Melendez: Team bonding ignites title run for Arcadia

MIGUEL MELENDEZ COLUMN

This column appeared on Page C3 in the Star-News sports section on Friday, May 15

Oh, how fitting.

It was just a few months ago when the Arcadia High School baseball team took a bonding trip down to San Onofre State Beach on the grounds of Camp Pendleton.

There, the Apaches were met by Technical Sgt. Michael Muller of the Air Force, Gunnery Sgt. Brian Vargyas of the Marine Corps and Sgt. Nathan Glaw and Sgt. Brian Brimager.

Arcadia spent a weekend there.

The purpose? To bond and learn about accountability.

The Apaches left the camp with a new understanding and admiration for the men and women in the Armed Forces.

Almost as importantly, they learned a lot about themselves outside the realm of baseball.
When the Apaches host Crescenta Valley tonight at 7, Sgt. Vargyas will toss out the first pitch alongside Arcadia legendary coach John Meiers who devoted more than two decades as the Apaches coach.

Arcadia clinched at least a share of the Pacific League title for the first time in six years after Tuesday’s 5-1 win over Pasadena, but can clinch outright with a win tonight.
Surely, the Apaches will draw inspiration from the men who helped them learn to bond, among other things.

“Our season concluded with a Pacific League title but it began with a team-unity trip to Camp Pendleton,” Arcadia assistant coach Valentin Lopez said.

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Maranatha has reason to celebrate, wins titles

Going on hour No. 12 for the day. Not quite running on fumes (yet) so I thought I’d bring a brief recap of Thursday’s thrilling game at Downey before I leave the office.

Maranatha blew a five run lead in the sixth and came back in the eighth to win, 15-14, over Calvary Chapel to clinch a third straight Alpha League championship. Cory Popham held an, 8-5, lead in the sixth, and as Minutemen coach Brian DeHaan said, Maranatha (21-5, 10-2) tried to give it away. The Minutemen gave up eight runs in the sixth to go down, 11-8. In the top of the seventh, Dylan Covey led off with a base hit, Popham came up with a base hit, too, and Jordan Calloway’s double scored Covey and Popham to make it, 11-10. In the eighth, Danny Beckwith led off with a base hit and Matt Chavez also got on base. Covey hit a three-run home run to help Maranatha retake the lead, 14-11. Calloway later scored on Schafer Chulay’s base hit to make it, 15-11. But Calvary Chapel (17-6, 9-3) wouldn’t go away. They scored three more runs before Covey struck out three to record the win. The bats came alive for Maranatha tonight. Chulay went 3-for-4, Covey went 3-for-5 with two home runs and Beckwith went 3-for-5 as well. “We gave them a lot of outs in the eighth,” DeHaan said. It’s unclear where Maranatha will finish in the final CIF-Southern Section Division V Coaches’ Top 10 poll. San Jacinto likely will finish on top after finishing the season with a 23-0 record. Marantha seems to have a nemesis in every sport, from football (St. Margaret’s) to baseball (San Jacinto). They beat Maranatha two seasons ago, 5-2, in the second round of the playoffs and won again last year, 3-2, in eight innings in the Division VI championship game. Despite moving up a division, DeHaan feels the Minutemen are contenders again. “I think we’re peaking at the right time. You plan your season and you hope as you end the season you peak, and for us to win three games last week and to have to win two this week and to win in the fashion that we did was just amazing. We hope to ride ride that momentum in the playoffs.” Maranatha ends the regular-season on a five-game winning streak that included a 12-2 drubbing over Calvary Chapel on Tuesday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Maranatha will probably be seeded three but DeHaan is hoping for a No. 2 seed. If he gets his wish, the Minutemen will play against a team that will have to advance out of the wild-card round. You can bet DeHaan & Co. will be at that game.

On a related note, the Maranatha boys and girls swimming teams are bringing home CIF titles. Here’s an early excerpt of what’s coming in Friday’s pages:

It takes more than club swimmers to win CIF-Southern Section championships.

Sure, those swimmers garner the big points in the big meets, but it’s the part-time swimmers who must come through in the clutch to win CIF-SS titles.

The Maranatha High School club swimmers did what they were supposed to do in the Division IV finals on Thursday evening at Mt. SAC, but it was the Minutemen’s lesser-known swimmers, providing key swims in the relay races, who provided the the program, in its fifth year, with its first CIF-SS title.

