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CITY 3-A BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP : South Gate Pounds Crenshaw to Win 1st Title in 33 Years


The South Gate Rams were awe-struck.

The baseball team on Thursday dressed in the Dodger Stadium locker room and took the field to compete for a City Section 3-A championship. For 11 seniors, it may have been their last time in an organized baseball game.

But the Rams were not intimidated by the Crenshaw Cougars, who were making a return trip to the finals, or pitcher Mark Jones and his 16-0 record. South Gate (26-5) had two big innings--scoring three runs in the second and four more in the fifth--to beat Crenshaw, 9-5.

It was the Rams' third City title, and their first since 1960. They also won in 1955.

"We've been to the playoffs three consecutive years, but we would come up a dollar short," said Rams catcher Carlos Molina, a senior. "This year we cashed it in."

Jones (16-1) had been virtually unstoppable all season, throwing two no-hitters. Cougar pitching coach Ken Allen said the senior right-hander looked good warming up in the Dodger bullpen.

"He was a big horse for us during the season," Allen said. "He never had control problems. But he couldn't find the tempo (in the championship game). He couldn't find his proper release point. I have nothing but praise for him because he was the reason we were in the playoffs."

However, Jones gave up more hits (six), walks (eight) and earned runs (six) in 4 2/3 innings than in any seven-inning game this season. And the Cougars' fielding--they committed three errors--made matters worse.

"We made too many errors and didn't get enough hits," shortstop Brian Murray said. "That's a bad combination."

While Rams Richard Alcantar and Alonso Lopez combined to throw a four-hitter, South Gate picked apart Jones with walks, heads-up base running and a few timely hits. Raul Quintero had a two-run triple and Jose Montenegro had a run-scoring single to account for the three runs in the second.

After the Cougars fought back to tie the score, 3-3, in the third, South Gate scored one run in the fourth and four more in the fifth to break the game open. Julian Sanchez's RBI double and Robert Felix's sacrifice fly were the big hits in the fifth. Jones also made a costly error at shortstop after being removed as pitcher. He left the game with the Cougars trailing, 8-3, after five innings.

"He had a great curveball, but he was wild," Montenegro said. "We were very fortunate to win."

The Cougars (24-4) did have their moments. Dameon Porter had a run-scoring single in the first and made two diving catches in center field. Murray added a two-run single in the third. But the Rams are the ones who took home the best memories.

"This feels great," said Alcantar after signing a souvenir baseball. "I never thought I would play at Dodger Stadium."

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