Saddleback Coach Bob Mangram took one last look at the Servite baseball field were his team had been overpowered by three Friar pitchers and overmatched by the Servite bats in an 8-0 loss.
Then he grimaced.
"They really don't belong in this [Golden West] league," Mangram said. "They are that much better than everyone else."
Well, Servite Coach Tom Tereschuk hasn't penciled in section playoff reservations yet. But there is little doubt the Friars, who have won nine of their first 10 and are off to 3-0 league start, are good.
One thing that makes them good is their pitching. There are some hard throwers on Tereschuk's team and three were on display Thursday: starter D.J. Houlton (3-1), who struck out 10 and gave up two hits in five innings; and relievers Jeff Hultner and Brian Wolfe, who combined for five strikeouts and one hit in two innings.
And neither of Servite's top pitchers were on display. No. 1 pitcher Jim Munroe is between starts, and reliever Ryan Brown was sidelined after feeling some pain in his right elbow. Tereschuk said Brown would be examined today.
"We have great depth in our staff," Tereschuk said. "But don't think we haven't been challenged. And even though we're off to a good start, we definitely have to improve some things if we want to be the team we think we can be."
There wasn't much Servite had to work on Thursday, taking advantage of some early gifts.
A two-base error by Roadrunner shortstop Ulisses Velazquez keyed a three-run first inning. Another two-base error by outfielder Hector Espino on Joey Schaefer's leadoff single in the second paved the way for five more Servite runs. The significant blows were a two-run triple by catcher Ryan Garko and a two-run homer by Chris Bailey.
Saddleback starter Juan Cabral (1-2) was not helped by the shaky fielding. But Cabral also struggled with his control, giving up six hits, hitting three batters, walking three and making 61 pitches in two innings.
"He kept getting the ball up," Mangram said. "They are a great fastball hitting team, and every time he got the ball up to their waist or more, they drilled it."
In Olympic League baseball:
Brethren Christian 18, Ontario Christian 0--Aaron Ireland and Edgar Fermen hit grand slams in the fourth inning and Jonathan Rouwenhurst (4-0) pitched a one-hitter with 16 strikeouts for Brethren Christian (6-4, 2-1).
In Pacific Coast League baseball:
Aliso Niguel 13, Estancia 0--Wes Thomas (3-0) threw only 74 pitches in his one-hit victory for Aliso Niguel (7-2, 3-0). Skip Shumaker was four for five with a double and home run for the Wolverines.