The Maranatha girls opened the meet with a win in the 200 medley relay and finished the meet with a win in the 400 freestyle relay. Club swimmer Isabella Schamber, a freshman, won the 200 individual medley in 2:11.04 and took second in the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.98.

Maranatha’s Jonathan Masehi-Lano won the 100 breast in 59.13 and also took second in the 200 IM in 1:57.91.

RELATED LINKS

PREP SWIMMING: Maranatha swimmers come up big (Star-News)

PREP SWIMMING: La Caada’s Geyer wrapping up stellar career (Star-News)

PREP SWIMMING: La Caada’s Geyer wins fourth consecutive Div. II title (L.A. Daily News)

PREP SWIMMING: La Caada boys seek a fast finish in Div. II (L.A. Daily News)

PREP SWIMMING: Mt. SAC fills in as host for CIF meet (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

PREP SWIMMING: Shields breaks national record (Orange County Register)

VIDEO: CIF-SS Division I Boys Finals preview (Orange County Register)

VIDEO: CIF-SS Division I Girls Finals preview (Orange County Register)

Baseball: Gabrielino rides frehsman pitcher Angel Acosta to win, 5-1, and claim Mission Valley League title; Monrovia clinches RHL with 12-1 win over South Pas; San Marino beats La Caada, 8-2, settles for second


Above: Freshman Angel Acosta kept his emotions in check throughout the game, but there was no stopping him after the final out was recorded.

CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO GALLERY OF THURSDAY’S S. EL MONTE-GABRIELINO GAME SHOT BY THE STAR-NEWS’ VERY OWN ACE PHOTOGRAPHER KEITH BIRMINGHAM

RELATED LINK: Acosta paces Gabrielino in title clincher

Just got back from a hot day of watching some good baseball in San Gabriel for the South El Monte-Gabrielino showdown. There was a lot of hype surrounding freshman sensation Angel Acosta, and he didn’t disappoint. He struck out 13 batters, allowed just one run on nine hits and went the distance to lead Gabrielino to a 5-1 win to help the Eagles win their third straight Mission Valley League title. Acosta helped his own cause in the fifth with a two-RBI double to score Rong Huang and Brendan Campbell to make it, 2-1. Acosta, the team’s leading-hitter, finished the game going 2-for-3. Gabrielino coach Joe Laski in his six years at Gabrielino has never started a freshman, but this season he’s starting two. Campbell is also a freshman starting at shortstop. He went 3-for-3 today. Both teams recorded nine hits but Acosta proved to be too much, getting ahead of hitters on seemingly everyone who stepped up to the plate. A wild pitch in the sixth helped Keith Clapp score from third, but it was Matt Lok who kept things alive in that inning for Gabrielino. He took seven pitches and on the eighth pitch got an RBI single that scored Huang to give the Eagles a 4-1 lead. Talking to South El Monte coach Gilbert Adame after the game and he said he’s seen some great pitchers in his time, including Rey Aguilar who pitched at South El Monte and earned All-MVL honors for four seasons. Against Gabrielino his senior season, Adame struck out 35 batters and allowed one hit in two games vs. Gabrielino. Surely, they were happy to see him graduate. He went on to play in the Braves organization and retired from Triple A ball in the Angels organization. Adame also added that Acosta is as good as this kid “Carranza” who pitched for Mountain View and graduated “five or six years ago,” according to Adame. Carranza, too, was a four-time All-Mission Valley League honoree.

By the way, here’s what Robledo had on his blog earlier today:

Mission Valley League baseball title: What’s better than a win-or-go-home championship game at the end of the season. South El Monte (11-6, 10-4) is at Gabrielino (13-11, 10-4) for all the marbles. South won the first meeting 9-4, then Gabrielino came back and won the second game 9-4, too. Anything can happen, there is no dominant pitcher, which makes this wild race to the finish even better. I bet the South takes it, 8-6.

No dominant pitcher? I think Robledo has been drinking too much Kool-Aid. I gotta stop spotting him drinks …

After the game I got on Huntington Drive and cruised on over to San Marino High since it was on my way back to the office. Almost everyone was gone and ran into a few parents. The entire team was still there hanging out in the dugout. Chris Warren allowed two runs in the first but settled down, pitching a complete game to lead the Titans to an 8-2 win over La Caada. The game was tied, 2-2, through five innings before San Marino erupted for six runs in the sixth. San Marino finishes in second place after learning that Monrovia scored nine runs in the first en route to a 12-1 win over South Pasadena. The Wildcats clinched their fourth straight Rio Hondo League title. And so after the dust settles we still don’t know if La Caada will get into the playoffs. Not sure what the loss means for the Spartans but this one was tough because they end the season on a losing note, and who knows how CIF will look upon that. Too bad if La Caada doesn’t get invited to the Big Show.

