Baseball: Temple City’s journey started long before the season started; Alhambra greeted by rousing ovation, throng of alumni.


Above: Temple City’s Jonah Jarrard (above) and Corey Copping (below) are one of seven seniors who have played on the same team since they were 7-years-old.

It was around this time last year when Temple City assistant coach Mike Gonzales made the drive with eight of his players to watch Bishop Amat and Palm Desert in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship game at Dodger Stadium.

When the final out was recorded, the Lancers celebrated a dominating 7-0 victory. As that was happening, Gonzales turned to his contingent of players and had one question for them.

“They watched Bishop Amat celebrate and I looked at all the kids and said, `If that’s what you want to be doing, we start working tomorrow,’ ” Temple City coach Barry Bacon recalled. “That’s the effort I’ve gotten.”

Temple City went to work. It started in the Elks Tournament and then in Rio Hondo League play. It’s all added up to an impressive season with one final chapter left to be written before a storybook ending as the Rams take on Palm Desert for the Division 4 title Saturday night at 7:30 at UC Riverside.

Among the Rams players who attended last year’s title game were seven seniors: Christian Li, Jonah Jarrard, Benji Sanderson, Calvin Copping, Ben Arrue, Kyle Starling and Corey Copping. That group made a commitment to reach the finals this season and make their senior year a special one.

But what makes that particular group so special is how far back this journey goes as 7-year-olds playing on the same Little League team and moving up the ranks.

They’re the epitome of what high school sports is all about: a group of youths who grew up in the same community and now are representing more than just their uniform. They’re representing a city that’s proved supportive throughout the playoffs.

That’s been evident by the fans who have followed Temple City (24-3-1) on the road, including Tuesday’s semifinal game against St. Bonaventure in Ventura.

That sense of belonging to a community has inspired the team to become more close-knit, and it’s evident in everything they set out to do.

“Every night before a game they eat dinner together,” Bacon said. “They talk about being in class together, they eat lunch together.”

On Memorial Day, the Rams took part in practice and observed the day as well. Rams assistant coach Rob Nelson planted the American flag on the field. When practice was over, the team held a barbecue at a teammates’ house where a potluck was in order.

It’s probably what makes this run so special, that it’s being driven by a group that genuinely cares for each other on and off the field.

“Playing ball with these guys my entire life there’s no better feeling than knowing we’re in the finals now,” said Kyle Starling, a standout first baseman and integral part of the pitching rotation. “We played Little League together, Pony, juniors, everything together. It’s just so special.”

Show of support

Temple City was greeted by a warm reception when the team returned to campus on Wednesday following its 2-0 win over St. Bonaventure.

There are brackets posted in the administrative office, and each Temple City win was highlighted as the Rams inched closer to the title game.

Teachers greeted Bacon with congratulatory hugs, and many plan on making the trip to Riverside. The Rams celebrated their semifinal victory with a dogpile that was modest. It was such a competitive game even St. Bonaventure fans had some nice words for Temple City as the team walked to its bus.

“They were awesome,” Bacon said. “They were very congratulatory and wishing us good luck on our way out, and they were complimenting our pitcher. It was just really nice to see and hear.”

Alhambra making history

Alhambra’s first semifinal trip since 1947 helped pack Moor Field to capacity. Moors coach Steve Gewecke said he’s never seen the place as crowded as it was on Tuesday against Beckman.

Moor Field, which features a large grandstand behind home plate that serves as the home and visiting stands, was filled 20 minutes before the game got under way, meaning a place to see the game was in high demand.

“We opened up right field and that was packed,” Gewecke said. “We opened up the gate on Eighth Street so they can look down the right-field line. There wasn’t a seat in the house by 3 o’clock. It was an electric atmosphere, that’s for sure.”

Alhambra (24-3) stormed back from a 4-0 deficit and beat Beckman, 6-4, to reach its first finals since 1927. The Moors will face Bonita on Friday at 1:30 at Dodger Stadium.

The celebration continued well after the game ended.

