Senior prom queen Candy Guzman is surrounded mostly by members of the Sylmar… (White's Studios )
Winning is important, but so is learning life lessons, so understand the pride Sylmar High baseball Coach Ray Rivera has in his players when he looks at a photo taken at the school prom this month and sees them surrounding the senior prom queen, Candy Guzman.
The story behind the photo is that Guzman is a special-needs student who started hanging out with the baseball players at nutrition three years ago.
As Rivera tells the story, "The boys never once pushed her away. As time went on, others began to accept her. She was very persistent with the other students on campus and wanted only to be seen as normal. My players gave her that sense of belonging."
Eventually, the acceptance of Guzman into the baseball players' social circle helped others become comfortable in getting to know her.
"A lot of people pushed her away, but we kind of took her in," senior first baseman Mike Munoz said. "She tried everyone and felt most comfortable with us."
Guzman's mother, Tina, said, "She was welcomed into their world. It's remarkable. A lot of times disability kids are left behind."
Sylmar was eliminated from the City Section playoffs in the wild-card round, but the prom photo provides a glimpse into a group of players who made their coach proud.
All of those who picked Corona (18-14) to make it to the Southern Section Division 1 baseball semifinals, please shout out.
I hear silence.
That makes what Corona has accomplished even more special. The Panthers, after finishing in fifth place in the Big VIII League, have won four consecutive playoff games to earn a spot against Valencia West Ranch in Tuesday's 4 p.m. semifinal at Blair Field.
Their enthusiastic third-year coach, Andy Wise, is a former Long Beach State pitcher. He was an assistant coach under Hall of Famer Dave Demarest at La Quinta and started the program at Santa Ana Segerstrom.
"There are a lot of good kids in this area," Wise said. "We've come together at the right time. We're a better team on the road. We're looking forward to going to Long Beach. We're not afraid to get some lunch and have a good time."
What Corona has are two senior pitchers who got hot in Daniel Pena and Patrick Duarte. Duarte has beaten UCLA-bound Hunter Virant of Camarillo and USC-bound Kyle Twomey of Placentia El Dorado in his last two starts.
"They're undersized right-handers," Wise said. "These are my guys. They have heart and heart and heart."
And Corona expects to have a few fans at Blair Field.
"We will be packing the house," Wise said.
Teams enjoy having brother combinations, and there are a few to watch this week in the baseball playoffs.
The Serven brothers, Brian and Jonathan, have Palm Desert one win away from the Southern Section Division 4 championship game.
The Molnar brothers, Kyle and Matt, have been pitching and hitting Aliso Niguel to victory in Division 2.
The Pope brothers, Michael and Josh, are the catchers for Woodland Hills El Camino Real, a City Section Division I semifinalist.
The Chupek brothers, Mickey and Dante, are starters for Riverside Woodcrest Christian, a Division 5 semifinalist.
If there were a freshman of the year in high school baseball, the award would go to infielder Jagger Rusconi of West Ranch. He has 44 hits and is batting .431.
"We've never had a freshman ever act like he's a senior," Coach Casey Burrill said.
Huntington Beach Edison hasn't given up a run in three Southern Section Division 1 softball playoff victories. Samantha Cordova has thrown the shutouts.
Next up is a Tuesday home game against defending champion Corona Santiago.