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Schwal's Title Try Shot Down by Friendly Fire

Baseball: Poly coach watches his mentor, Manny Alvarado, lead Kennedy to 4-A crown.


If it had to be somebody, Kennedy High baseball Coach Manny Alvarado would have handpicked Poly Coach Chuck Schwal to beat his top-seeded Golden Cougars.

After all, Alvarado the mentor taught Schwal the student everything he knows about the game.

"Well, he doesn't know everything because I'm learning something every day," Alvarado cracked.

On Wednesday night in the City Section 4-A Division championship game at Dodger Stadium, Alvarado had another lesson for his former assistant coach. It was called the art of the comeback.

Kennedy overcame a three-run deficit and defeated Poly, 5-4, to win its fifth City baseball title since 1981.

Poly jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and Parrot senior right-hander Steve Guerrero cruised through the first three innings, allowing only one hit.

But Kennedy scratched out a run in the fourth and Guerrero found himself in more trouble in the fifth when he allowed a couple of singles and a walk.

After Guerrero surrendered a run-scoring single to Fernando Centeno to cut the lead to 3-2, Schwal made a visit to the mound.

But after a few moments with Guerrero, Schwal, whose first coaching assignment was as a pitching coach for Alvarado in 1989, walked back to the dugout. Then he turned around, went back to the mound and brought in reliever Jerry Heredia.

Aldo Pinto promptly slugged a two-run double off the left-field wall on Heredia's first pitch to give the Golden Cougars a 4-3 lead. On the third pitch Heredia threw, David Soto singled to drive in Pinto for a 5-3 Kennedy lead.

Three pitches, three runs and the Poly lead was lost forever.

"I blew the game," Schwal said. "When I got back to the dugout my pitching coach and I looked at each other and I changed my mind. It was the wrong move."

While Schwal opted to yank his starter in a crisis, Alvarado stuck with his ace when he was getting shelled in the first inning. Derek Morse (15-0) gave up three consecutive hits to the second, third and fourth batters he faced and all of the sudden, Poly led, 3-0.

Once again, Schwal, who served as Kennedy junior varsity coach under Alvarado from 1990-92 before taking over at Poly in 1993, learned a valuable lesson from his mentor.

"[Alvarado] is not just somebody off the street," Schwal said. "He's somebody I coached with and he's a friend. A lot of my program revolves around what he taught me. But I adapted it to fit my style.

"Manny taught me the way to play baseball. If I didn't go to Kennedy, I really believe my coaching career would have gone another way. It wouldn't have been as positive. He taught me a fun way to play baseball."

And in the end, if Schwal had to pick somebody to lose to, he would undoubtedly pick his teacher and his friend.

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