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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Johnson Drives Chaminade

Division IV: Former Little League star has four runs batted in during the Eagles' 13-1 victory over Nordhoff.

May 24, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WEST HILLS — When you're a hometown hero at age 12 and appear on national television, expectations soar for the high school years.

Erik Johnson was everybody's can't-miss baseball prospect after hitting better than .700 and leading Moorpark to the Little League World Series in 1996.

"He was built like a guy ready to go," Coach Scott Drootin recalled when Johnson arrived at Chaminade High three years ago. "But he had to make some adjustments between high school and Little League."

Johnson, a left fielder, is all grown up and having a breakthrough junior season. On Tuesday in a Southern Section Division IV second-round playoff game, he had three hits and four runs batted in to help Chaminade defeat Nordhoff, 13-1, in a game stopped after five innings because of the 10-run rule.

Chaminade (20-6) plays Ridgecrest Burroughs on Friday in the quarterfinals at a site to be determined.

The Eagles scored eight runs in the first inning, then relied on the four-hit pitching of Jason Urquidez (3-2) to eliminate Nordhoff (18-5), the Frontier League champion.

Urquidez started the season ranked among the best pitchers in the Mission League, but a car accident affected his conditioning and shoulder problems caused him to be dropped from the rotation. But he's healthy again, giving Chaminade a terrific one-two pitching punch with sophomore Bobby Paschal (8-0).

"This is the first time I've seen that look in his eyes," Drootin said of Urquidez, who struck out seven and walked one. "His arm is fresh. He went out and challenged a good hitting team."

Nordhoff had trouble adjusting to Chaminade's short right-field fence. In the first inning, the Rangers' first two batters reached base. Then John Hill hit a fly ball to right. Tony Lagos thought the ball was going to hit the screen and took off from first. But right fielder Jim Milkovich easily made the catch and threw to first for the double play.

"It's tough to measure distance," Coach Rob Duran said. "The depth perception is different."

Sophomore Travis Flowers (8-2) faced 14 batters in the first inning and surrendered six hits. Michael Nesbit hit a three-run home run and Ryan Soroka had a two-run triple.

Cody Haerther went three for three, and Milkovich and Nesbit each had two hits.

Johnson, the leadoff batter, scored three runs and hit his fourth home run. He's batting .396 with 28 runs batted in and nine stolen bases.

"When Johnson is on, he's the best," Drootin said.

Johnson said playing in Williamsport, Pa., was a defining moment that has helped him deal with pressure.

"It's an experience I'll never forget," he said. "You can't be under any more pressure as a 12-year-old."

Johnson, 6 feet 1 and 185 pounds, starts at point guard for Chaminade's basketball team and is one of the school's best athletes.

Chaminade finished third in the Mission League but has won 12 of 13 games in a late-season surge that could lead to a semifinal matchup for a trip to Dodger Stadium against league rival Notre Dame if both teams win Friday.

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