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City Title Is Valley's Domain

Region Baseball Teams Have Played In Many Memorable Games and Have Dominated the 4-A Division, Winning 23 of the Past 24 Championships

May 28, 1997|ROB FERNAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Few if any City Section baseball finals could boast the star power of the 1979 4-A Division championship game: Granada Hills High and John Elway against Crenshaw and its multitalented prodigy, Darryl Strawberry.

Years later, Granada Hills Coach Darryl Stroh recalled that one of the game's most vivid images was of an embarrassed Strawberry, who was pitching, slipping while fielding a squeeze bunt in the Highlanders' 10-4 victory.

"While he laid there pounding his glove on the ground, our runner from second scored too," said Stroh, who secured his fourth City title in five years.

Valley teams have left the rest of the City Section feeling down and out for some time, winning 23 of the past 24 4-A titles. The final tonight between Banning and El Camino Real at Dodger Stadium could extend the region's dominance.

A look back at some of the memorable championship games:

1973

Sylmar 3, Kennedy 2

Sylmar was down to its last gasp. Kennedy, which had beaten the Spartans three times in the regular season, led, 2-1, with two out in the seventh inning, no one on base and two strikes on pinch-hitter Gary Lawrence.

Lawrence kept Sylmar's hopes alive with a walk and pinch-runner Dale O'Brien stole second. Chuck Lyon followed with a line-drive single to force extra innings.

In the ninth, Rich Kochie's run-scoring single won it for the Spartans, starting a Valley run of 19 consecutive major-division titles.

It was the first of six appearances in the final for Kennedy, which was in its second year of existence.

"For us to make it as an unproven commodity, a new school, was unexpected," said Jim Anderson, who played right field as a sophomore for Kennedy and enjoyed a major-league career as an infielder. "But once we got there we expected to beat Sylmar."

1976

Granada Hills 2, Monroe 1

Dave Cicero pitched a two-hitter to out-duel Scott Olshane and give the Highlanders their second straight title.

Granada Hills began the season 1-6 before winning eight in a row to qualify for the playoffs. "We squeaked in," Stroh said.

Olshane pitched an outstanding game for Monroe, but a two-run single by Ron Oddo in the fourth inning was all Cicero needed.

1977

Cleveland 5, Carson 4

Good thing for Cleveland that catcher Paul Romero had been an All-City linebacker. The 5-foot-9, 197-pound Romero broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the seventh when he scored from third on a passed ball, knocking the ball loose from the pitcher in a collision at the plate.

"He made a head-first, rolling block," said Marty Siegel, a Cleveland assistant.

Nine of the Cavaliers' 13 players were members of the football team that had been routed by Banning, 34-0, in the 4-A final the previous fall. "Our idea was, we blew the football title, but we won't blow the baseball title," Siegel said.

1979

Granada Hills 10, Crenshaw 4

Granada Hills starter John Stevens appeared to run out of gas in the third inning, and when Stroh visited the mound, the coach could not avoid the glare of Elway, his third baseman.

"John gave me a look like, 'What are you waiting for?' " Stroh recalled.

Elway had not pitched since an early season outing in which he walked six and hit three batters. Yet he allowed Crenshaw only two hits the rest of the way and struck out future major leaguer Chris Brown for the final out.

1982

Cleveland 13, Palisades 0

It's common knowledge that Bret Saberhagen pitched the only no-hitter in City finals history. What isn't widely known is that it took several defensive gems to preserve it.

Cavalier second baseman Tom Brandt was saddled with the indignity of ruining Saberhagen's perfect game by committing a first-inning error. Actually, Brandt preserved the no-hitter with the play, diving to his left to smother a ground ball and making a throw to first in time for the out. But first baseman Mark Markland dropped the throw.

"Markland said in the dugout, 'Coach, I just missed it,' " Cleveland Coach Leo Castro said. "For some reason, the official scorekeeper gave the error to Brandt."

In the seventh, John La Rosa, who had replaced Markland at first, made a diving stop on a sharp ground ball and catcher Glenn Newhouse pounced on a bunt and threw out the runner by a step.

1985

Kennedy 10, Banning 9

Sophomore Kevin Farlow provided perhaps the most memorable finish in a championship game by hitting a two-out home run barely inside the left-field foul pole in the bottom of the seventh.

"He hit it high, so we weren't sure if it was going out," said Kennedy Coach Dick Whitney.

A bases-loaded double by George Gonzalez gave Kennedy a 6-1 lead in the second, but Banning pecked away. The Golden Cougars needed a superb relief effort from Sandy Sreden to set the stage for Farlow.

1986

Grant 5, Granada Hills 1

Grant right-hander Rodney Beck turned the final into his personal showcase, pitching a three-hitter and striking out seven.

"We couldn't hit that slider on the outside corner," Stroh said of Beck, now the San Francisco Giants closer and the National League leader in saves with 15.

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