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Prep Playoffs at a Glance : SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION I BASEBALL FINAL

June 05, 1993|MIKE REILLEY

* Today's schedule: Esperanza vs. Simi Valley, Anaheim Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

* Last year's final: Long Beach Millikan beat Diamond Bar, 5-4.

* Outlook: Esperanza hopes to add a fifth section title for the 1992-93 season. The Aztecs already have won titles in water polo, boys' soccer, boys' volleyball and shared the football title with Los Alamitos. But the baseball team's road to the championship could hit a serious speed bump tonight against second-seeded Simi Valley, top-ranked in USA Today's national poll. The Aztecs take a 15-game winning streak into the championship game. Orange County fans know about the Pioneers, who beat Irvine, 7-6, April 8 in the finals of the Upper Deck Classic. Simi Valley has been known to put on some home-run derby performances. The Pioneers pounded eight homers in their first two playoff victories, led by catcher Kevin Nykoluk (five for eight with three homers and five RBIs) and second baseman Britten Pond (three for five with four RBIs, four runs and two homers). Simi Valley, hitting .389 as a team, scored seven runs in the first two innings in its semifinal victory over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, so an early lead is a must for Esperanza. It won't be easy against Trevor Leppard, who has a 1.89 earned-run average and 77 strikeouts. But not everything is working in Simi Valley's favor. The Pioneers are making their first championship-game appearance, so Esperanza gets the nod for tradition. The Aztecs are making their fourth title-game appearance in eight seasons. The Aztecs won the 4-A title in 1986 and finished No. 1 nationally. They also finished second in the section in 1987 and 1988. How did the Aztecs get to the finals again? Timely hitting and some outstanding pitching from Marcus Jones and George Hart. Hart, who has come back from elbow surgery in December, has two playoff victories in his only starts of the year. He has two other victories in late-season relief. Jones (11-2), who is expected to start against Simi Valley, has been the team's top pitcher as well as a key hitter. Jones, shortstop Poncho Ruiz and catcher Jason Murrietta--the heart of the batting order--provide most of the power for the Aztecs, who are batting .340 as a team. Esperanza Coach Mike Curran is still unsettled on the No. 8 spot in the lineup, choosing between Joe Quesada and Jeremy Viscusi.

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