“The crowd stayed forever,” Gewecke said. “They got on the field, and there must have been 60 or more former players. It was like a big reunion.”

Gewecke even had former players he coached while at Mountain View.

“That’s what makes it so special when they come back to support you,” Gewecke said.

“You meet their children or you hear what they’re doing and they’re all doing well, and that’s how you know the people coming out of your program are quality people.”

Flip of the coin

Alhambra lost the coin flip and will be the designated visiting team on Friday while Temple City is the home team on Saturday.

Gewecke is now 1 for 9 in coin flips.

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Softball: Tough schedule has La Canada well prepared.

It only makes good sense when teams beef up their nonleague schedules. Add that to an already competitive schedule in league, and there are the makings of a team that is hopeful of being well-prepared for the playoffs.

That’s exactly the scenario La Canada finds itself in this season. The Spartans (25-4-1) are top-seeded in CIF-Southern Section Division 5 and are back in the postseason final where they’ll meet Beaumont on Saturday at 12:30 at Irvine’s Deanna Manning Stadium.

La Canada has been unchallenged during the playoffs, but then came Nipomo earlier this week and the Spartans were in a dogfight. Lauren Cox walked seven batters, and the Spartans didn’t score until the sixth inning in a 1-0 victory in the semifinals.

But thanks to a revamped schedule, La Canada has had what it takes to overcome adversity.

“This team has been able to take the challenges and learn from them and apply those lessons to games in the future,” La Canada coach KC Mathews said.

It started early in the season with key wins against division opponents such as San Dimas (3-2) and Arroyo (11-5). The Spartans also faced Fountain Valley and earned a 1-0 victory. There also were wins and losses in Orange County, where La Canada got past Marina (13-11) but came up short against Edison (3-0). Taking part in the Thousand Oaks tournament in the middle of the Rio Hondo League season also paid dividends. Sure, the Spartans lost to Dos Pueblos (1-0) and Thousand Oaks (4-1), but lessons were learned.

“This group really was capable of not focusing on wins and losses, but what we can learn from each game,” Mathews said. “They’ve done a great job of doing that this year and it’s helped us tremendously.”

It prepared La Canada for what turned out to be a strong league season in which La Canada and Monrovia played to a 14-inning scoreless tie and the Spartans lost to San Marino 3-2 at home.

“The Rio Hondo League does a great job of getting us prepared,” Mathews said. “When you’re facing (Monrovia pitcher) Adrienne (Guerra) and (San Marino’s) Michelle (Floyd) it can only help you get ready for the playoffs.

“We saw some of the best pitching around and it helped us prepare for this part of our season.”

They’re back

The consensus among Division 5 coaches was the Spartans would be back to the finals. La Canada is back to defend its title, but that never was a given for the Spartans.

“They’re excited and feel fortunate to be back there,” Mathews said. “They’re seeing their rewards for working hard, but we didn’t spend all year talking about getting back to the finals. That’s the result of all the work they’ve put in.”

And thanks to that tough schedule, the Spartans weren’t just waiting around getting ready for the title game. They didn’t have that luxury.

“The schedule that we played we didn’t have the luxury of looking past an Edison or a Hart or a Thousand Oaks or any of those teams,” Mathews said.

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Baseball: Alhambra headed to first finals since 1927.

ANOTHER VIEW

Beckman comes up short in semifinals (The Orange County Register)

By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer

ALHAMBRA – After falling behind visiting Beckman by four runs early in Tuesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 semifinal, Dodger Stadium had to seem like it was a million miles away for the Alhambra High School baseball team.

Now, however, it’s the very first thing on the Moors’ radar.

Alhambra used a five-run rally in the fourth inning to post a 6-4 victory against Beckman and will play in the school’s first championship game since 1927. The Moors (24-3) will take on Bonita (31-2) and ace pitcher Justin Garza at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Dodger Stadium.

“This is for all the Moors,” Alhambra coach Steve Gewecke said. “It feels outstanding. Just look at all the people here.”

