Gary Morgan has been making out so well lately that he has nearly stopped making outs--and that's made him American Legion's hottest hitter.
In his past four games, the right-hand-batting left fielder for Newhall-Saugus has 14 hits, including 10 for extra bases--six doubles, two triples and two home runs in 18 at-bats.
At one point in the season Morgan unexpectedly was 2 for 15. But he adjusted his batting stance to fix the problem--dipping his shoulders during the swing and, consequently, popping the ball up--and his statistics soared.
Now Morgan is 19 for 45 (.422) with 7 doubles, 19 RBIs, 15 runs scored, and 8 stolen bases.
The secret of his success?
"It's hard to explain," said Morgan, 17. "It just feels like anything coming up to the plate--I'm going to hit it somewhere hard."
And Morgan almost always hits it somewhere . He has struck out only once in 45 at-bats this season and just four times in 125 American Legion at-bats over the past two years. "I've just always been able to put the bat on the ball," Morgan said. "And that helps me because I can always get the bloop double or the bloop single even if I don't hit the ball well."
Morgan has six hits in his last six at-bats. The longer that streak continues, the more buoyed he will be in the wake of, for him, a not-so-successful high school season.
It's not that Morgan had a bad year playing shortstop for Canyon High.
To the contrary, he batted .372 and was named to the All-Southern Section second team--a good year by most players' standards, but not the demanding ones Morgan sets for himself; in 1986 he batted .480 to lead the Golden League.
"It was frustrating because I know I can do better," Morgan said. "If I thought I was a .380 hitter I'd be satisfied, but I know I can hit better than that.
"I was expected to do more this year and I let a lot of my teammates down. I'm going to try to not let it happen again."
Morgan has helped Newhall-Saugus' to a 10-2 record and first-place standing in the District 20 Northern Division. He leads the team in hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, stolen bases and total bases.
"We just put him in the No. 3 spot in the batting order and let him hit," Coach Don Pederson said, "because he's so consistently excellent."
Triple trend-setters: Through games of June 23, four of the top five triples hitters among area legion teams were from one team, Burbank-Burroughs.
Tom Ressler and E.J. Pape of Burbank-Burroughs were tied with Encino-Tarzana's Jordan Cook for the lead in triples with 4. Burbank-Burroughs Bill Morris and John Buller each had three.
The Burbank-Burroughs players have a propensity for hitting triples because of where they play their home games. The outfield fence at Northwest Park stops in left-center field--there is no right-field or center-field fence--and dead-center is 495 feet from home plate.
Thus, any ball hit out of the reach of outfielders rolls . . . and rolls . . . and rolls, causing dismay for fielders and triples for batters.
"It's a shame because most of these triples would be home runs in any other ballpark," Burbank-Burroughs Coach Bill Issacson said. "The kids have got to be fast to play the outfield here.
"The ball just takes off when it hits the ground and it just rolls."
The case of the missing baseball: In the second game of a doubleheader between San Fernando and Burbank-Burroughs on June 21, a baseball was in play one moment, down a shirt the next.
With an explanation is San Fernando shortstop Anthony Munoz, the player whose shirt masqueraded as a glove:
"There was a man on second base and he was stealing. The guy batting hit a hard grounder to short and as soon as the runner crossed in front of me, the ball took a little bad hop.
"It went up my sleeve and around my back. My glove never even touched it.
"I saw the hump in my back, so I pulled it out of there. The guy ended up getting a single and the other runner stayed on third because he didn't know where the ball was.
"Nobody knew where the ball was for three or four seconds-- maybe five. Then I just kind of pulled it out casually. It was really funny."
Hawaiian punch?: Encino-Crespi Coach Craig Sherwood has had Hawaii on his mind a lot lately.
Outfielders Chris Greenamyer and Pat Murphy and pitcher Chris Spears are in Hawaii vacationing and will not be available to play until July 11 and 12.
Another pitcher, Chad Nichols, is scheduled to leave for Hawaii today, and he won't play until the weekend of July 18-19.
"I'm glad for them," Sherwood said. "But it makes things a little rough to be competitive.
"At least it will give me a chance to let some of the young kids play."
Unless the Islands beckon them, too.