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Valley / Ventura County Sports

Crespi Stumbles Without Leveque

Mission: Right-hander leaves with an elbow problem after three perfect innings and Celts fall to Notre Dame, 7-1, as Polanco has another outstanding outing.

April 15, 1999|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SHERMAN OAKS — In the biggest game of the season, pitcher Tim Leveque of Crespi High never felt better.

"I thought this was possibly the best stuff I've had in my whole high school life," Leveque said.

Through three innings against Notre Dame on Wednesday, Leveque retired every batter. Radar guns had his fastball clocked at 89 mph. No one could hit his curveball, either.

"He threw me $2 million curveballs," said second baseman Brendan Ryan, who struck out in the first inning. "I had no chance."

But Leveque felt "something give" in his right elbow at the end of the third inning, told Coach Scott Muckey he couldn't continue pitching and the game suddenly changed.

Ryan and Matt Cunningham hit consecutive home runs off emergency replacement Michael Jackson in the fourth, and host Notre Dame (13-3, 5-0 in league play) went on to secure a 7-1 victory over the Celts in a battle for first place in the Mission League.

Phillip Polanco (7-0) became the region's first seven-game winner, striking out a career-high 13 in six innings and allowing three hits despite sporadic wildness [he walked five].

"I thought [Polanco] did a great job," Muckey said. "He flat-out overmatched us."

Polanco struck out the side three times. In the sixth, three times the count went to 3-2 on Crespi batters, and each time they struck out.

Polanco, who signed with the University of San Francisco, has dedicated the season to his father, who was killed last year in a construction accident.

"My dad is my motivation for the entire year," he said.

Polanco entered the game with an 0.64 earned-run average, lowest in the region. He gave up only a second-inning home run to Jackson.

But Leveque was convinced a 1-0 lead might hold up for the Celts (13-4, 4-1) the way he was pitching.

"This was probably the hardest I was throwing, the most command I had. I was throwing all three pitches for strikes, but, hey, life's not fair," he said.

Leveque, who signed with Michigan, went to the bullpen in the fourth to test his elbow, but quickly decided not to risk further injury.

Coach Tom Dill of Notre Dame didn't mind seeing Leveque out of the game.

"That was the change in the game," Dill said. "He was dominating and he gets stronger and stronger, so if you don't get him early. . . . I was thinking he's on today and we're not going to touch him."

Notre Dame greeted Jackson harshly. Ryan and Cunningham hammered balls over the left-field fence. Two other Crespi pitchers, Marshall Plouffe and Clint Kofmehl, each gave up two runs.

The two teams play again on Friday at Valley College. Muckey is most concerned about Leveque, who will likely see a doctor today about his elbow.

"Hopefully, it's not [serious]," Muckey said. "To lose your No. 1 guy on a predominantly pitching team. . . . That's the first time I've had [a pitcher] come out of the game with an injury."

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