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Three chase the softball home run record

Baillie Kirker of Crescenta Valley has 47 to eclipse the record, but Alia Williams of Los Angeles Crenshaw is close with 41 and Shawna Wright of Lancaster has 40.

March 23, 2009|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the country in 1998 during their chase to break Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs in a season.

Now Southern California is about to be treated to another home run race, but this time it involves high school softball.

Baillie Kirker of Crescenta Valley, Alia Williams of Los Angeles Crenshaw and Shawna Wright of Lancaster began their senior seasons within striking distance of the state record for career home runs, 45, tied last season by San Pedro's Perelini Koria.

Kirker has already hit 10 home runs this season to break the record with 47. But she can't get too comfortable because Williams and Wright have each hit four home runs, giving them 41 and 40.

It raises the question: Why are so many home runs being hit?

Dan Berry, the softball coach at Crescenta Valley, said more teams are playing on fields with fences instead of parks with endless space, leading to balls flying over the fences.

But Berry's most logical theory revolves around the "loaded" aluminum bats.

"The bats are deadly," he said. "The pops are unreal."

Of course, there's also the talent in the trio of athletes.

Kirker, a third baseman who signed with Arizona, might be the best hitter in the Southland. She had 16 home runs as a freshman, then dropped off to three as a sophomore when she was walked repeatedly, rising to 18 last year when she was the Southern Section Division III player of the year.

"She's the real deal," Berry said. "She has some of the fastest hands you'll ever see."

Wright, who signed with Washington, is a catcher-shortstop who had 47 runs batted in as a freshman. And the uncommitted Williams, a third baseman-catcher, set a City Section and state record last season with 19 home runs while batting .711.

So let the home run race unfold, and may the best player prevail.

Walk-on extraordinaires

USC basketball Coach Tim Floyd could have the two best walk-ons in the country next season. Defensive ends Kevin Greene from San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral and James Boyd from L.A. Jordan are headed to USC on football scholarships, but each wants to play basketball.

The 6-foot-5 Greene gave new meaning to the term bruiser Saturday when he had 20 rebounds in the state Division III championship game against Huntington Beach Ocean View. Boyd was an All-City guard for the Bulldogs.

A 16-game football season?

In May, the CIF state Federated Council is expected to approve a change in the CIF state championship bowl games format that would create a 16-game season for five Southern California teams effective with the 2010 season.

A regional playoff would be held in Southern and Northern California, with a one-game state play-in game, and the winners would advance to play in five bowl games.

It would require all schools in the Southern Section and City Section to start their seasons a week earlier, during what is now zero week, to maintain their 10-game regular-season schedules.

I'm not enthusiastic about players having to play 16 football games in a season. That would be a grueling physical challenge, not to mention mentally draining. If you win a section title and get picked for the regionals, you have got two more games to go. I can't wait to hear how coaches are going to motivate their players.

Yes, the promise of being on television helps, but this is California. The state championships have never caught on the way they have in Texas or Florida.

Players are going to be bruised and battered by week 16, and coaches may need to plead with their wives to stay married.

No recession

for lawyers

The money spent by the CIF on legal bills is closing in on $850,000 this year, Executive Director Marie Ishida said Saturday.

"People don't want to hear no," she said. "They are taking us to court."

Volleyball at its best

On Friday at 7 p.m. at Redondo, the two top teams in Southern Section Division I boys' volleyball, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa and Los Angeles Loyola, will meet in a nonleague match. It's the best in high school volleyball when it comes to talent, tradition and excitement.


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