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Umpire Explains His Ejection of Topping

April 07, 1998|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

La Habra catcher Jenny Topping was ejected Thursday from the Highlanders' 3-0 nonleague softball victory over El Toro for breaking up a double play that fell under the malicious contact part of the rule book.

Umpire Mark Mazur called it "an over aggressive slide." It raises an interesting question: When breaking up a double play, and not going out of the baseline, what constitutes a rules infraction?

"She slid too late, too aggressive," Mazur said after the game. "That's a judgment on my part. Her arms were in the air and she hooked [her arms] around the fielder. It's an automatic out for the double play and in my opinion it's over aggressive play.

"I didn't think it was overly intentional, just overly aggressive."

As penalty, Topping will miss the next game, Saturday against Trabuco Hills at the Woodbridge tournament.

Photos of the play do not appear to show Topping's arms in the air (which would constitute interference) or indicate Topping "hooking" second baseman Nicole Everett. They appear to show Topping sliding late into the bag and Everett catching the ball as though she were a first baseman.

"I slid a little late and maybe I was over aggressive for high school," said Topping, who will play for Washington. "I was just trying to break up the play."

The rule book cites "malicious contact" in Rule 8-4-2 as grounds for ejection.

"It doesn't say malicious contact is a hard slide," said La Habra Coach Sue Briquelet, who pleaded with Mazur to not eject Topping. "You don't want to hurt anybody, but you want to slide into the base hard so they can't complete the double play. . . . [The rule] gives the umpire a lot of power."

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La Quinta catcher Gerald Laird is threatening to turn the county baseball record book into his own personal journal at the season's midway point.

Laird is batting .622, fourth in the county, and has already broken three county career records.

He has passed former Laguna Hills standout Brett Nista in hits and runs. Through Monday Laird's career hit total had reached 170 (20 short of the state record), and he had scored 138 runs. Nista totaled 155 hits and 128 runs from 1992 to 1994.

Laird hit his 42nd career double in the fourth inning of Friday's 13-3 victory against Los Amigos, surpassing Cypress' Bobby Brito (41, 1993-96).

Laird is four homers shy of the county record set by Fullerton's Keith Ginter (28, 1992-94).

"He's certainly the best player ever at La Quinta," Coach Dave Demarest said. "It would be a bit much to say best player ever in county history. But he is in the upper echelon."

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Geri Campeau announced Monday that she has resigned as girls' basketball coach at Mater Dei to concentrate on getting her master's degree. She will continue as the school's girls' athletic director.

Campeau was an assistant five years and coached the seventh-ranked Monarchs (15-14) one season.

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Brea Olinda's Chelsea Trotter, the only county player to make the All-State first team, and Ocean View's Anna Lembke, named to the second team, were named state Division II and III, respectively, girls' basketball players of the year by Cal-Hi Sports.

Trotter, a 6-2 1/2 forward, averaged 16.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and shot 61.9% from the field. She did not play her freshman season because of a knee injury but played a critical role in Brea's drive to this season's state title.

Lembke, a 6-3 forward who will attend Pepperdine, shot 69.6% from the field and led the county in shooting for the third consecutive season. She averaged 21.3 points and 12.9 points.

Esperanza's Leah Combs and Marina's Natalie Nakase, both seniors, were on the state's second team, for which all girls are eligible, and Brea junior Lindsey Davidson was on the third team.

Davidson and Trotter were named to the Division II team, and Calvary Chapel's Cathy Joens and Brethren Christian's Cindy Oparah were named to the Division IV team.

Davidson, San Clemente's Debby Caine and San Clemente's Colleen Turnbull were part of the statewide all-junior team, while Trotter and El Toro's Giuliana Mendiola were named All-State for the sophomore class.

On the boys' side, Santa Margarita senior guard T.J. Williams, the Times Orange County player of the year, was named to the all-state third team. Williams and Sonora senior guard Jeffrey Berokoff are on the Division II all-state team.

Ocean View junior guard Tony Dow is on the state Division III team, and Calvary Chapel senior guard Joe Ortiz is on the Division IV team.

Santa Margarita's Jerry DeBusk and Brea's Jeff Sink were named state coaches of the year.

DeBusk's Eagles (32-2) won their third boys' Southern Section Division II-AA title and first state Division II title.

Sink coached the Ladycats (33-1) to their 10th section title and sixth state title, their first in four years.

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Though Brea (33-1) was the state's highest-ranked girls' basketball team most of the year, the Ladycats were displaced by Harbor City Narbonne (32-4, including three forfeit losses) in Cal-Hi Sports' final poll.

"Usually, you drop when you lose," Sink said. "Those things happen when championships are decided on factors other than [direct] competition. They have a good team, no doubt."

The rationale, largely, was based on Narbonne dismantling some of the state's top-ranked teams in the playoffs, including No. 3 Berkeley, 67-46, in the Division I state championship game, and Brea's inability to provide similar dominance over lesser ranked opponents.

"I see a case for Narbonne, not that I think they're a better team than us," Sink said. "Berkeley ran with them, and that's hard to do. We might not have employed that tactic for the whole game."

Brea and Narbonne play Jan. 23, 1999, but could also meet at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions in December 1998.

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A free information session about the NCAA's eligibility rules takes place May 7 from 7-9 p.m. at the Anaheim Hilton and Towers. For information, call (913) 339-1906.

Times staff writer Mike Terry contributed to this report.

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