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Casting Off

There's nothing fishy about the play of Matt Friedrichsen, whose school-record 11 home runs have helped Hart reach the Division II final today.


NEWHALL — Matt Friedrichsen is swinging, but he's not going after a fastball this time.

Friedrichsen, the quiet star of the Hart High baseball team, is casting his rod and reel while he fishes for brown trout at Castaic Lake, his favorite hangout when he's not wearing cleats.

Even during baseball season, the junior outfielder makes it to the lake once or twice a week, where he baits his hook, tosses in his line and watches the world go by.

"It's a total different state of mind," Friedrichsen said.

Friedrichsen, who once caught a 150-pound marlin while deep-sea fishing in Cabo San Lucas, will chase a different type of whopper when Hart plays Righetti at 4:30 p.m. today in the Southern Section Division II championship game at Edison Field in Anaheim.

Second-seeded Hart (26-4) has never won a division title, though Friedrichsen is doing his best to help the Indians earn one.

He smashed two home runs in a 16-0 semifinal victory over Don Lugo on Tuesday, giving him 11 for the season, a school record he shares with teammate Jamie Shields.

Shields, the Indians' ace pitcher, said he knew Friedrichsen would be successful.

"He's just a great hitter when he's in the box," Shields said.

But Shields didn't expect to engage in a good-natured race with Friedrichsen for the home-run record, a small-scale version of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

"When I hit a home run, he's one of the first people at the plate to greet me," Shields said. "He's right there to root me on."

Friedrichsen, Hart's only starting outfielder without an error this season, has been passionate about baseball since childhood, a fact well known by his mother, Cathi, who used to play catch with him in the front yard when he was 8.

"He seemed to always want to play ball," said Cathi, who remembers the velocity he had on the ball back then. "It started breaking the blood vessels in my hand."

A reserve for the first half of his sophomore season, Friedrichsen became a starter after hitting two grand slams in a game against Burbank last season.

Friedrichsen, who will return next season, hopes to send retiring Coach Bud Murray out a winner after 22 years at Hart.

"I wish he'd stay one more year," Friedrichsen said. "I'd like to do this again. I just hope we win this one for him."

Murray and assistant coach Tim O'Brien will be wearing extra jewelry today, even if they don't win a championship ring.

The Hart coaches lost a bet with pitcher Justin Wiley, today's expected starter, who predicted the Indians would reach the Division II final. Murray and O'Brien said they'd get their ears pierced if that happened.

After Hart's victory Tuesday, Murray, 63, showed up Wednesday at school with a happy-face stud in his ear. O'Brien wore a ladybug stud.

"Honestly, I didn't think they'd do it," Shields said of the coaches. "But they kept their word. They did it for the team."

Righetti pitcher John Thomas, a senior left-hander, was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the amateur draft Wednesday.

But Righetti is expected to pitch by committee against Hart because Thomas (11-0) pitched six innings on Tuesday and has only four innings left until he reaches the 10-inning weekly limit.

Baseball Playoffs

* Who: Santa Maria Righetti (24-6) vs. Hart (26-4).

* What: Southern Section Division II championship game.

* Where: Edison Field in Anaheim.

* When: Today, 4:30 p.m.

* Tickets: $7 for adults; $3 for children under 12.

* Key players: Righetti--Pitcher John Thomas (11-0, 1.08 earned-run average); First baseman Kyle Wilson (.460, eight home runs, 39 runs batted in); Left fielder Adam Gardner (.435, seven home runs). Hart--Pitcher Jamie Shields (.472, 11 home runs, 43 RBIs; 10-0, 2.08 ERA); Center fielder Matt Friedrichsen (.400, 11 home runs, 41 RBIs); Pitcher Justin Wiley (11-1, 2.76 ERA); Shortstop Tim Hutting (.516, nine doubles, 36 RBIs).

* Fast fact: Hart has never won a Southern Section championship. Hart lost to Cerritos, 4-1, in the 4-A Division final in 1989.

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