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


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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Softball: Drange, Cox lead La Canada back to Irvine.

By Erik Boal, Staff Writer

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE – Kelsey Drange wasn’t going to take a walk. Catherine Horner wasn’t going to let Nipomo run. And Lauren Cox wasn’t going accept anything less than a return to the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 softball final.

Drange’s full-count single inside the left-field line scored Katy Lee in the sixth for La Canada’s lone run, Horner threw out four baserunners and Cox overcame seven walks and a hit batter by striking out 13, lifting the host Spartans to a 1-0 semifinal victory Tuesday.

La Canada (25-4-1), the top seed, will face No. 2 Beaumont (25-4) – a 7-1 winner over Barstow – in a rematch of last year’s final Friday or Saturday at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine.

“I’m happy we held up our end of the bargain,” La Canada coach KC Mathews said. “But more than anything, I’m happy for these girls. I’m happy to see their hard work fulfilled. But the goal was not just to get there, the goal is to finish it off.”

The Spartans prevailed 1-0 in last year’s championship to capture their first division title since 1995. With Nipomo runners on first and second in the seventh, Cox (23-3) struck out the final two batters to extend La Canada’s postseason winning streak to nine in a row.

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Quarterfinals: WSGV baseball goes 3-for-3 as Alhambra makes first semifinals since 1948 with 4-2 win over Lancaster; Temple City is fueled by Ben Arrue’s grand slam in 6-2 win over Granite Hills; Monrovia grinds out 1-0 win over Jurupa Valley.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

LANCASTER — It’s hard to believe that as much success as Alhambra High School baseball coach Steve Gewecke has had in his 17 seasons with the program that only now the Moors are enjoying their best year yet.

Time to start believing.

For the first time since 1948, Alhambra is headed back to the semifinals after a 4-2 quarterfinals victory over Lancaster on Friday afternoon in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.

Alhambra (23-3) on Tuesday will face Beckman, which beat Los Altos, 2-1. The Moors likely will host the game at Moor Field since they’ve had only one home playoff game to Beckman’s two home playoff games, but that won’t be determined until the playoff brackets are updated over the weekend.

Regardless, Alhambra’s ecstatic about accomplishing the seemingly elusive feat.

“I don’t know if it’s quite hit yet,” said Gewecke, who for the first time as a head coach reaches the semifinals. “It’s amazing how many people are calling and texting. So many ex players have talked about how they’ll be there on Tuesday. It’s been a real fun bus ride so far.”

Gewecke reached the semifinals in 1995 as an assistant at Mountain View, and this quarterfinals appearance was Alhambra’s first since 1987.

The 150-mile round trip to Lancaster wasn’t ideal, much less the weather conditions that saw 30 mph winds for most of the game. Those obstacles, however, proved to be mere speed bumps for Alhambra (23-3), which again turned to sophomore Marco Briones to keep the magic going, and again he was brilliant.

The left-hander, coming off a near-perfect game in the second round before it was broken up in the seventh, was poised and maintained composure in pressure moments despite a boisterous standing-room only crowd letting him hear it as host Lancaster (17-12) made a valiant effort to break him, but to no avail.

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Softball: La Canada’s Lauren Cox tosses 1-hitter, records 20 strikeouts and helps Spartans advance to Tuesday’s semifinals with 7-0 victory over Mary Star of the Sea; Beaumont too much for Monrovia, 4-0.

By Dave Thorpe, Staff Writer

SAN PEDRO – Lauren Cox was even more masterful than her usual dominant self in the circle, and La Canada was opportunistic on offense during its 7-0 victory over Mary Star of the Sea in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon at the San Pedro Softball Complex.

Cox threw a one-hitter with 20 strikeouts to go along with three walks. Her performance propels La Canada (24-4-1) to the semifinals on Tuesday, when it will host Nipomo – a 1-0 winner at Hemet.

It marks the third straight semifinals appearance for La Canada, which captured a CIF-SS title last year.

Cox’s 20 strikeouts is a season high for a seven-inning game, but she amassed 23 strikeouts in a 14-inning 0-0 tie against Monrovia on March 27.

“It was nice because they had not seen me before, so it’s different,” Cox said. “I felt I had all of my pitches working, so I was excited about that.”

