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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