About Fred Robledo

Fred J. Robledo is the local sports editor for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Former Bishop Amat baseball coach Andy Nieto is taking his championship resume to Damien

By Fred J. Robledo
andynietoAs expected, Damien High School hired former Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto to take over its baseball program on Thursday.
Nieto, one of the winningest coaches in Southern California over the last decade, resigned less than a week after earning his fourth championship in eight years at Bishop Amat.
The Lancers ended the season with ten straight victories culminating with a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over top-seed Palm Desert for the CIF-SS Division 3 title at Dodger Stadium in June.
Nieto said he was leaving to pursue other opportunities, and soon after he announced he was leaving, Damien fired coach Al Leyva, prompting speculation that Damien would target Nieto.
Damien’s principal Merritt Hemenway was the principal at Bishop Amat when it hired Nieto, and the two remained close.
“I think it’s probably easier to say third time’s the charm,” Nieto said. “He (Hemenway) hired me at Cantwell (Sacred Heart) many moons ago when I was finishing my degree at USC. It’s a great relationship that we built and I owe the start of my teaching career to him and I owe a lot to him helping me establish my career as a coach and teacher.”
Leyva was 107-61 in six seasons at Damien, but never won a league championship. His best year was his first in 2009 when Damien finished 21-9 and advanced to the CIF-SS Division 2 semifinals. Damien was 17-10 this past season, finished in a tie for third in the Sierra League and was ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
Nieto thinks he can take Damien to the next level.
“I have always had the utmost respect for Damien, they never lacked talent or ability,” Nieto said. “For me this place has endless possibilities. When you combine the athletic facilities and resources, Damien is a sleeping giant.
“This program, there’s no fixing here, it’s on solid ground. For whatever the reason, they’ve always played well and they’ve knocked on the door of a championship. They’ve been knocking on the door for many years, lets figure out how to go through it and win this thing.”
Nieto won back-to-back titles when he first arrived at Bishop Amat in 2007 and ‘08, and added another banner in 2011 to go with seven consecutive Del Rey League championships.
Nieto finishes with a career record of 196-55-1 at Bishop Amat and in 2011 the Lancers finished the season ranked sixth nationally and won the prestigious National Classic.
Nieto arrived at Bishop Amat with huge expectations after previously serving as an assistant coach at USC from 1997-2006.
Nieto won a national championship with the Trojans in 1998 and went to the NCAA college World Series in Omaha three times with the Trojans in 1998, 2000 and 2001.
Nieto also served as an assistant baseball coach at Glendale community college in 1996 and was a recruiting coordinator for East Los Angeles College in 1995.
Bishop Amat was Nieto’s second high school head coaching job, having coached at Cantwell Sacred Heart from 1991-94 where he led the Cardinals to three league titles with a 62-35 overall record.
Nieto earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from USC in 1991 and master’s degree from Azusa Pacific and is a 1982 graduate of Schurr High.

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Sad news to report: Chino Hills community grieves for boys basketball player Nnami Okongwu following skateboard accident; conflicting reports on status


The Chino Hills basketball community grieved Wednesday for Nnamdi Okongwu, a member of the boys team that went to the CIF Southern Section Open Division championship game in March and a Pac-12 prospect. Okongwu was critically injured in a skateboarding accident Tuesday.

Conflicting reports surfaced as to the player’s condition Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning.

A message on the player’s instagram account was posted early Wednesday evening showing “Nnamdi Michael Okongwu, September 20, 1996 – July 16, 2014,” but that same account had a subsequent post after midnight saying, “Please stop telling nnamdi is dead please just pray for him.”

Three television stations and another print publication cited a school official who had confirmed that the player had passed away.

“He was a big presence as a basketball player and an even bigger presence as a person,” said Chino Hills coach Steve Baik, who was on vacation in Hawaii. “It’s kind of staggering to think about right now.”

Okongwu was at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. Details of the accident were not available.

Baik out of town, so was assistant coach Don Grant. Another assistant, Mel Simms, found out about the accident from a text his daughter received.

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Diamond Ranch football hires Mario Gomez to take over program

Mario Gomez has been tabbed as the new head football coach at Diamond Ranch High School. He replaces Roddy Layton, who headed the Panthers program for eight years.

Gomez, 31, had been a mainstay on Layton’s staff, joining it in 2006 as head junior varsity coach, only to be elevated to assistant varsity coach two weeks later.