RELATED LINK: South Pasadena stumbles, loses 12-1

Time to start writing my gamer and finish my column. If you have any questions I’ll be here at the office a couple more hours. Feel free to drop a line.

Football: Temple City dropped SG, not La Salle. My bad.

Note: Writing in today’s paper that Temple City dropped La Salle from its schedule was a typo on my part. I must have had La Salle on my mind yesterday (baseball, calling coach Peterson, etc.) and it just slipped. Temple City dropped San Gabriel, not La Salle. Thanks to those who pointed it out to me and left comments and messages on my inbox and voicemail. On another note, I had no idea how much I missed covering high school football. It surprised the heck out of me. With baseball/softball playoffs underway (along with swimming, tennis and track) it’s almost impossible to write 2-3 stories a day plus cover the blog AND be on top of spring ball. Bare with me a little and I’ll bring you guys some more football news as I get to talking with more coaches. I put in a call to Monrovia, La Salle, Muir and Pasadena. The Arcadia-TC story hopefully got the ball rolling

They’re calling it the “Brawl for The Mall.”

It doesn’t exactly scream crosstown rivalry per se, but for now it’ll suffice.

Temple City High School dropped San Gabriel from its football schedule this season and will instead play Arcadia in Week 3.

This series is not new, though its seemingly long absence sure makes it feel that way.

“I’ve been here 14 years now, so when I was here that was always a big rivalry game,” Apaches coach Jon Dimalante said. “It took a little rest because it got out of hand.”

Dimalante will stick to his true colors as an Apache but still will be somewhat at a crossroads being that he lives in Temple City.

“It’ll be exciting for both programs,” he said. “When we’re not playing against them I wish them success.”

On one end of the field will be Dimalante, a veteran in the coaching ranks, well-known and highly respected by his colleagues.

On the other side of the field will be Rams coach Anthony White, who is in his first job as a head coach.

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Swimming: All CIF Prelims and Finals moved to Mt. SAC

Due to continuing problems at the Belmont Plaza pool’s pump system, the remaining CIF-Southern Section prelims and finals have been moved to Mt. SAC.

Event and race times are still the same and are as follows:

Division III Prelims – Today, competition starting at 10 a.m.
Division IV Finals – Today, competition starting at 6 p.m.
Division II Prelims – Friday, competition starting at 10 a.m.
Division I Finals – Friday, competition starting at 6 p.m.
Division III Finals – Saturday, competition starting at 10 a.m.
Division II Finals – Saturday, competition starting at 4 p.m.

RELATED LINKS

PREP SWIMMING: Maranatha favorites in D4 swimming finals

PREP SWIMMING: Pasadena Poly’s Saeta not feeling the pressure

Baseball: You always hate to hear about this ….

The Ventura County Star is reporting that the powerhouse Oxnard High baseball team, in charge of the Pacific View League race just 10 days ago, now apparently will miss the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs. According to league officials, as many as four Yellowjackets players have been playing in an adult league on Sundays, which has caused Oxnard to forfeit five league victories. Following Oxnard’s 7-5 loss to Rio Mesa on Tuesday, the Yellowjackets fall to fourth place in league at 6-8 (14-11 overall) with only one league game remaining today. “Only the top three teams in our league go to the playoffs,” said Tony Diaz, athletic director for the Pacific View League. “So Oxnard would be out. The CIF-SS has no spot for wild-card teams in Division I.” Diaz said Oxnard High officials made the discovery about the illegal participation this week, and revealed the infraction to the league. “They self-reported it,” said Diaz.

