East co-Coach Gary Donatella rubbed his bruised rib cage and wondered aloud what had gone wrong. If Donatella ever wondered how many stitches there are in a baseball, all he has to do is check the divot in his right side, where on Saturday a deflected Roger Salkeld fastball slammed into him at about 90 m. p. h.
Before the Bernie Milligan All-Star baseball game, in fact, the Sylmar High coach even took precautions to make sure something like this wouldn't happen. Pregame arrangements or not, however, in the second inning, Donatella was temporarily on his knees.
And so was his team.
"Before it started, I told a couple of guys, 'When Salkeld's on the hill, you stand here and you stand here,' " said Donatella, who was knocked down while standing in the first-base dugout. "I don't know what happened. Call it inexperience--it was my first all-star game."
The shot Donatella absorbed--a second-inning foul ball off the bat of West infielder Terry Hill--wasn't the only rocket hit off the All-American right-hander, but the East rallied from a sluggish start and put the slug on the West, 13-5, at Cal State Northridge.
The win was the fourth in a row for the East, which leads the series, 8-5.
As improbable as it sounds, the West held a 3-1 lead after two innings against Salkeld, and more than a few wished the Southern Section 3-A Division Player of the Year and first-round draft choice could have stayed in the game a little longer.
"Three runs off of Salkeld, we were looking good," West co-Coach Kevin Campbell quipped. "Too bad we didn't get him for nine innings."
Indeed, after scoring three runs in the bottom of the second--for the sake of comparative analysis, Salkeld allowed only nine earned runs in 108 2/3 innings this season--the West took a 3-1 lead. The West banged out four consecutive hits in the inning, including a double to right by Jason Shapiro and singles by Pat DeBoer and Jason Jones, all of which drove in runs. The rally raised the eyebrows of one team and the hopes of another.
As Donatella can testify, a 90 m.p.h. pitch travels just as fast when it's coming the other way.
"When you've got a lot of good hitters and you throw the ball hard, it's going to be hit hard," West co-Coach Dave Desmond said.
Salkeld, who had not pitched under game conditions in two weeks, agreed.
"They hit the ball well," he said. "It's an all-star team, the best players in the section. They're supposed to hit the ball."
After a leadoff double in the first inning by Jones, Salkeld struck out the side before running into trouble in the second.
"We were a little surprised by that," Donatella said of Salkeld's second-inning struggle. "I asked him if he wanted to go back in after that and he said, 'No problem.' "
Maybe Salkeld--who earned the victory--knew something, because the East scored twice in the third and four times in the fourth against losing right-hander Mitch Cizek of Kennedy, who surrendered seven hits, walked three and hit a batter in 1 2/3 innings. Salkeld left after the third inning.
Like Donatella, the West could run, but it couldn't hide.
"Everybody on this team is a good hitter," said East first baseman Ray Gardocki of Hart, who was three for four with three runs batted in and was named the game's most valuable player. "We were just having fun, we were all relaxed."
The East put a sleeper hold on the West in the seventh. Trailing, 8-5, the West loaded the bases against right-hander Roland De La Maza. However, Mike Murray struck out looking on an 0-and-2 curve and Vince Simili grounded to short.
The East scored two unearned runs in the eighth on a two-run single by Jose Gallegos of Sylmar to take a 10-5 lead. The West committed five errors in all, botched a run-down play that led to a run and stranded a runner in every inning but the eighth.
"Some weird things happened," Desmond said. "We didn't play defensively very well, we missed some scoring chances . . . Maybe the moons weren't aligned or something."
A ninth-inning moon shot by East designated-hitter Bobby Hughes gave the East a 13-5 lead. Hughes finished with two hits and four RBIs.
For a while, it looked promising for the underdog West, especially early. Expecting to get plowed under in a harvest of heat, the West was knocked down by a bushel of bats.
"But they had the timely hits and we made some errors at bad times," Campbell said. "It's an all-star game. Everyone here can hit."