He was part of a staff that took the team to CIF championship games in 2008 and 2009.

He had been the team’s defensive coordinator the last three years.

Gomez, who also teaches Spanish at the school, took the team through spring and summer drills and has retained many of the assistants so he expects the transition to be easy.

“We’re all on the same page and it has been a pretty seamless transition,” Gomez said. “I know the players and they know and respect me so we’re ready to move forward.”

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I’m back … so tell me what I missed while I was gone ….

I thought for sure with two weeks away from this place Andy Nieto would be at Damien by now and Bishop Amat would already have replaced Nieto at Amat? I also thought the Lakers would have added at least one free agent but it’s like time stood still. Or maybe a million things happened and I was so far out of sight, out of mind that I need some of you to get me up to speed on what’s happening around the Valley, what rumors are out there and what stories need looking into??? Best news I heard while gone is that we struck a deal with MaxPreps to provide localized standings, schedules, leaders and updated scores on our websites. Best part is our website should provide daily schedules and results through MaxPreps and we hope everything comes together by the fall. Other than that, time to make some phone calls and get back in the groove, football starts in just over a month.

UPDATE: Source confirms Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto HAS interviewed at Damien this week.
UPDATE: Bishop Amat AD Michael Manzo said he expects the Lancers to announce its next baseball coach next week.
UPDATE: San Dimas has hired Northview graduate Omar Diaz as its next wrestling coach. Saints also looking for a boys and girls varsity soccer coach.
UPDATE: Los Altos baseball has hired assistant coach Hector Gutierrez to take over the program following last month’s resignation of Andrew Formano.
RUMOR SPECULATION: Despite an email and tweet telling me that super Northview baseball freshman Jacob Amaya is transferring to South Hills, Northview coach Dan Roddy said there is no truth to it. He says he’s heard the rumor too, but has been told by Amaya’s family he isn’t going anywhere. Amaya is already committed to Cal State Fullerton. South Hills already has benefited by getting a transfer from Bishop Amat, Christian Moya.

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Until next time, how about a Tribune pre-season Top Ten Football Poll

weddningI’ll be getting hitched and on vacation at some far-away-beach over the next two weeks so send all tips and breaking news to steve.ramirez@langnews.com or his twitter @steverramirez. And keep Stevie honest, it’s his job to update the blog and keep you talking while I’m gone.
Not that I’ve had a lot of time to think about it while trying to keep the future Mrs. Robledo calm in the final stretch and watch World Cup soccer at the same time, but here’s my stab at the Tribune pre-season Top Ten Football Rankings and who else do you think I’d start at No. 1? Uh, duh. In any case, would love to hear your thoughts on a top ten, what teams you expect to do well and what players to watch for this fall. We’re beginning production on our annual PrepXtra Preview football magazine and over the years your input has always helped.

1. Bishop Amat — How often do we not start a season with Amat No. 1. It is what it is, area teams don’t beat them, they compete in the Pac-5 and have powerful juniors returning like Tre Sidney and Tyler Vaunghs. But will it make the playoffs? That’s a different story.
2. Glendora — They were 7-3 and return the areas best quarterback in Matt Fink. Let me say that again, the best quarterback. When you throw for nearly 1,500 yards and 12 TDs as a sophomore against the type of schedule the Tartans face, you’re going to be dangerous your next two years. And now that Glendora is in a league and playoff division they can compete in, get out of the way.
3. Charter Oak — Juniors Kamden Brown (quarterback) and Zion Echols (RB/WR) are the future and the Chargers should go back to dominating the Hacienda now that they’re finally out of the Sierra and Inland division. Good for Big Lou, would love to see him dominate and enjoy his final years at the school.
4. South Hills — Like Charter Oak, the Huskies should enjoy the drop from the Sierra to the new Palomares where Bonita and Glendora are likely their toughest competition and back in a playoff division they can compete in. Quarterback Garrett Fonseca should be ready to have a big senior season and coach Albert Rodriguez, or fuzz as they call him, has shown he gets the most out of his players, especially defensively.
5. Damien — Here’s the deal, competing in the Baseline is brutal because they barely hung in the Sierra. If anyone can handle the move it’s probably coach Mark Paredes but you can’t do anything without players and there hasn’t been an off-season buzz about players transferring to give you an idea they can compete at this level. But hey, in our little fishpond, they’re top five no doubt about it.
6. San Dimas – Can we just pencil in a back-to-back Mid-Valley title already? I don’t know if the Saints are legitimately better than the others ranked below, but they’ll dominate the Valle Vista and be favored to win a division that Monrovia is no longer part of. Look, coach Bill Zernickow is a master, he’s already proved it, it’s plug-and-place at San Dimas so get ready for another 14-week season.
7. Diamond Bar – The Snoop Dogg show is gone and so is coach Ryan Maine but they’ve got Antonio Noodles Hull and quarterback Tyler Peterson returning for their senior years and a new coach who’s been a winner everywhere he’s gone. I’m telling you now, don’t sleep on the purple.
8. West Covina — It’s felt like forever since the Bulldogs won back-to-back championships and were dominating everyone not named Bishop Amat or Charter Oak but something tells me coach Mike Maggiore will have the boys ready for the new Hacienda and its renewed rivalry with Charter Oak.
9. Bonita – The Bearcats lose a bunch but they have a bunch returning. This is a program that is solid year-after-year and has a lot of players in the program. It’s probably time for them to get their act together again.
10. Diamond Ranch — This is a pure guess because Roddy Layton is no longer coaching and a new coach hasn’t been named yet. But everyone knows there are talented football players at the Ranch and to have a top ten without them in it would be silly.

