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In New Era, San Fernando Goes Up With Mata's ERA

High school baseball: Tigers batter Kennedy pitcher, who entered with 0.18 mark, for five runs in two innings to close in on first league title since 1990.


GRANADA HILLS — Left-hander Danny Mata of Kennedy High came into a first-place showdown against San Fernando on Tuesday with a Pedro Martinez-like earned-run average of 0.18.

San Fernando wasn't impressed.

"We lit him up last year," Coach Armando Gomez said. "All the kids know him."

The Tigers hit the ball early, often and hard against Mata, collecting seven hits and scoring five runs in two innings on the way to a 7-3 victory over Kennedy to take sole possession of first place in the Valley Mission League.

San Fernando (14-10, 9-2 in league play) is on the verge of winning its first league championship since 1990. The Tigers hold a one-game lead over Kennedy (15-10-1, 8-3) and Sylmar (15-7, 8-3) with four to play.

Pitchers Abraham Gonzalez (7-2) and Jose Montes combined on a four-hitter. Montes pitched three scoreless innings for the save.

Jesus Martinez hit two run-scoring doubles and red-hot Manny Flores added a double and two-run single.

It was a decisive victory for a team that has had few winning seasons since winning the City Championship in 1991. But the addition of four transfers combined with the improvement of several returning players has put San Fernando in position to be a factor in this month's City playoffs.

"Our goal is to get to Dodger Stadium," Gomez said. "I've got all the confidence in the world with these guys. They get it done in the clutch. They won't give up."

Mata (6-2) had not given up an earned run since March 18. But he fell behind in the count, didn't have an effective curveball and was pulled after just two innings.

"I guess everybody is supposed to have a bad outing, but he's not supposed to in a big game," Coach Manny Alvarado of Kennedy said.

What has propelled San Fernando to the top of the Valley Mission League is its pitching. Gonzalez, a transfer from Poly, has become a reliable starter. Montes, who's 6-feet-3 and a three-sport athlete, is a Division I prospect. And Flores also can pitch.

It helps when the Tigers play defense and receive hits with players in scoring position. Except for two dropped fly balls in the first inning, San Fernando made all the routine plays.

Martinez, a junior, came through with RBI doubles in each of the first two innings. He is the third brother to play baseball for the Tigers. The other two, Jose, 23, and Omar, 21, played on losing teams.

If San Fernando were to win the league title, Martinez intends to tell them, "Look, brother, I did this for you."

"It feels real good," Martinez said of beating the Golden Cougars. "I'm real excited. To me, it was the biggest game of the whole season because it shows who was going to be in first place."

San Fernando held a 5-3 lead until picking up two insurance runs in the seventh on run-scoring singles from Jess Moreno and Ronny Mendez.

Flores, an All-City player who transferred from Poly, raised his batting average to .461. He has been on a hitting tear.

"I started off slow," Flores said. "I wanted to crush the ball. Now I'm relaxed and my hands are loose."

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