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Canoga Park's Banner Season Is Long Gone

May 09, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When open enrollment began in 1994, allowing students to attend high schools outside of their neighborhoods, it was a severe blow to Canoga Park High's baseball program.

The Hunters won the City Championship in 1987. The following year, they went 11-7. Since then, Canoga Park has suffered 12 consecutive losing seasons. The Hunters beat Poly, 4-3, last week for their first victory since 1998.

"We just don't have that much baseball talent," Coach Jim Smith said. "Nobody goes out and likes to lose every game, but we try to get them to understand it's not life and death. We still have to work on the basic skills to put us in position to win."

Only 30 players tried out for baseball at Canoga Park this season. More than 130 tried out at nearby El Camino Real.

If Canoga Park could keep neighborhood players, its record might be better. Sophomore pitcher Joe Guntz, who has a 9-0 record for top-ranked Chatsworth, lives in the Canoga Park district.

Top youth players eschew Canoga Park because of the team's losing record and because there is no baseball field on campus. The Hunters play at Lanark Park, which has a flat mound. Attempts to find another field have been unsuccessful.

"We've done everything we can to look for an alternative site," said Principal Denny Thompson, who coached Sylmar to the City Championship in 1980. "Kids are kids and they want to go where there's a field."

But the baseball program's problems didn't discourage freshman catcher Jimmy Roberts, the Hunters' top hitter. Although he lives in the Chatsworth district, Roberts is attending Canoga Park under open enrollment.

"It was a big decision," said Roberts, who was an all-star at Woodland Hills Sunrise Little League. "I wanted to start. I knew I'd get a better chance [at Canoga Park]."

The Hunters (1-14) proved against Poly they can win by playing sound defense.

But keeping players like Roberts will be difficult. At the end of this season, he intends to re-evaluate his situation.

*

Paramedics were called to Birmingham's field Thursday after All-City shortstop Conor Jackson of El Camino Real was hit in the right temple by a bad hop. Jackson was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a concussion. He may be held out of today's game against Cleveland as a precaution.

*

The Delphic League championship will be on the line today when Campbell Hall (16-7, 8-0 in league play) plays Montclair Prep (14-6, 7-1) at Mission Hills Senior Little League.

Pitchers Michael Frost and Matt Kaplan of Campbell Hall pulled off a rare feat last week, throwing consecutive no-hitters against Crossroads. Frost struck out 12 in an 8-0 victory and Kaplan struck out six in a 4-0 victory.

*

Sylmar's pitching staff has recorded four consecutive shutouts in Valley Mission League play. But the real test comes this week, when Sylmar (16-7, 9-3) plays second-place Kennedy (16-10-1, 9-3) today and first-place San Fernando (15-10, 10-2) on Thursday.

"We're confident," Coach Gary Donatella said. "We're playing pretty well, but we know our work is cut out for us."

Ivan Lopez (6-3) and Eddie Camacho (6-2) will start for the Spartans this week.

*

Pitcher Chad Garson of Harvard-Westlake has committed to Michigan. The senior left-hander is 6-3 this season.

*

Shortstop Felipe Tetelboin of Grant went eight for 11 with four doubles in three games last week.

*

Perhaps the most exciting game this season was Canyon's 13-12 Foothill League victory over host Burroughs on Friday.

"By far, it was the craziest game," Coach Adam Schulhofer of Canyon said.

Canyon entered the seventh inning trailing, 6-0. The Cowboys scored 10 runs to take the lead, then saw Burroughs tie the score at 10-10 in the bottom of the seventh.

Josh Lagrotta, pitcher Jake Coash and Ryan Hawkins hit solo home runs in the eighth to put Canyon on top, 13-10. It was Coash's first at-bat of the season. Burroughs closed to 13-12 before Coash got the final out with the bases loaded.

The victory clinched a playoff berth for third-place Canyon (12-6-1, 8-4-1) and dropped Burroughs (14-10, 10-3) two games behind Hart.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Tough Times

Record of the Canoga Park High baseball team since it won the City Championship in 1987:

1988: 11-7

1989: 3-12

1990: 1-17

1991: 0-15

1992: 3-18

1993: 6-15

1994: 8-13

1995: 5-12

1996: 6-15

1997: 5-19

1998: 1-20

1999: 0-22

2000: 1-14

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