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Track All-Area: Damien’s Thaddeus Smith and Walnut’s Kayla Richardson take top honors


Consistency is usually the key to success in athletes, and it proved to be the key ingredient for Damien’s Thaddeus Smith and Walnut’s Kayla Richardson, who proved to be the area’s best.
For their efforts, Smith and Richardson are the Tribune Boys and Girls Track Athletes of the Year.
Smith, a junior, was the area’s top sprinter. He placed in Division 3 in the 100 and 200 at the CIF-Southern Sectoin finals and qualified for the CIF-SS Masters in the 200. At the divisional meet, he was sixth with a time of 10.77 seconds before taking third in the 200 at 21.36. At the Masters Meet, he was ninth at 21.94.
“Overall, I was pretty happy about the season,” Smith said. “My goal was to make it to Masters, so I did that. I broke the school record for the 200, so it was a pretty successful season. I wanted to make it to state, but it didn’t happen. I’ll just have to try next year.”
Richardson, a sophomore, was also the area’s top sprinter, placing in Division 1 in the 100 and part of Walnut’s 4×100 relay team, which was the area’s only representative at the CIF State championships near Fresno.
Richardson was ninth in the 100 in Division 1 at CIF-SS finals with a time of 12.35, which was best in the area. She helped Walnut to a fourth-place finish in the 4×100 with a time of 46.83. The Mustangs were sixth at Masters with a time of 47.01. They were sixth in their heat at the state championships and didn’t advance to the event final.
She also scored four first-place medals at the Hacienda League finals, winning the 100 and 200 and helping the 400 and 1,600 relay teams to wins.
“I wasn’t really satisfied with my year,” Richardson said. “I didn’t drop my time as much as I wanted to. But I was glad I was able to experience the state meet and would like to be back there next year.”

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Is South Hills sports better or worse since principal Judy North resigned?

When you think of the best sports principals in the San Gabriel Valley, South Hills’ Judy North use to come to mind. The Huskies had one of the best and longest tenured athletic coaching staffs in the Valley and there was a lot of on-field success during her tenure, but a lot has changed since her retirement a few years back. Since then, practically all the long-time coaches resigned or are no longer there due to other circumstances, including football coach Steve Bogan, baseball coach Kevin Smith, boys basketball coach Paul Reed, girls volleyball coach Charm Doyle, softball coach Scott Fisch, wrestling coach Rob Froh and some I may have missed, it’s hard to keep track. Just recently, Paul Reed, the boys athletic director and Kathy Reed, the girls athletic director, either resigned or were let go as the school’s athletic directors. When there is this much turnover in such a short period of time, you wonder what’s going on behind the scenes? While you’re busy mulling that, here’s another question, is South Hills athletics better or worse since North retired? With the quick and swift changing of the guard it may take a few years to know for sure whether South Hills athletics is taking a step forward or back, but from a coaching standpoint, there’s a new regime for sure.

