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Valley / Ventura County Sports | CLUB SCENE

Sticking Together Pays Off for Stealth

July 28, 1999|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For Manager Don Harris, success and softball are synonymous.

Harris has guided the Southern California Stealth to a top-10 finish in each of the last five Amateur Softball Assn. national tournaments, a top-five finish in three of those years and two of the last three championship games.

The secret of his success has been keeping the nucleus of his team intact, which is no small feat.

While players frequently move from one team to another, the Stealth's Maureen LeCocq, Lauren Rousselet, Kelly Harris, Courtney Whale, Brandi and Lacey Cope and Heather Bell have remained.

"These kids have been together since they were 12 years old," Harris said.

These magnificent seven captured a 14-and-under title in 1996 and are hungry to win the 18-and-under Gold tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn., Aug. 2-8. Because most of the girls will be forced to move up to the women's division next summer, this tournament is considered their last hurrah as teenagers.

But extending the streak of top-10 finishes will be more difficult this year because the Stealth will play without Stanford-bound LeCocq, the staff ace who had surgery earlier this month to repair her left shoulder. LeCocq dislocated the shoulder twice during the high school season and elected to have the surgery now so she would be ready for fall practice.

"If our pitching holds up, we'll be as good as anybody," Harris said. "[But] without LeCocq it's hard to say if we'll be a top-10 team or not. It's hard to replace a LeCocq."

Harris picked up Summer Richardson of Cal State Northridge to complete a four-pitcher rotation that includes Lauren McDonald of Paraclete.

LeCocq, the Gatorade national player of the year last season at Chaminade, pitched only one game for the Stealth this summer--a no-hitter against the Fresno Force in June.

Since then, she's been attending most Stealth games as a spectator. For a player who had been injury-free before this year, life on the sidelines hasn't been easy.

"She's having an extremely hard time sitting and watching," said Marianne LeCocq, Maureen's mother. "It's really hard for her to think she's not a part of it. . . . [but] she can be a good cheerleader."

Sure, just as long as she doesn't throw up her arms in exultation, which was how she dislocated her shoulder for the second time after winning the Southern Section Division IV title.

"Yeah, maybe we'll have to put her in the sling," her mother cracked.

Harris hopes his team can compensate for LeCocq's absence with timely offense and error-free defense, which has been the team's modus operandi this summer.

And no one is doing that better than shortstop Cara Blumfield.

Blumfield, an El Camino Real graduate bound for Boston College on scholarship, turned heads last weekend at the Best of the West tournament in Garden Grove, a tuneup for national tournament-bound teams.

"Cara was all-world this weekend," Harris said.

*

It has been another typical summer for the Valley-based California Commotion.

The Commotion, a women's major division fastpitch team, hasn't played together in a tournament since winning its third consecutive ASA national title a year ago.

With eight Commotion members playing for the U.S. in the Canada Cup, July 3-11, and in the Pan American Games, through Aug. 7, and 11 of the 13 players enduring national team tryouts in June, getting together for a tournament has been impossible.

And unnecessary.

The Commotion, with nine 1996 Olympic gold medalists, has played in only one tournament other than nationals the last three summers. But three national titles proves great players adapt easily and quickly.

The team will unite for only one day before the national tournament begins in Stratford, Conn., Aug. 13-18.

"It's not ideally how we would like to do it," Coach Kirk Walker said. "But it's the only way it could work out."

Even Walker, Oregon State's coach who grew up in Woodland Hills and attended Seventh-day Adventist Academy in Northridge, was unavailable in June.

Walker traveled abroad for the first time to help Spain's national softball team prepare for an Olympic qualifier, working under the auspices of the International Softball Federation.

"They're definitely way behind in their commitment, financial and organizational development of the athletes," Walker said.

"It's only been in the last six years that they've been organized."

Commotion players with Valley ties include Sheila Cornell-Douty (Taft High), Amy Chellevold (Thousand Oaks) and Nichole Victoria (Camarillo).

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