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BASEBALL

He's Making the Right Calls This Year

March 27, 2001|BEN BOLCH

Like his inexperienced lineup, Burt Call suffered through growing pains last season in his first year as Mater Dei's baseball coach.

He pulled struggling pitchers too late. Pitchers who were still throwing heat, he pulled too early. All his decisions seemed to be the wrong ones.

"I had to go through some spurts where I had to make mistakes and learn from them, like any first-year coach," said Call, who had been a varsity assistant to Bob Ickes the previous four seasons. "I think that has helped me this year."

Things couldn't be more different this time around. Call has every detail nailed, from better-run practices to knowing when to bring in the right pinch-hitter.

And it doesn't hurt that top-ranked Mater Dei has caught fire, winning its first 10 games behind strong pitching and timely hitting.

Starting pitchers Ryan Kelly (3-0), Warren Chenier (2-0) and Josh Gagne (3-0) have been steady, and the hitting has picked up. Arizona-bound catcher Richard Mercado has five home runs and is batting over .500, and shortstop Sergio Santos has an average close to .400.

Hard-throwing Anthony Slama, the Monarchs' aptly named closer, is 2-0 with three saves.

The lineup has been handled well by Call, who is looking to improve on last year's 17-11 finish and first-round playoff loss to Bell Gardens.

The Monarchs try to improve their 3-0 record in the Serra League when they host Santa Margarita (4-6, 2-1) Wednesday.

CROUCHING UMPIRE, HIDDEN BALL

This hidden-ball trick was so good it fooled both teams.

With Mater Dei's Serra League game against Bellflower St. John Bosco Wednesday scoreless in the top of the fourth, the Braves' Eric Norbut stood at second with Derek Williams at the plate and one out.

Kelly's 2-2 pitch was a one-hopper that eluded Mercado and landed in the armpit area of the home plate umpire, where it remained lodged while Mercado searched for the ball.

The umpires called timeout, and after conferring, ruled that the ball was in play and awarded Norbut third base.

St. John Bosco took advantage on the next pitch, when Norbut scored on Williams' squeeze bunt to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.

The call proved to be a mere footnote, though, in the Monarchs' 8-1 victory.

LOOKING AHEAD

Aliso Niguel can tie fifth-ranked Irvine atop the Sea View League standings if the Wolverines (7-2, 3-1) defeat the fifth-ranked Vaqueros (8-1, 4-0) at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday at Irvine.

Also Wednesday, Loara (3-8, 2-1) and Katella (7-3, 2-1) play for second place in the Empire League at 3:15 p.m. at Boysen Park, and No. 6 Trabuco Hills (7-2, 2-1) plays at San Clemente (7-3, 1-2) in a South Coast League game at 3.

At 3:15 Friday, Villa Park (6-4, 2-1) plays at Foothill (7-3, 2-1) in a battle between two teams tied for second place in the Century League heading into this week's games.

Also Friday, fourth-ranked El Dorado (9-1, 3-0), the Empire League leader, hosts Katella, and third-ranked Esperanza can keep its Sunset League lead with a win at Edison.

*

Correspondent Mike Haubrich contributed to this report.

If you have an item or idea for the high school baseball report, you can call us at (714) 966-7826 or e-mail us at ben.bolch@latimes.com

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BASEBALL TOP 10

Orange County Sportswriters' Poll

*--*

Pos. School League Rec Pts 1. Mater Dei (2) Serra 10-0 48 2. La Quinta (1) Garden Grove 11-0 46 3. Esperanza (4) Sunset 9-1 41 4. El Dorado (5) Empire 9-1 35 5. Irvine (7) Sea View 8-1 30 6. Trabuco Hills (6) South Coast 8-2 16 7. Sonora (10) Freeway 8-1 14 8. Canyon (NR) Century 7-3 12 9. Mission Viejo (NR) South Coast 6-2-1 9 10. Capistrano Valley (NR) South Coast 6-3 8

*--*

Others: San Clemente (7-3), Costa Mesa (7-1-1), Aliso Niguel (7-2), Fountain Valley (6-4), University (5-3-1), Westminster (8-1).

* Last week's ranking in parentheses

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