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Scouts Take Notice of Inglewood Pitcher

May 29, 1997|ERIC SHEPARD

It is nearly 100 degrees on the baseball field at Inglewood High, but Horacio Ramirez is cool and collected. The heat never seems to bother the left-handed pitcher as he puts on a show for several major league scouts who have gathered for one last critique session before next week's amateur draft.

Ramirez's standing in the draft has improved dramatically in recent months, and he is expected to be

selected in the first 10 rounds, possibly as high as the third round. The three-day draft begins Tuesday.

Inglewood High finished the season with a 13-10 record, its best finish in years but still not good enough to qualify for the playoffs. So while scouts are flocking to local playoff games this week, Ramirez and his coach, Larry McEntee, have improvised. They have held several private sessions for scouts hoping to get one more look.

"We put on a simulated game and let Horacio show off all of his pitches," said McEntee, Inglewood's second-year coach. "The turnout has been impressive."

Until last season, Ramirez was just another high school pitcher, unknown to college coaches or professional scouts. He played first base as a freshman, and when he moved to the mound as a sophomore his numbers were less than impressive.

Things turned around for the better last year when McEntee took over, becoming the school's third coach in as many years. A veteran age-group coach in the South Bay, McEntee centered the rebuilding process around Ramirez, who led the Sentinels to all three of their victories.

The team played together last summer and spent much of the off-season in a conditioning program. The continuity resulted in a fourth-place finish in the Bay League, a victory shy of qualifying for the playoffs.

Ramirez, 6 feet 1 and 165 pounds, almost single-handedly carried Inglewood. He finished his senior campaign with a 9-2 record and an earned-run average of 0.54. He led the league in innings pitched (82) and strikeouts (128) and allowed only one home run and nine doubles. His pitches have been clocked as fast as 91 mph.

He also was selected the league's most valuable player, finishing ahead of such players as Tony Cosentino of West Torrance, who broke the state's career hits record.

"I was so impressed with his endurance," West Torrance Coach Harry Jenkins said of Ramirez. "He has major league stuff with his fastball and curveball."

Ramirez, 17, started the momentum for his senior season last summer by leading his Babe Ruth League age-group team to the World Series in Gulf Port, Miss. The West Torrance team won the series after defeating the entry from Nashville, Tenn.

In three appearances, Ramirez set tournament records for most strikeouts in a game (19) and for a series (38).

Coach Mike Detwiler said many of the scouts at the series approached him, seeking information about Ramirez. They all wanted to know who he was and where he went to school.

"After every game, there were also long lines for his autograph," Detwiler said. "He really made a name for himself there, but he took it all in stride."

Although many of the area's top players have signed with Division I colleges, Ramirez made it clear early on in the recruiting process that he wanted to get drafted or attend a junior college. Players who go to a Division I school are not eligible for the amateur draft until after their junior seasons. Junior college players are eligible for the draft after each year.

"A player of Horacio's caliber is not interested in a four-year college," McEntee said. "If you grow up with baseball on your mind, you don't think about a long college career. When it became clear last year that Horacio had a bright future in this game we talked about his future. He wanted to grow pro right away."

Ramirez said his family supports his decision. He and his parents, Ampelio and Margarita, met with scouts from 10 teams at their home last weekend, including eight in one day. The conversations added to his excitement about the draft.

"All I want to do is play baseball," said Ramirez, who started playing organized ball when he was 11. "I've got a lot riding on the next week."

Ramirez said that if he doesn't get drafted in the first 10 rounds that he probably will opt for the junior college route and is considering Cerritos, El Camino and Harbor colleges. But he hopes to be playing in a rookie league next month.

*

It is a down year for local high school prospects. The only area player expected to go in the first or second round is right-handed pitcher Jon Garland of Granada Hills Kennedy. The 6-4 senior finished the season with an 8-3 record and 1.22 ERA.

Kennedy was eliminated in the City Section Division 4-A playoffs Tuesday by Wilmington Banning in a game in which Garland didn't pitch.

Another player expected to drafted high is Baldwin Park right-handed pitcher Jerry Davis.

The 6-6 senior finished with 6-1 record and 2.64 ERA and also hit .525 with six home runs and six doubles.

*

The Southern Section baseball playoffs were full of upsets in Tuesday's second round. Encino Crespi defeated fourth-seeded Anaheim Servite, 10-9, in Division I; La Mirada defeated top-seeded Placentia El Dorado, 4-3, in Division II, and El Monte Mountain View defeated second-seeded La Habra Sonora, 2-1, in Division III.

The biggest shocker was Santa Fe Springs St. Paul's 12-0 victory over top-seeded El Segundo in Division IV.

St. Paul (19-9) barely made the playoffs after finishing third in the Del Rey League, while El Segundo (24-4) has been the division's top-ranked team most of the season.

Four El Segundo pitchers combined to give up 14 hits, and the Eagles trailed, 7-0, after three innings.

St. Paul is host to West Covina South Hills in a quarterfinal matchup Friday.

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