Cox credited her catcher and the confidence she has in her defense for the big effort.

“Catherine (Horner), our catcher, really gives me confidence to throw any pitch in any situation,” Cox said. “She’s a wall back there. We felt dominant working together and I know as a team, they have my back.”

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Football: Muir freshman Darick Holmes Jr., a running back/all-everything, picks up first offer from UCLA.

UCLA pulled the trigger on a freshman and offered Muir running back Darick Holmes Jr. a scholarship, according to his father. I covered Holmes Jr. this past season (check out his hightlights below) and he was just a beast from every point on the field: running back, wildcat, wide receiver, returning punts, etc. You can bet Holmes Jr. will get more offers on the way, so let the recruiting battle begin … Even if he can’t sign until 2016.

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Baseball: Alhambra’s Juan Morales knows the meaning of work, will lead Alhambra to first quarterfinals since 1987.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

ALHAMBRA – In less than four years, Alhambra High School’s Juan Morales has transformed from a pudgy catcher to the best defensive first baseman in Moors coach Steve Gewecke’s 17 seasons at the school.

It says a lot about Morales, who prior to moving to first base his sophomore year had never played the position. It speaks volumes for his strong work ethic, and that’s evident by his appearance: The senior captain has dropped 60 pounds since last November.

It was long before hitting the treadmill and eating healthier that Morales became the role model he is today. He’s helped lead Alhambra to its first quarterfinals appearance since 1987 as the Moors visit Lancaster on Friday in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.

Morales had a chance to play varsity as a sophomore.

“Coach said if I can hit that he’d find a place for me,” Morales said and, sure enough, first base became a competition.

Morales would have to compete against upperclassmen, so he went to work. After Alhambra practices, he’d head to Almansor Park with his father, Juan Sr., and younger brother Alex.

The two youngsters would work out fielding grounders for about an hour in hopes of familiarizing themselves with the infield.

Not long before the 2010 season started, Morales was named the starting first baseman.

Gewecke calls Morales the best defensive first baseman he’s ever had, quite a statement from a veteran coach.

“We thought he had soft hands,” Gewecke said. “He’s a big kid but he moves well. I’ve had some good ones at first base and I think he’s the best defensively.”

Morales believes hard work produces strong results, and he’s seen it first-hand with his father being a prime example. His dad came to the U.S. from Guadalajara, Mexico, about 20 years ago and it wasn’t long before he rose up the ranks, going from pizza delivery driver to owning his very own franchise of Little Caesars Pizza. He’s close to owning a second.

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Baseball: Little things addup for Monrovia, Temple City.

I’ll apologize ahead of time. I misspelled Bobby Hubble’s name in the paper. It appears as “Tubble”. It’s been fixed on this post. Again, my apologies.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

They say it’s the little things that count, so it’s no surprise then that Monrovia High School baseball co-head coach Brad Blackmore was as impressed with some of the subtle plays in the first couple innings as he was with the Wildcats surviving a bases-loaded situation with no outs against Bishop Amat on Tuesday.
What most Monrovia (19-5) fans will remember is the suspense of the seventh inning, clinging to a 4-2 lead as Bishop Amat loaded the bases with no outs. Senior Joe Mata was tabbed to face a situation some pitchers would rather skip, but Mata prevailed. He got the first batter to ground out, then struck out the next two to end the game, allowing the Wildcats to move on to Friday’s quarterfinals against Jurupa Valley.

Sure, Monrovia was a couple hits away from giving itself possibly six or seven-run cushion, but the fact of the matter is the Wildcats did enough to record a big road win, and it started with seemingly routine plays early on.

Monrovia turned a double play in the first, the infield tested early on. Third baseman Nick Carino, shortstop David Perez and second baseman Reed Miller turned key plays, and catcher Gabe Duran did as well. Carino made a diving catch at third and Perez stopped a hard grounder up the middle. Miller saved his for last when i nthe seventh he made a spectacular play to stop a hard grounder. A run scored cut Monrovia’s lead to 4-3, but it’s a whole new ball game if the ball reaches right field.

“I thought that was a big a play as there was,” Blackmore said.
Chris Burkholder pitched a great game into the fifth and Brad Felty got the Wildcats through the seventh.

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Softball: Monrovia, La Canada ready for Quarterfinals.


