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CITY 3-A BASEBALL : Jones Suffers 1st Loss as South Gate Defeats Crenshaw

June 06, 1993|CHARLES SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With picturesque Elysian Park as his backdrop, Mark Jones seemed poise to pitch another masterpiece.

The Crenshaw High baseball pitcher entered the City 3-A final Thursday with a 16-0 record in a season that included back-to-back no-hitters.

But on this day, Jones was not as brilliant as usual and Crenshaw fell to South Gate, 9-5, at Dodger Stadium.

"I just wasn't myself today," Jones said. "My pitches just weren't working for me."

The loss marked Crenshaw's second in the finals in as many years. Last season, the Cougars were defeated by the Fremont Pathfinders.

"We didn't come here to finish in second place again," Crenshaw athletic director Moss BenMoche said before the game.

Unfortunately, neither Jones nor his teammates performed as they had during the regular season, in which Crenshaw (24-4, 17-2 in league) easily won the Southern League title.

After Jones struck out Raul Quintero to start the game, all indications were that Crenshaw's ace would have another great outing. But South Gate's Smiley Lopez and Jesse Torres drew walks and Jones started to struggle.

South Gate failed to score any runs, but succeeded in making Jones labor to get out of the first inning.

"We had heard that (Jones') curveball broke outside the strike zone, so we stayed away from that," South Gate Coach Mike Ryan said. "We did swing at some bad balls, but most of the game our hitters were patient."

That patience paid off for Quintero in his second encounter with Jones. He hit a two-run triple to help give South Gate a 3-1 lead.

Jones was having trouble staying ahead of Ram hitters, a problem that also plagued him in Crenshaw's narrow victory over Bell in the semifinals.

Against Bell, Jones walked three consecutive batters with one out in the seventh inning.

Jones' control problems resurfaced in the fifth inning on Thursday, when he walked one and threw two wild pitches before being relieved. He threw his glove to the ground as he reached the dugout with his team down, 7-3.

He had reason to be upset. His stat sheet for the championship game indicated eight walks, six hits, six earned runs, three strikeouts and three walks in 4 2/3 innings--far below par for the team's ace.

"He was pitching from behind and a solid-hitting team (like South Gate) will hurt you," Crenshaw Coach Major Dennis said.

Still, Jones' surprisingly poor performance in the finals cannot tarnish his sterling season.

During one stretch, he retired 25 straight batters and threw three consecutive shutouts, including consecutive no-hitters against San Pedro and Gardena.

Jones took his only loss of the season with expected disbelief and disappointment but his outlook remained positive: "My attitude is that you can't win them all so I must rebound from here."

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