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Breaking News: Damien fires baseball coach Al Leyva prompting immediate speculation that former Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto could take over

Thursday update: A day after Al Leyva was fired at Damien, Mt. SAC and former South Hills coach Kevin Smith added Leyva to his staff at Mt. SAC as an assistant ….. The speculation that former Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto could take over at Damien just multiplied following today’s news that, Long Beach State Baseball Hall of Famer, Don Barbara, has been hired as the new head coach at St. John Bosco. Nieto was finalist for St. John Bosco, but who knows, maybe he pulled out of the running now that Damien position is available. Stay tuned.

alleyvaWednesday’s Breaking News: Damien athletic director Jeff Grant said the school has parted ways with baseball coach Al Leyva and that an immediate search for a new coach has started. Damien will accept applications through June 27.
Leyva was 107-61 in six seasons at Damien, but never won a league championship. His best year was his first in 2009 when Damien finished 21-9 and advanced to the CIF-SS Division 2 semifinals. Damien was 17-10 this past season, finished in a tie for third in the Sierra League and was ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
“There wasn’t a single incident or something that led to this,” Grant said. “It’s a combination of small things and at the end of the day we wanted to move in a different direction.”
andynieto1That different direction could be former Bishop Amat baseball coach Andy Nieto, who resigned at Bishop Amat last week after winning his fourth championship in eight years. Nieto has a close relationship with Damien principal Dr. Merritt Hemenway, who was previously the principal at Bishop Amat and who hired Nieto to take over the Amat baseball program.
Nieto has been rumored to be interested in St. John Bosco, but with Damien becoming available it could change things.
Grant admitted that Nieto and Hemenway are close, and Nieto always has said he has a lot of respect and admiration for his former principal.
“We’re opening the job for any and all applicants,” Grant said. “Obviously coach Nieto is no longer employed and he’s more than welcome to apply. But this is not a situation where the jobs already been promised to anyone.”

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Swimming All-Area: Walnut’s Derek Kao, Glendora’s Alexis Margett earn top awards


Walnut has had a strong swimming tradition and Kao added to it with a solid effort at the Division 2 championships in Riverside.
He had one of the divisions best-ever efforts, scoring the 100 breaststroke title with a meet-record time of 54.91 seconds. The senior also finished third in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:52.65. He helped the Mustangs’ 200 medley relay team to a third-place finish with a time of 1:35.07.
“Going into the race, I thought, just rely on my training,” Kao said. “I had to focus on what I had to do and just go for it.”


Margett had the top performance by area swimmer at the Division 2 championships in Riverside.
She was the lone area competitor to score a title, winning the 100 butterfly with a time of 54.52. The freshman also helped the Tartans to wins in the 200 medley (1:47.63) and 400 (3:32.12) freestyle relays, keying the Division 2 title. Margett also finished 10th in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:07.18.
“I feel really accomplished,” Margett said after winning her event. “I feel like I applied the right technique to get that time, so it’s great.”

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Breaking News: Walnut boys basketball coach Josh Cameron resigns to become assistant principal at Norco

By Fred J. Robledo
Walnut boys basketball coach Josh Cameron resigned on Wednesday to become the assistant principal at Norco High School.
Cameron coached eight years at Walnut and turned it into one of the premier programs in the San Gabriel Valley, earning area coach of the year honors this past season after leading the Mustangs to an undefeated Hacienda League title.
The Mustangs finished 22-6, setting a school record for victories in a season and also a school-record 14-game undefeated streak.
Cameron took over a team that had just won four games prior to his arrival in 2006 and turned it around, advancing to the playoffs for six straight years, reaching the CIF-SS divisional quarterfinals once and the second round four times.
Cameron finishes with an overall record of 128-90 at Walnut. He was 21-31 in his first two years, but finished 107-59 in his last six seasons.
“The opportunity at Norco came up and I went for it, it’s a great job,” Cameron said. “It’s a little bittersweet leaving Walnut because of the program we built up. It’s a great place to coach because of the players and administration.”
Cameron’s leaving the program on a high note and with a young team that’s built to continue what he started.
“That’s what’s great about it, the program is at one of the highest points it’s been in a long time,” Cameron said. “I’m certainly not leaving the cupboard empty. I wouldn’t of left Walnut for any other coaching position, but with a chance to become an assistant principal, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

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Girls Softball All-Area 2014: San Dimas’ Janelle Wheaton powers her way to Player of the Year; Los Altos’ Nacho Hernandez coach of the year

By Fred Robledo
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Janell Wheaton, San Dimas, Sr.
San Dimas coach Don Pollard remembers when Janell Wheaton was a freshman and wondering if all that talent would blossom.
“There are some players that come in as a freshman and you say to yourself, ‘she’s going to be great as a senior,’ and then they never really live up to the hype.”
That wasn’t Wheaton.
“Not only did she live up to everything, she exceeded it,” Pollard said. “I’m not just talking about her talent, but her softball IQ, how she plays under pressure and the work she does in the classroom. She’s the most complete package I’ve ever been around.”
Wheaton, who signed a national letter of intent to play at National champion Florida, has been selected the San Gabriel Valley Tribune player of the year.
“She’s everything she’s advertised to be,” said San Dimas coach Don Pollard. “She deserves all the accolades she’s getting.”

