Baseball is known for its crazy superstitions, such as never mentioning that a pitcher has a no-hitter and never touching the foul line when running out onto the field. So understand that in the Mission League, there are some people who think finishing in second place is lucky, because three of the last four second-place finishers have won Southern Section titles and the fourth made it to the final.
That might explain why West Hills Chaminade, Encino Crespi and Mission Hills Alemany can't decide if they want to finish first or second, forcing the decision to come down to the final game of the regular season on Thursday.
"I'm trying to finish first," Alemany Coach Randy Thompson said. "If I can't, I want second."
On Tuesday, Chaminade, ranked No. 1 in Southern Section Division 2, had the chance to clinch the league championship but failed. A 10-run fourth inning by host Alemany propelled the Warriors to an 11-6 victory.
That means Chaminade (23-5, 8-3) is tied for first place with Crespi (21-5, 8-3). Alemany (18-8, 7-4) is one game behind. Alemany plays at Chaminade on Thursday, with Crespi playing at Los Angeles Loyola.
It would be accurate to say that on any given day, the top teams in the Mission League can find themselves suddenly feeling helpless like Chaminade was. It happened to Crespi last week, when the Celts lost to North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake, 10-0.
"If you're not ready, you're going to lose," Thompson said of the tough competition.
Chaminade came out flat, and the Warriors took advantage. Sophomore pitcher Ryan Paramo struck out seven in 5 1/3 innings. And Alemany sent 14 batters to the plate in the fourth against three pitchers, collecting six hits, three walks, an error and a hit batter to score 10 runs.
The big hits were a two-run single by Andrew Davidson, an RBI single by Mark Strazzeri, a two-run double by Cody Sulflow and a two-run single by Scott Rhodes.
The good news for Chaminade is that ace Brando Tessar is ready to go on Thursday.
"The kids have to learn how to finish things," Coach Frank Mutz said.
So there could be several teams celebrating Thursday, the league champion and the second-place team, whose coach figures to be giving the players a pep talk that second place is a good thing, right?
"We're definitely not trying to do that," Chaminade catcher Mathew Troupe said of claiming second place.