Coaches are finding that Mid-Valley League games--like cigarette smoking--can be dangerous to your health. Coaches Dick Whitney of Kennedy and Wayne Sink of Birmingham are certainly suffering from Mid-Valley madness.
Kennedy allowed 36 runs, 34 hits and committed 16 errors in losses last week to Birmingham and Granada Hills.
"My mind is kind of a blank," Whitney said about the lost week. "I'm trying to forget the whole thing."
Sink's team beat Kennedy, 22-14, but he also felt the effects of the marathon. The condition apparently worsened Friday when Monroe rallied from a four-run deficit with one out in the seventh inning to beat Birmingham, 6-4.
"Wayne, how are you?" a caller asked Monday.
"Well," Sink said. "I survived surgery this weekend."
"Surgery?" the caller asked. "Geez, are you OK?"
"Yeah, frontal lobotomy," Sink said. "One of my kids did it. That's what happens when you can't get an out."
Four Mid-Valley teams began the week within a game of first place. The team that gets a shot in the arm--preferably something that will produce a good fastball--will win the title. Although the league has produced Arizona pitcher Frank Halcovich and USC-bound Fred Riscen in recent years, it is without a dominating pitcher this season.
San Fernando pitcher Frank Serna (7-1) has been the most effective, but Tigers Coach Steve Marden admits the sophomore right-hander isn't yet in the class of pitchers past.
"We're used to seeing a different caliber of pitcher in this league," Marden said.
Banners and questionable manners: After reading the banner that visiting Saugus left taped to its dugout wall, Canyon Coach Wally Hammond was insulted. The sign implied that Hammond and the Cowboys didn't respect the first-place Centurions, who beat Canyon, 9-1, to clinch the top playoff spot in the Golden League.
"That really bothers me," Hammond said. "Last year I spent $42 on a telegram to congratulate Saugus on winning the championship. They say they never got it. Yeah, we did respect them."
Is Hammond demanding an apology? "I'm not demanding one," he said. "But I'd accept one."
His bat Speakes loudly, too: Poly's Joey Speakes has five home runs from the leadoff position, but when Coach Jerry Cord tried to move him to the middle of the lineup, Speakes resisted.
"He leads the team in homers," Cord said. "But he won't let me move him . " Cord has ample reason for keeping the senior outfielder happy. In addition to batting .540, Speakes has scored 34 runs, has 34 hits, 21 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.
DeGrasse root: Notre Dame pitcher Tim DeGrasse entered the season as the No. 2 starter, but when an injury sidelined Mike Peterson, DeGrasse stepped into the role of workhorse. He's led the Knights to a playoff berth.
"We've ridden him pretty far," Coach Bob Mandeville said of DeGrasse, who is 5-3 with 4 saves and a 1.62 ERA in 69 innings before Tuesday's game. "He's had the right attitude and gets his breaking ball over. That's a great combination."
Royal foiled: Royal was eliminated from playoff contention by blowing late leads in two games last week. In a 6-5 loss to Channel Islands, the tying and winning runs were driven home on a two-out single in the seventh by Steve Couture, who showed up for the game on crutches because of an ankle injury. Couture, who is usually Channel Islands' starting catcher, was the last player available to Coach Don Cardinal.
"His ankle looked like a balloon," Royal Coach Mike McCurdy said. "When you get beat by darn near an invalid, things aren't going well."
Knocking Taft daffy: Taft, which allows more than 10 runs a game, has pitchers who make batting champions. Canoga Park in particular has benefited from the Toreador staff, scoring 47 runs in three games, including a 26-4 trouncing last week. In that game, Alan Paar had five hits and seven RBIs and raised his batting average 81 points to .271.
Chatsworth fell into a first-place tie with Canoga Park in the West Valley League last week, but Coach Bob Lofrano is happy simply to have a shot at a seventh straight title. All three of Chatsworth's wins over fifth-place Reseda were by one run. Two of those wins came with two out in the seventh.
"To have won two games would've been good," Lofrano said. "We're fortunate to have won three."
Prophetic Pressman: Montclair Prep Coach Jeff Pressman said this about Frank Charles and Jeff Light at the beginning of the season: "They're two of the most recruited kids we've ever had here. They're both capable of playing Division I ball."
Last week, Light signed with Stanford and Charles signed with Pepperdine. Light, an outfielder, is batting .414 with 7 home runs and 23 RBIs. He also has a 6-1 pitching record and a 1.69 earned-run average. Charles, a catcher, is batting .392 with 7 home runs and 35 RBIs.