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SOFTBALL

Turner Looks Healthier, Kennedy Feeling Better

April 17, 2001|MARTIN HENDERSON

The diagnosis was inconclusive. The only thing Michelle Turner and her family knew was that she was sick and wasn't getting better. So Turner was out of the Kennedy lineup for a recent two-week stretch, preventing her from doing what she does best.

Pitch.

Kennedy, one of the top teams in Orange County when Turner is in the pitching circle, lost its first three Empire League games. A team projected to finish in first place instead dropped to last.

But it wasn't just Turner's absence during the league games that affected Kennedy.

"It doesn't matter [who's] pitching, we haven't scored a run," said Sue Hall, Kennedy's coach. "We've got other problems, relationship and playing time issues. But hopefully, we rectified it [Wednesday]."

That was the day the Fighting Irish aired their differences in a team meeting.

"It's perfectly normal, happens every year about this time," Hall said.

The meeting didn't solve all Kennedy's offensive woes, but the Irish pulled together the next day, when Turner pitched for the first time in three weeks and delivered a 13-inning perfect game against Century in a 2-0 victory. She struck out 16.

She followed that with a three-hit shutout against Dana Hills in which she struck out nine and Kennedy won in eight innings, 1-0.

In the first three Empire League games, Turner was too sick to pitch. The only game she played was against Loara; she played left field and asked to leave after a few innings because of violent coughing. Her absence also hurt the team's chances of scoring--Turner bats third in the order.

In four of Kennedy's five losses, Turner failed to play a complete game, if at all.

She missed almost two weeks of school. According to Turner's mother Lori, Michelle's temperature didn't go below 102 degrees the first week of her illness, and the second week, the symptoms moved from fever to a constant cough that kept her awake nights. "She would be exhausted in the morning," her mother said.

Turner, a first-team Times' Orange County pitcher last season, brings attention to the program with her talent, and that contributed to other issues too.

"It's not like you have Michelle and nobody else," Hall said. "You have other Division I-caliber players on this team. We have a real good team. This season has been tougher to coach in some ways because we have players who are very close to being starters who are concerned about playing time. We have more talented depth. . . . and coaching is coming into play to appease the personalities."

Turner thinks the team meeting helped Kennedy end its losing streak.

"We all talked, and everything came out," she said. "We got everything off our chests, and we went out there and played the best we could [against Century].

"Our team knows and is committed to playing as one if we want to win. . . . If we win a [Southern Section title], nobody will remember we didn't win the league title."

ANOTHER INJURED ACE

Turner isn't the only top pitcher who has been absent in recent weeks. Loara was without Alicia Owen for two weeks. Owen (6-2) had a pulled muscle in her shoulder and pitched her first game in weeks on Saturday against El Toro. She allowed eight runs, all earned, in four innings.

CATCHING UP

Pacifica's 3-0 victory over Villa Park Tuesday in the Michelle Carew Classic was the Mariners' 10th in a row. Jamie Waldecker, who hit a three-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning that provided the victory, said Pacifica is finally catching up to the rest of the county.

"We're a good team, we just needed to come together," she said. "We'll be one of the top teams out there. Because we didn't play early in the season, it set us back."

For the first time in four years, Pacifica didn't participate in the Ramada Express Tournament of Champions early in the season, then lost two of its first three games against more seasoned teams.

Rob Weil, Pacifica's coach, also suggested that his team's considerable success in the past didn't help early on, either.

"We have to play our 'A' game every game because of who we are," said Weil, whose team lost in the section finals last season to Hacienda Heights Wilson, ending a three-year championship run. "People have nothing to lose when they play us. People are trying to make up for the past."

Pacifica's Jessica Marical, Jodie Legaspi and Mallorie Lenn, among others, have responded well to the pressure, despite their loss Saturday to Capistrano Valley, 5-4.

"This team wants a challenge every night," Weil said. "They want to be pushed. They want to get back to the finals, to win a championship."

*

If you have an item or idea for the softball report, you can fax us at (714)966-5663 or e-mail us at: martin.henderson@latimes.com

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

SOFTBALL TOP 10

Orange County Sportswriters' Poll

*--*

Pos. School League Rec 1. Foothill (1) Century 16-1 2. Canyon (2) Century 17-5 3. Fountain Valley (4) Sunset 16-5 4. Pacifica (3) Garden Grove 12-3 5. Kennedy (5) Empire 11-5 6. Rosary (6) Serra 15-7 7. Esperanza (7) Sunset 15-4-1 8. Capistrano Valley (NR) South Coast 14-4-1 9. El Toro (NR) South Coast 14-6 10. Loara (9) Empire 16-5

*--*

Others: Cypress (12-4), Laguna Hills (18-5), Marina (10-7), Mater Dei (11-7), Santa Margarita (14-4), Woodbridge (10-9).

Last week's rankings in parentheses

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