La Canada vs. Mary Star at San Pedro Softball Complex, 3:15 p.m.
Beaumont at Monrovia, 3:15 p.m.

By Keith Lair, Staff Writer

The Monrovia High School softball team has traveled near and far to face some of the fastest pitchers in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 this season.
The Wildcats return home for the division’s quarterfinals today seeing a different challenge. In addition to being fast, Beaumont’s Alyssa Fuimaono has a wicked changeup. The game will be played at 3:15 p.m.

“It definitely would be to our advantage to see someone who is just hard-throwing,” Monrovia coach Dave Guzman said. “But we rarely see (La Canada’s) Lauren (Cox) and (San Marino’s) Michelle (Floyd) throw changeups.

“This pitcher will apply the changeup and it’s a big difference. It’s a legitimate pitch for her. When she shows her changeup, it gets in the batter’s mind and they think about it. Our job will be to keep their pitcher off-balance and not figure out our pattern. That’s the game plan.”

It will be the Wildcats’ first home game in the playoffs. They beat Savanna in Anaheim last week and traveled

4 1/2 hours to shut out Morro Bay on Tuesday. A win would put the Wildcats, 17-8-1, at home in the semifinals against either South El Monte or Barstow.

Beaumont, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, reached last year’s division title game last year, but it lost to La Canada, 1-0.

The secret to getting a win, Guzman said, will be speed. He has moved Chelle Parker up to the No. 2 spot in the batting order.

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Baseball: Monrovia’s Mata proves clutch in seventh.

By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer

LA PUENTE – The Monrovia High School baseball team could feel it slipping away in the bottom of the seventh inning against defending champion Bishop Amat in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs Tuesday.

So, the Wildcats turned to the best pitcher they had left, Rio Hondo League Most Valuable Player Joe Mata.

All Mata had to deal with was the bases loaded, no outs and his team clinging to a two-run lead with the top of Amat’s order coming up.

“I know it was a tough situation when my coach put me in there,” Mata said. “I just said trust your defense and throw strikes.”

That’s exactly what he did.

After giving up a groundout that scored a run to cut the lead to one, Mata ended the game with two big strikeouts, the final coming with the bases loaded to preserve a 4-3 victory over the fourth-seeded Lancers. The Wildcats advance to Friday’s quarterfinals against Jurupa Valley, a 6-2 winner over La Habra.

“On that last pitch I was running on adrenaline,” Mata said. “When he swung and missed I just looked for someone to hug.”

It was a victory that doesn’t exactly avenge Monrovia’s loss to Bishop Amat in the 2006 CIF-SS title game, but it was further proof that doing little things can produce big results.

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Baseball: Errors, light bats doom La Salle in 2nd round.

Above: La Salle’s Bowdien Derby entered as a reliever in the third, but it was too late.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

PASADENA — Timing is everything, and the La Salle High School baseball team learned that valuable lesson on Tuesday.

The errors came in the most inopportune moments for the Lancers that more than helped extend innings for St. Bonaventure, it helped built its rallies.

La Salle’s clutch hits with runners in scoring position never came despite trailing early, and it all summed up to an 8-4 loss in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.

La Salle’s (19-8-1) remarkable season came to a sudden end after bringing home the school’s first Del Rey League title and entering the playoffs with momentum as the No. 2 seed, and expectations were high.

St. Bonaventure (18-9-1) was going to be a tough obstacle. The Saraphs have a reputation for being a hard hitting team, and they flexed their muscles against La Salle’s Austin Wallis.

The intimidation process started early in the first when senior Patrick Weigel came to the plate. The 6-foot-7 senior knocked the dirt off his cleats with two hard knocks of the bat. He then proceeded with an RBI single to give St. Bonaventure an early 1-0 lead.

La Salle would came back in the first to take a 3-1 lead thanks to David Sanchez’s RBI single to score Noeh Martinez and then Chris Williams’ two-run home run.

But Weigel came right back in the third and on the first pitch took a hard swing for a three run home run to give St. Bonaventure a 4-3 lead it would not relinquish. But it shouldn’t have happened after a routine double play was botched at second, allowing Grant Gallegos to reach first on a fielder’s choice and Jordan Farris safe at second. The next batter flew out to center before Weigel came to the plate.

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