Before the baseball playoffs, Venice Coach Jeff Shimizu was saying that he hoped his team, winner of the last two Los Angeles City 3-A championships, would play with enough intensity to win.
His hopes have been realized.
The Gondoliers have won three straight playoff games with ease, including last week's 20-2 blowout of archrival Palisades in the semifinals. And Shimizu's players are so high now that he may have to find a helicopter to drop them into Dodger Stadium today for their 3-A title game at 4 p.m. against Huntington Park.
A chopper may have to go far above the clouds to find junior Chico Garcia, the 5-8, 185-pound hero of last week's rout of Palisades.
Belted 2 Homers
Garcia not only blasted two center-field home runs, his sixth and seventh of the season, in an eight-run sixth inning, but he also knocked in six runs.
And in the poetic justice department, he put the stopper on Palisades catcher John Dolak, the UCLA-bound senior who last year homered twice in Chavez Ravine as the Dolphins lost the 3-A title game to Venice, 8-5.
Garcia, a designated hitter, outfielder and pitcher, relieved winning pitcher Armando Gomez in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and forced Dolak to ground into a double play. For good measure, he also got Dolak to hit into a double play in the seventh and last inning.
And he's not the only Venice player who is sky-high. All the Gondoliers have contributed in the playoffs as the team downed Fremont, 5-1, in the opener and pummeled Marshall, 13-1.
Gomez, a senior left-hander, was the winning pitcher against Fremont, and he showed plenty of determination, staying around to finish up after a batted ball hit him in the ankle in the early going. The win over Palisades last week gave him a 13-1 record.
3 Hot Hitters
Other Venice batting stars in the playoffs have been junior shortstop Eric Crawford, senior catcher Bob Tomaselli and senior center fielder Richard Simpson.
Crawford, who hit two homers during the regular season, clubbed two more and batted in four runs last week against Marshall. Tomaselli, who had two RBIs against Marshall, homered in the slugfest against Palisades, as did Simpson. Simpson also made two sparkling defensive plays against Fremont the week before, throwing a runner out at the plate and spearing a line drive and doubling a runner off second.
Venice, which won the Western League championship with a 12-3 record and is 29-5 overall, may be high enough to spot Bigfoot--or Shangri-La.
Coach Shimizu said he thought his players "might have been mentally tired" toward the end of the season and in the Fremont playoff. "We were playing like two different teams," he said, adding:
"When we go out and play with intensity we can beat anybody on any given day. If we go out there and just go through the motions, we can get beat by anybody. So it works both ways."
Palisades Ace Injured
It may have seemed all one way against Palisades, but Venice might not have had such an easy time if the Dolphins' ace pitcher, Eric Beckerman, hadn't been injured in the top of the first inning.
Beckerman was thrown out at the plate and bruised his jaw when he collided with catcher Tomaselli. He was not at his best when he took the mound and, in the third inning, Venice hitters started to get to him. Palisades Coach Jerry Marvin, seeing that Beckerman was doubled over in pain, escorted him off the field.
"That was too bad because Beckerman is an excellent player," Shimizu said. "If it weren't for that unfortunate collision at the plate, I think he would have given us a tough time. If he had been 100% and we had let him get into his rhythm, then we would have been in trouble."
If Venice comes into Dodger Stadium today as the good Dr. Jekyll--not as the bad Mr. Hyde--Huntington Park, which won the Eastern League title with a 12-3 record and is 17-6 overall, could be in trouble.
But the Spartans may also be peaking. Like Venice against Palisades, Huntington Beach had 16 hits in its semifinal win, a surprising 15-1 pasting of Franklin.
'Very Disciplined Team'
Shimizu doesn't think the Spartans will be practicing self-denial when they come to bat in Dodger Stadium. "They are well coached and a very disciplined team, and they aren't going to make mistakes.
"They had a real easy game in the third round, and I was surprised at that. I guess Franklin ran out of pitching. But we will definitely not take them lightly. This is the championship game, and we'll be going at them full blast."
Shimizu said that Gomez probably will be his starting pitcher. "I haven't made the final decision, but Armando deserves to start. I'll probably go with him; he's been consistent."
Not so consistent--or such a workhorse--has been senior right-hander Dwayne Lortie, Venice's winning pitcher in both of the last two City title games, last year against Palisades and in 1984 against Westchester. Lortie (4-2) injured his pitching elbow early this year and wasn't used much, but he was the winning pitcher in the playoff victory over Marshall.