The one-year Southern Section ban on playoff activity for Montclair Prep in all sports takes effect in the fall. The penalty states nothing about seasons in progress.
Granted that sliver of daylight, the Mountie baseball team takes the diamond with a carpe diem attitude--knowing that its days to leave a mark on the rest of the Southern Section are numbered.
Montclair Prep has won 11 consecutive games and can clinch a share for the Alpha League title with a win today at L.A. Baptist. That streak serves as prelude to the playoffs, during which the Mounties plan to successfully defend their 1-A Division championship.
\o7 Carpe diem?\f7 Montclair Prep pitcher Russell Ortiz not only seized the day Friday against Maranatha, he throttled it, commanded it and made it his own, pitching a no-hitter that made the Mounties 7-0 in league play and lifted Ortiz's record to 8-1.
At bat, he was four for four.
Ortiz, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior, has posted impressive numbers this season. He has allowed just 21 hits and nine runs in 49 innings for a 1.29 earned-run average and has 69 strikeouts.
In the no-hitter, he faced two batters over the minimum and made just 76 pitches--59 for strikes. He is also 19 for 46 (.413) and has five doubles.
Clearly, this pitcher nicknamed "Pistol" whips his opponents with both barrels. And he does it with a poker face. Not even a no-hitter elicits excitement from Ortiz.
"He's a very quiet kid," Coach Walt Steele said. "He's a goes-about-business type. Very hard to rattle."
But not even Ortiz could remain unflappable in the wake of last week's Southern Section ruling against the Mounties, who admitted to recruiting violations in the football program.
The penalty hits the Montclair Prep junior class hardest.
"I'll worry about that next year," Ortiz said. "I'm not going to worry about that this year. We've been on it from the beginning to repeat this year, and all of us juniors are now wanting to do it so we can win one more before we leave."
Ortiz, an NCAA Division I prospect who says he would like to attend USC or Pepperdine, will get his share of exposure next year, Steele insists.
To compensate for next year's ban from the playoffs, the Mounties will improve their nonleague schedule to maximize the team's visibility.
"We're going to make nonleague as big as possible next year," Steele said. "We'll make it count for as much as possible. Maybe an out-of-state tournament, something like that.
"Of course, in Russell's case, it won't make much of a difference."
Steele said that the Major League Scouting Bureau clocked Ortiz's fastball at 87 miles per hour--which might explain the Pistol's preferred method of firing.
"He brings the fastball until somebody proves they can hit it," Steele said. "Then he adjusts from there."
Against Maranatha, there apparently was no need for adjustment.
No need to adjust Ortiz's plate performance either. When he is not painting the corners, Ortiz can spray the ball into corners and gaps with his bat.
Offensive accomplishments are just added benefits for the Mounties when Ortiz pitches. After a sophomore season in which he was 7-1 with a 1.62 ERA, Ortiz is 15-2 for the Mounties.
He has pitched 100 1/3 innings, allowed 21 earned runs, struck out 119 batters, walked 39 and has a 1.46 ERA--if you're counting.
And count on one more thing: Ortiz will seize every opportunity he gets this year.