Baseball: La Salle can’t look ahead to Bishop Amat on Friday.

The league opener is a big day regardless of opponent, but for the La Salle High School baseball team that can be a challenge.

That’s because the Lancers (4-2-1) open Del Rey League action at home today against St. Monica, a team that is 1-8 overall and already 0-1 in league. But that’s not the most challenging part for La Salle: it’s not looking ahead to Friday’s mega matchup on the road against rival Bishop Amat, the No. 3 team in the latest CIF-Southern Section Top 10 coaches poll. La Salle is unraked.

“They are kids,” La Salle coach Harry Agajanian said. “A lot of times they could do that, but I think as the game wears on our kids are pretty good about playing the way we know we can play.”

Look for Austin Wallis to head the mound today while ace Bowdien Derby gets ready for Bishop Amat, who likely will throw standout and USC-commit Rio Ruiz.

La Salle opened the season as the No. 1 team in the Star-News coverage area, but its record doesn’t seem to imply prowess, at least on the surface. The Lancers earned a tie against Temple City in the Elks tournament and lost in a 10-inning marathon to Arcadia in the consolation bracket, a close game that ended on a game-winning RBI single for a 1-0 score. Over the weekend, La Salle split against Cathedral in a doubleheader.

But don’t look for Agajanian to dwell on what’s happened so far. It’s what lies ahead that he’s more concerned about.

“I’m looking at down the road at how we’re going to do at the end of the season,” he said.

And along the way are short-term goals that involve no one else but La Salle, starting with the offense.

“We want to be a high on-base percentage team this year,” Agajanian said. “We want to balance our walks and strikeouts and have a well-used offense. When I say that I mean play as a complete offense. We were playing as a bunch of good hitters. But we moved some kids around the lineup and shifted things around and it seems to be clicking.”

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Baseball: Mystery surrounding Esquival’s resignation.

St. Francis coach Brian Esquival, who had been at the helm since 2008, abruptly resigned his position, the school announced over the weekend. Aaron Milam has been named the interim coach until further notice, according to a release sent out by the school. “With Aaron’s coaching experience and knowledge of our players , we are confident in his ability and believe he will provide a smooth transition for the program,” said St. Francis athletic director Terry Terrazone, who did not return a call seeking comment. Esquival did not return a call seeking comment either.

Below: Brian Esquival in the middle.

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Softball: La Caada to share the spotlight, raise money for American Cancer Society when Spartans host San Marino on Friday in Rio Hondo League showdown.

They say that no athlete or coach is ever above the sport, but there are real-life causes that can overshadow sports.

In this case, it’s the American Cancer Society which will take center stage on Friday night when the La Caada High School softball team hosts Rio Hondo League rival San Marino. It’s a game under the lights that features arguably the two best pitchers in the area in La Caada’s Lauren Cox (1.12 ERA, 51 strikeouts) and San Marino’s Michelle Floyd, a 6-foot-4 junior who is second in the state in strikeouts with 114 and has a 0.71 ERA.

“We say all the time that playing sports is more than wins and losses,” La Caada coach KC Mathews said. “And this is one of those events where the girls have really gotten into the spirit of it and doing more than just playign softball.”

It started three years ago through donations at La Caada’s annual 100-inning game, raising roughly $400. The event then was moved under the lights last year in conjunction with San Marino, raising approximately $1,000. Already, La Caada has raised $2,500 through sponsorship of a program that will debut at Friday’s game, an idea that came to fruition courtesy of junior Jessica Ogden who wanted to be more involved, and has so far gone above and beyond.

“She has really taken the lead and created the program for the game,” Mathews said.

Perhaps the best part is that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. Also, players from both teams will wear specially made t-shirts for the game instead of jerseys, La Caada in pink and San Marino in white. Those who donate $20 will receive a shirt.

But the donation drive isn’t all La Caada is commited in doing. The Spartans will take part in the Relay for Life, a 24-hour walk-a-thon- on Mother’s Day weekend at Clark Magnet School in La Crescenta.

“We took a tour of the facility in Pasadena,” Mathews said. “It really touched the girls and they’ve asked more to get invovled.”

Ogden in particular who took the idea and ran with it. Now, the school’s athletic council has challenged other sports to participate.

The game expects to draw a big crowd, which could bring in more donations and a longer line for the planned catering truck that will sell burgers.

“The fact that it promises to be a good competitive game at the same time for fans to come out and see makes this that much more impactful,” Mathews said.

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Softball: Marshall will face challenge vs. Keppel

Marshall (7-0) is not ranked in the latest Division 5 poll, but the Eagles look to make some noise when they host Keppel on Wednesday. Keppel (6-0) is No. 4.

It’s been a turnaround year for Marshall, which is off to its best start since Eagles coach Jason Taylor took over the program in 2002.

The success can be linked to a more balanced approach, and Star-News All-Area shortstop Amy Zeronian has gotten some much needed help. Freshman Miranda Bielski, a catcher, and Breana Howard, a left fielder/first baseman, have given Marshal much needed depth and plenty of help for pitcher Cierra Newton, a senior.

“We have two freshman who have come and really helped us at key positions,” Taylor said. “And with our senior leadership, everything seems to be coming together.”

Marshall has beaten its opponents by a combined score of 82-17, and that includes wins over Pasadena (12-0 and 7-5), El Monte (11-1) and Workman (13-3).

Marshall will face its toughest test when it takes on Keppel’s Alashanee Medina, a junior standout who flirted with a perfect game last week and struck out 13 against Alverno.

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