By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
From day one, Eddie Pedroza has been the Northview High School baseball team’s leader. That won’t change when the Vikings open up the CIF-Southern Section playoffs with a first-round home game against Barstow on Friday. The manner in how the left-hander leads will. Pedroza, one of the top pitchers in the area the past three seasons, and the guy most have tabbed as the key to the Vikings making deep run through the Division4 playoffs, has had to change his modus operandi a bit after injuring a tendon on the elbow of his throwing arm two weeks ago.
An MRI revealed no tear or break, but it will keep him from the mound, at least at the start of the postseason. But Pedroza has found other ways to be the focal point of the Vikings.
“I just tell my guys not to panic,” Pedroza said. “Just because I went down doesn’t mean the whole team has to.
“These guys are good, they just don’t know it yet. I tell them to relax and just play and go out there and have fun.”
Pedroza was having fun this season, but that changed on May 5 when after making a pitch against rival San Dimas, he felt a sharp pain in his left elbow.
“Right when I did it, I felt a pain, a nasty pain,” Pedroza said. “I didn’t know what it was. I thought I tore something. I thought I was done. But I held my breath until the MRI came out and it was relief.”
He’s been working his way back, even getting some at-bats last Friday.
But he’s also found a way to lead by example as he has an underlining influence on his teammates. He is the lone holdover from the Vikings’ run to the semifinals in 2007, the school’s second CIF-SS baseball title two years ago and a trip to the second round last year.
All play factors in getting the Vikings through what they hope is a long playoff run in the next few weeks.
“We didn’t just lose our best pitcher, but also the No. 4 guy in our lineup,” Northview coach Darren Murphy said. “It was a double whammy. But he’s really turned it to a positive.
“Eddie being on the field, or not being on the field, depending on how his arm feels, is definitely an important factor for us. The kids know what he has accomplished. They all saw him pitch at Dodger Stadium (in 2008). He knows what it’s about and how to perform at a high level. He’s a key component for sure.”
For now, that will be just as a designated hitter. Murphy said there is an outside shot of him returning to the mound by the second round on Tuesday, with a shot more likely in the quarterfinals, or semifinals, if the Vikings advance that far.
But Pedroza has found other ways to contribute, helping out the team’s other pitchers, including junior Xavier Martinez and freshman Nico Castaneda.
“I’ve talked to (Martinez) about it,” Pedroza said. “He gets to the point when he gets two outs and changes his attitude. I tell him, `don’t do that.’ Every pitch is a battle and every batter is a battle. If you win those battles, you win the war.”
Now Pedroza is turning his attention to Friday’s 3:15 p.m. meeting against Barstow, and nothing beyond that.
“We just have to take it one game at a time, one pitch at a time and just compete,” he said of the playoffs. “If you look ahead of yourself, bad things can happen.”