True, Alhambra couldn’t have asked for better fan support and the baseball gods obliged after making it seem early on that luck wasn’t on the Moors’ side.

Beckman used three seeing-eye singles, an error and a double to take a 2-0 lead in the second inning. The Patriots added two run-scoring singles in the third to go up 4-0.

“The idea was don’t let them score anymore,” Gewecke said. “Because I knew if they got a couple more it was going to be tough, especially with (James) Kaprielian waiting in the ‘pen.”

Alhambra scored once in the

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third, then unleashed a display of small ball to put the Orange County visitors in big trouble. The Moors got five singles and used an error and a sacrifice fly to take a 6-4 lead.
“We got out of the inning (in the third), got one (in the third) and then we had our big inning and held on,” Gewecke said.

Beckman never unveiled ace Kaprielian, who is one of the top pitchers in the state and plans to play next season at UCLA. Instead, the Patriots went with starter Connor Deneen and two relievers. Kaprielian had pitched a complete game in last Friday’s win over Los Altos.

Alhambra’s pitching situation was a bit more settled. San Jose State-bound starter Gary Acuna started the game, then gave way to sophomore Marco Briones with two outs in the top of the fourth. Briones got out of the inning, then put the clamps on Beckman by shutting down the Patriots over the final three innings.

Briones struck out the first hitter of the seventh, then made things a bit uneasy by giving up a single to Torin Goldstein. Briones got the next two hitters to fly out and the celebration was on.

“They never give up,” Gewecke said of his team. “They never quit. They play seven innings. They believe in themselves. We’ve won games in a variety of ways this year. It didn’t surprise me that they came back.”

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Baseball: The dream continues for Temple City Rams.

ANOTHER VIEW

St. Bonaventure shut out in Division 4 semis (Ventura County Star)

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

VENTURA – The mantra during these playoffs for the Temple City High School baseball team has been a succinct yet paramount message delivered after every game from Rams coach Barry Bacon.

“Dare to dream to win one more.”

And with that in mind, no need to reach out and hit the snooze button.

Temple City kept its dream alive with a 2-0 semifinal victory against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday afternoon to send the Rams to their first appearance in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship game.

Temple City (24-3-1) will face Palm Desert in Saturday’s final at 7:30 p.m. at UC Riverside. Regardless of the outcome, this certainly has been the Rams’ best playoff run in school history. Temple City previously reached the semifinals in 2007 and 1989 when they lost to Bishop Amat and El Segundo, respectively.

The long trips and inclement weather they’ve encountered during these playoffs haven’t derailed the Rams, and they proved it again after their second consecutive two-hour plus road game.

“I asked them for three more days of this effort,” Bacon said. “I told them to dare to dream here (in Ventura) and one more time (on Saturday).”

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Baseball: Monrovia’s stellar season ends in the desert.

ANOTHER VIEW

Palm Desert reaches final (The Desert Sun)

By Keith Lair, Staff Writer

PALM DESERT – Top-seeded Palm Desert High School showed its fangs in the desert heat early in Tuesday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 4 baseball semifinal game.

However, the Aztecs did not strike until the third inning. They got all of their runs in that inning to defeat Monrovia, 3-0, to advance to Saturday’s title game.

“You have to give credit to their pitcher,” Monrovia co-coach Brad Blackmore said. “We’re used to playing tight, low-scoring games, but you have to get something going offensively and it never quite happened.”

The Aztecs will be playing in their third consecutive CIF-SS championship game. The win foiled a Rio Hondo League rematch. The Aztecs will play Temple City at UC Riverside on Saturday night. The third-seeded Rams defeated St. Bonaventure, 2-0.

The Wildcats, a team many considered an underdog to get this far in the playoffs, showed their fangs, too. But the Wildcats could not get that run.

“It’s a very, very, very good team that we were playing,” Blackmore said. “We’ve played nothing but good teams and we’ve found ways to get things done, but we couldn’t get it going.

“We pitched pretty well and played pretty good defense. But at some point you have to break through and we just didn’t get any offense going.”

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