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Pitchers are ahead of the game this high school season

There isn't a whole lot of hitting going on and the evidence is clear — a few no-hitters and plenty of strikeouts and shutouts.

March 31, 2013|Eric Sondheimer
  • Chase Lambert, a junior closer at Malibu, has 41 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings this season.
Chase Lambert, a junior closer at Malibu, has 41 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings… (Pete Anthony )

After one month of the high school baseball season, there have been more no-hitters than triples, more strikeouts than doubles and more shutouts than .400 hitters.

In conclusion, pitchers have been in complete command.

"There's just not a whole lot of hitting going on," said Granada Hills Coach Steve Thompson, whose pitchers threw four consecutive shutouts in winning the Babe Herman tournament championship.

Among City Section teams, the lack of hitting is particularly prevalent. Woodland Hills El Camino Real and Harbor City Narbonne played 14 innings before Narbonne won, 2-0. San Pedro and Granada Hills Kennedy played 10 innings before the Pirates won, 1-0.

It's not as if Southern Section schools are scoring runs in bunches, either. In the National High School Invitational championship game in North Carolina on Saturday, when Santa Ana Mater Dei and Studio City Harvard-Westlake were down to their No. 4 pitchers, Mater Dei prevailed, 4-0.

"I don't know if the whole game has changed because of the bats, but everyone's going small ball," San Fernando Coach Armando Gomez said.

It has been two years with new BBCORE standards.

"To a certain extent, we're still dealing with the bat issue," Anaheim Canyon Coach Joe Hoggatt said. "The bats were really good in their day. Kids are going to get better and stronger. But pitchers right now have the upper hand."

There are lots of pitchers off to terrific starts. Sean Barry, a senior at Moorpark, is duplicating the performance of former Newbury Park standout Luke Eubank from last season out of the same Marmonte League. Barry is 6-0 with 77 strikeouts in 411/3 innings. He has given up only 11 hits.

Chase Lambert, a junior closer at Malibu, has 41 strikeouts in 171/3 innings. Moises Ceja, a senior at Kennedy, is 3-0 with an 0.54 earned-run average and games of 12, 12 and 13 strikeouts. Alonzo Garcia, a junior All-City pitcher at San Fernando, is 5-1 with a 1.70 ERA. Jason Karkenny, a senior All-City pitcher at Chatsworth, is 4-1 with three saves and a 1.18 ERA.

Monty Plattner, a senior at Fountain Valley, is 6-0 with an 0.92 ERA. Jack Flaherty, a junior at Studio City Harvard-Westlake, is 5-0 with three shutouts, a no-hitter and one run in 34 innings. Chasen Ford, a Yale-bound senior at Lake Forest El Toro, is 4-0 with an 0.65 ERA.

Among pro prospects, right-hander Phil Bickford of Westlake Village Oaks Christian struck out 16 in six innings against Torrance Bishop Montgomery on Saturday, with his fastball touching 97 mph.

Dominic Smith of Gardena Serra is living up to expectations. He's batting .472.

Ryan McMahon of Mater Dei has helped raise his profile. He's hitting .441 with 15 RBIs and three home runs.

Among surprise Southern Section teams, Fountain Valley (13-1) and Anaheim Canyon (10-1) are at the top of any list. Neither was ranked in The Times' preseason top 25. The City Section remains wide open, with San Fernando (14-2) and Chatsworth (10-5) the favorites.

On Monday, players who sat out the first month of the season because of transfer restrictions finally become eligible. Serra gets the Bates brothers, Solomon and Roosevelt, from Victor Valley, and Marcus Wilson from Los Angeles Hamilton.

Downey Warren, 8-3 under first-year Coach Scott Pearson, will pick up four transfers, led by pitcher Alan Trejo, a standout from L.A. Cathedral.

And there are big matchups this week. The National Classic begins Monday. The Boras Classic begins Tuesday. And San Fernando and Kennedy meet on Wednesday and Thursday in Valley Mission League play.

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