Wheaton did it all at San Dimas, winning four straight Valle Vista league titles and earning three straight league most valuable player of the year awards.
Wheaton was named to the all-area first-team a year ago, then set her sights even higher.
“The girl who was chosen for player of the year last year (Bishop Amat’s Lexi Gonzalez) went to Oregon State,” Wheaton said. “I said to myself, ‘that’s my goal, to have a good season, to win league again and get player of the year and go off on a good note.’ I’m pretty happy with my career at San Dimas.”
The catcher’s senior season numbers were off the charts. She led the area in average, RBIs and hits, batting .617 with 44 RBIs and 58 hits. She also had five home runs and likely would have finished with double-digit homers if San Dimas had a fence.
“That’s true, she would have had seven to ten more with a fence,” Pollard said. “Everyone played her back and she still hit bombs over their heads that would have been gone at any other park.
“She made adjustments at the plate and hit a lot of line drives. She finished with a lot of extra base hits (10 doubles and six triples).
Wheaton also led San Dimas to the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 quarterfinals, and for all her offensive prowess, she was an equal force defensively behind home plate.
“Nobody stole on her and anyone that tried found out quickly it wasn’t going to work.” Pollard said. “I can’t remember the last time she let a ball get past her that wasn’t a wild pitch, she has that kind of skillset.
“The other thing is, she calls her own game. She’s been calling her own game the last three years because she’s got that IQ and understands pitchers and hitters very well.”
Wheaton will either play first base or catcher at Florida.
“They have some established players ahead of her, but they’ll find a place for her,” Pollard said. “I have no doubt she’ll go on to do great things at Florida and whatever else she chooses to do in life.”

nachohernandezCOACH OF THE YEAR: Nacho Hernandez, Los Altos
No team improved more over the course of the season than Los Altos, a young group that was beaten soundly early in the year, losing three of their first five games, and getting hammered in two of them. But the Conquerors stayed the course under their fourth year coach, who needed wins over Bonita and West Covina in the second half of Hacienda League play to earn a co-league title with Bonita, giving Hernandez his second league championship.
The Conquerors finished league with a dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 victory over West Covina, then shocked South Hills 1-0 in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. The Conquerors won 10 of their final 12 games to finish 16-7, and for their efforts, Hernandez has been selected the Tribune 2014 softball coach of the year.

natalielugoNATALIE LUGO, South Hills, Freshman, Pitcher
The only freshman on the all-area first-team was arguably the area’s best pitcher and is already verbally committed to NCAA champion Florida. She earned Sierra League first-team honors, finishing 16-6 with a 0.98 ERA with 197 strikeouts in 150 innings. She also helped the Huskies reach the Division 2 playoffs.

celestewoodCELESTE WOOD, Los Altos, Junior, Pitcher
She hit and pitched her way to the Hacienda League MVP after helping the Conquerors finish in a tie for the league title, then pitched a gem in a 1-0 victory over South Hills in the first-round of the Division 2 playoffs. Wood, who is committed to Michigan State, was 13-2 with a 2.38 ERA and just as dangerous at the plate, batting .536 with five home runs and 19 RBIs.

jennarodeloJENNA RODELO, Rowland, Sophomore, Catcher
Was the lone bright spot on a Raiders team that won one game all season. She earned Hacienda league first-team honors for her terrific season defensively and at the plate, where she was among the leaders in every offensive category. She batted .533 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs. She was pitched around so many times, she did it all with only 60 at-bats.

madelainetickeyMADELAINE TICKEY, West Covina, Junior, Utility
Tickey quickly proved herself after transferring from Duarte, turning into one of the areas best all-around players in the circle and the plate. She earned Hacienda league first-team honors after helping the Bulldogs reach the playoffs. She batted .394 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs. In the circle she was 12-5 with a 2.33 ERA.

