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San Marino Coach: 'Nobody's a Loser'

June 08, 1989|MITCH POLIN | Times Staff Writer

For longtime baseball coach Mickey McNamee of San Marino High, it wasn't quite the ending that he had in mind.

McNamee was hoping that his team could complete a surprising season with a CIF Southern Section 2-A championship last week.

But the Titans fell a little short. San Marino lost to El Segundo, 7-4, in the title game at Dodger Stadium.

But, all things considered, McNamee said he has plenty of reasons to be proud of San Marino's accomplishments.

"When you get this far nobody's a loser," he said. "We're extremely proud of the year we had. We're not going to hang our heads."

The team finished better than most people had expected at the start of the season. "No one felt we could get this far, so that's a big accomplishment for us," junior pitcher Dan Giddings said.

With most of its top players having graduated from a team that was 14-11 and reached the 2-A quarterfinals last year, McNamee started with the modest goal of reaching the Southern Section playoffs.

"If you get to the playoffs you have a chance to make it (to the championship game)," McNamee said.

That has been an achievable goal over the years for San Marino, which has reached the Southern Section playoffs 19 of the last 21 years. The school had made the finals three times in McNamee's 26 years as coach, including division titles in 1977 and 1984. So it wasn't surprising to see the Titans in postseason play again.

San Marino finished the regular season second to Temple City in the Rio Hondo League at 12-3 and 18-3 overall.

At the start of the playoffs, despite the fact that the Titans were not among the seeded teams, Giddings liked his team's chances:

"At the beginning of the year, our feeling was just to get to the playoffs. Once we got there, I knew we could go this far. We felt good about the way we played to get here."

San Marino defeated Bloomington, 10-6; Whittier Christian, 5-1; fourth-seeded St. Bernard, 7-3, and top-seeded Gladstone, 4-3, to reach the championship game. The Titans beat Gladstone with three runs in the bottom of the last inning.

McNamee said the team entered the finals with hitting, pitching and defense.

The Titans finished the season with a solid .334 batting average. The leaders were senior shortstop Marty Willhite, who had a .438 average, three home runs and 34 runs batted in; junior third baseman Blair Slattery at .407 with 24 RBIs, senior second baseman David Kadin at .351 and junior outfielder Mark Ukropina at .346 with 32 RBIs.

The pitchers compiled an impressive 2.15 earned-run average. The leaders were Giddings at 9-2 with a 2.77 ERA and junior Michael Wan at 8-1 with a 2.27 ERA.

It was defense that let the Titans down in the championship game. In five innings as a starter, Giddings allowed only three earned runs. But El Segundo took advantage of four San Marino errors to take an insurmountable 7-2 lead after five.

"The problem very simply was we did not play a very good defensive game," McNamee said. "We did not make the defensive plays when we had to and consequently they took advantage of our mistakes, and that's what a good team does."

He added: "We certainly hit the ball well enough (eight hits), and Giddings pitched well enough to be in the game. We just didn't make the plays behind him. If we played defense, it could have been a different game."

On this occasion, the Titans were left a little defenseless.

Not the best way to finish a successful season. San Marino ended the year at 22-4 and El Segundo--winning its sixth Southern Section baseball title since 1965--was 26-5.

Giddings said the defeat "gives us a little incentive for next year. I don't like dealing with next year right now, but I think it gives us a goal to reach out for."

For Giddings, playing in the Southern Section championship at Dodger Stadium fulfilled a lifelong desire.

"It's something I'll definitely remember," he said. "When I was young, I always dreamed about playing at Dodger Stadium and to have had the chance was great.

"But I would've liked to win it. Hopefully we can get back here and win it next year."

With several top starters returning, that prospect appears to be a distinct possibility.

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