Monson added a two-run single to make it 6-0.
Stathy Papadatos, who allowed just four hits during the first five innings, was chased in the sixth and took the loss. Jeff Middlebrooks relieved Papadatos and gave up Monson's hit.
The Lancers have two freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup--a stark contrast to the all-senior team that was one of the county's best last year and compiled a 23-6 record.
Of the five seniors who began the season with Sunny Hills, only two--Tash and catcher Richard Cruz--are eligible to play this week. Starting center fielder Tim Imperiali quit the team in April.
These have been trying times for Elliott, whose playoff hopes now come down to the final game.
"We've gone from one extreme to the other," Elliott said. "Last year, we were on Cloud Nine. This year we've gotten back to teaching the basics, the fundamentals. It takes time, patience . . . "
"And a lot of gray hairs," assistant Dan Duncanson interrupted.
In other Freeway League action:
Troy 16, Buena Park 2--David St. Clair hit two home runs, including his second grand slam of the season, to lead the Warriors to an easy victory at Buena Park High. St. Clair, who has eight homers this year, added a two-run shot in the fifth and finished with six RBIs.
Chris Robinson, who pitched four innings to gain the victory, went 4 for 4 with three RBIs, Mike Pawlawski went 3 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs, and John Woods went 3 for 3 with two RBIs for Troy, which can clinch a playoff spot by defeating the Coyotes again on Friday.
In their last five games, the Warriors have 68 hits and 14 home runs. They have hit 26 homers this year.
Sonora 11, La Habra 5--The top-ranked Raiders ran their league record to 14-0 and 23-1 overall with the victory at Sonora High. Sonora scored eight runs in the fourth inning, four of them on Rob Stuart's grand slam.
Brian Needham pitched six innings to pick up his eighth victory in nine decisions. He struck out five, gave up six hits and did not allow an earned run.