Baseball: La Caada petitions for CIF at-large berth

There’s been some confusion as to whether La Caada will be awarded an at-large berth into the CIF-Southern Section Division IV playoffs. The Spartans finished fourth in the tough Rio Hondo League this season. The only thing up in the air is whether Monrovia will clinch the title outright today, but they need to beat a pesky South Pasadena team. If the Wildcats win, they’re outright champions, if the Wildcats lose and San Marino wins, they clinch a share of the league title but Monrovia moves ahead as the league’s No. 1 team because they own the season-series. Back to La Caada … Spartans coach Dennis Ballard sent paper work Wednesday to the CIF-Southern Section office and now patiently waits. Ballard said it is their incentive to win today to boost La Caada’s record and show it belongs in the playoffs. But the debate lies whether a team from a new league that just moved up to Division IV would be awarded an at-large berth, if the Division IV is awarded an at-large berth at all. The brackets are released Monday. “I think it’s going to happen but CIF is very unpredictable,” Ballard said. “We’re going forward with playing as if our season will continue.” La Caada is 16-6 and also won the Southern California Invitational early in the season. “We put that on our sheet,” said Ballard with a chuckle. It’ll be too bad if the Spartans don’t get an at-large berth considering the tight race in the RHL race this season. They turned it around this season after finishing 11-10 last year. “Truly, as far as baseball, it’s been a three-team situation in the past years and now with San Marino it’s four. When you put four teams that can knock each other off it can be crazy. It’s fun and exciting to watch but not that fun to coach to be able to go from first to fourth. It’s been kind of crazy.” Ballard talked about last week’s tough test, facing Monrovia and Temple City on the same week, losing twice. “We just didn’t hit the ball well,” Ballard said. “These teams just stepped up and played some great games. We played some excellent competition but it was difficult day-to-day because the pressure was on and that’s all we talked about. We got a little disheartened but we got back together, had fun and relaxed, and that’s how you have to go at it; you can’t put too much pressure on yourself.”

Lets hope CIF does the right thing.

Bishop Amat shows its support for La Salle’s Agajanian


Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto and the rest of his team showed its support for La Salle baseball coach Harry Agajanian who was suspended Monday for what’s left of the the regular-season in what La Salle officials are calling a violation of school policy. Without going into all the details, school officials can confirm that Agajanian’s suspension stems from a players refusal not to play in a game against Cantwell Sacred Heart. Agajanian sent that player to the bus after his refusal to play, and words were later exchanged. School officials met, and felt a suspension was warranted. The Lancers played Bishop Amat yesterday and the coaches taped Agajanian’s number on their hats. It was a gesture that surely meant a lot for Agajanian. How classy of your opponent to show support. It shows how well-liked Agajanian is among his colleagues. Agajanian had a meeting today with the principal to discuss his future with the baseball program. We’ll have more as it becomes available.

Arcadia’s Mirai Nagasu on cover of this month’s SI Kids

Arcadia native Mirai Nagasu appears on this month’s Sports Illustrated Kids cover in newsstands now. The 16-year-old won the 2008 national championships in figure skating and looks forward to competing in the 2010 Olympics. Says her coach Charlene Wong: “I think she’s more comfortable as a school girl who skates than as a skater who goes to school.” This month’s issue introduces 20 superstar athletes under the age of 20 for 2009 as part of the magazine’s 20th birthday celebration. Matt Barkley also graces the cover in recognition of his stellar performance as a four-year starting quarterback at Mater Dei. In 2007, he became the first junior to win the Gatorade Male High School National Athlete of the Year award.

Would you pay for access to the Star-News site, blog?

We received an interesting memo from Media News Group executives outlining future plans that will likely end free access to our newspaper websites. Robledo posted this on his blog so I’m going to piggy back what he wrote and let you guys discuss it.

What do you think about possibly having to pay a subscription free or register to gain online access? How this affects the blog, I do not know.

Here is an important part of the memo that reads, in part:

“We will begin to move away from putting all of our newspaper content online for free. Instead, we will explore a variety of premium offerings that apply real value to our print content. We are not trying to invent new premium products, but instead tell our existing print readers that what they are buying has real value, and to our online audience (who don’t buy the print edition), that if you want access to all online content, you are going to have to register, and/or pay. If a non-subscriber wants the newspaper content in its entirety online, they will be directed to some sort of registration or pay vehicle (and if they are a print subscriber, they will have full access at no charge). To be clear, the brand value proposition to the consumer is that the newspaper is a product, whether in print or online, which must be paid for.”

In other words, you can help yourself and help us all out by going back to the old days of home delivery, it’s cheap, and will give you access to everything else for free. You can read the memo by clicking here to learn more. There is no set date when this will all begin, but I’m curious, how do you feel about these changes?