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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Sylmar Makes Gains in Losses

Baseball: Spartans figure the experience will help after losing, 12-0 and 7-3, in Las Vegas.

April 11, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAS VEGAS — Ivan Hernandez, a talented junior pitcher from Sylmar High, passed the first test if he ever wants to play professional baseball.

On a long, disappointing day that started with a 6:30 a.m. hotel wake-up call and ended with his team suffering a doubleheader defeat, Hernandez wasn't fazed one bit.

"It's a good experience," he said. "Everybody was tired. You just have to get used to it."

Sylmar began the Bishop Gorman tournament Friday with an 11-1 record. Then the Spartans lost to host Silverado, 12-0, on a five- inning no-hitter by Robby Van.

An hour later, the Spartans were beaten by the No. 1 team in Utah, the Alta Hawks, 7-3.

Hernandez and his Sylmar teammates displayed the kind of resiliency they will need to contend for a City Section 4-A championship.

Hernandez (5-1) threw 134 pitches in 6 2/3 innings against Alta (11-1). The plate umpire declined to call strikes on the corner, forcing Hernandez to keep his cool and find other ways to succeed.

By the bottom of the sixth inning, he was trailing, 3-0, but the Spartans were still in the game. Up came sophomore center fielder Eddie Camacho with two runners on base. Moments before, his mother, Debbie, won $42 in a 50-50 raffle. The Las Vegas luck stayed with Eddie, who hit a three-run home run over the right-field fence to tie the game.

Alta, however, kept the pressure on Hernandez and broke through for four runs in the seventh, the key hit a run-scoring single by Darrin Elggren.

"[Hernandez] throws with decent velocity, but he's not totally overpowering, so he has to have the outside of the plate," Sylmar Coach Gary Donatella said. "He's not a moaner and groaner. Then I see his frustration and I'm starting to wonder [about the calls]."

Even in defeat, Hernandez showed he's the reason the Spartans are confident they can compete with any team when he's on the mound.

He struck out six, walked five and allowed nine hits. He battled from start to finish and didn't want to come out despite his pitch count.

"I still felt strong," he said.

Seth Johnson, a senior right-hander being recruited by Miami and Brigham Young, shut out Sylmar for five innings, striking out seven while allowing three hits.

Sylmar's hitting needs improvement but Donatella has learned his players respond to challenges.

"We've had only one day of practice this year where we didn't come out ready to get better," he said.

Sylmar finishes tournament play today, then returns to the Valley to resume Valley Pac-8 Conference play on Monday against Van Nuys.

Looming ahead are conference showdowns with rivals Poly and North Hollywood.

"This was a good experience," Hernandez insisted.

With that kind of attitude, Hernandez figures to have a bright future, just like Sylmar.

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