amandasanchezAMANDA SANCHEZ, Bishop Amat, Senior, Infielder
The Del Rey league first-team third baseman earns her second-straight all-area first-team selection. On her way to the University of Missouri, she helped the Lancers reach the second round of the Division 3 playoffs and was one of the areas most feared hitters. She batted .442 with six home runs, eight doubles and 24 RBIs in a tough league that produced divisional champion St. Paul.

ashleydiazASHLEY DIAZ, South El Monte, Junior, Infielder
She earned the Mission Valley most valuable player award for the second straight season after helping the Eagles to a co-league title with Arroyo and has verbally committed to the University of Arkansas. The shortstop produced sensation offensive numbers and was among the area leaders in the triple crown category, batting. 542 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs. She also had 11 doubles.

monetmanningMONET MANNING, Northview, sophomore, Infielder
The sophomore shortstop had a breakout season for the Vikings to earn Valle Vista league first-team honors. She hit for power and average, batting .509 with eight home runs, 29 RBIs and seven doubles. She belted two home runs in a game twice, and only struck out twice the entire season.

aliciabrownALICIA BROWN, Glendora, Senior, Infielder
The Tartans’ team struggled in the Baseline league, but Brown was one of the league’s best, earning first-team honors. She helped the Tartans to the San Dimas tournament title and batted .354 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs. The third baseman will continue her softball career at Loyola Marymount University.

chloemelansonCHLOE MELANSON, Bonita, Junior, Outfielder
The speedy right fielder earned Hacienda league first-team honors and is verbally committed to the University of Miami in Ohio. She helped the Bearcats share the Hacienda league title by hitting for average, power and was a threat on the bases. She batted. 522 with 12 home runs, six doubles and 20 RBIs.

alyssabarreraALYSSA BARRERA, Bishop Amat, Junior, Outfielder
The Del Rey league first-team selection led the Lancers in average and was tied for the team lead in runs scored. She batted an impressive .494 with a .553 on base percentage. She finished with 40 hits while also belting two home runs to go with three doubles, three triples, 12 RBIs and 21 runs scored.

brookeclemetsonBROOKE CLEMETSON, Charter Oak, Senior, Outfielder/Pitcher
The Sierra League first-team selection pitched, played outfield and is one of the areas best all-around players headed to Cal State Fullerton. She batted .423 with four doubles and nine RBIs but was most important to her team in the circle, finishing 12-3 with a 1.15 ERA with 73 strikeouts.

Pitcher: Kaelyn McFadden, Bonita, Senior
Pitcher: Princess Nava, Covina, Junior
Pitcher: Kaile Chavez, Charter Oak, Junior
Catcher: Melysia Ortega, South Hills, Sophomore
Utility: Ana Mejia, Northview, Senior
Infielder: Evelyn Sandoval, El Monte, Sophomore
Infielder: Jennifer Aguinaga, San Dimas, Senior
Infielder: Isabella Sierra, Covina, Sophomore
Infielder: Anissa Sanchez, Bishop Amat, Senior
Outfielder: Jocelyn Marquez, Northview, Senior
Outfielder: Alexis Gonzalez, West Covina, Senior
Outfielder: Sierra Hensel, Charter Oak, Senior

1. Charter Oak (19-8)
2. Bishop Amat (18-10)
3. San Dimas (22-8)
4. Los Altos (16-7)
5. South Hills (21-8)
6. Bonita (17-7)
7. West Covina (16-12)
8. Arroyo (19-5)
9. Covina (16-8-1)
10. Sierra Vista (17-5-2)

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Baseball All-Area 2014: Bishop Amat’s Scott Hurst finishes with championship and MVP; Amat’s Andy Nieto coach of the year

By Stephen Ramirez
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Scott Hurst, Bishop Amat, Sr.
Bishop Amat High School features arguably the richest baseball tradition in the area.
It includes winning nine CIF-Southern Section divisional titles and a good list of former players who went on to play Major League Baseball, including recently retired Michael Young, of the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies and the Dodgers, and pitcher Dan Haren, who is on the Dodgers’ starting staff this season.
But of the Lancers nine CIF-SS titles, this season’s road to championship glory was the most unexpected. It included a four-game losing streak to end the season and was capped by three come-from-behind wins, including a 4-3 victory over top-seeded Palm Desert in the Division 3 title game.
A key component for the Lancers’ run to the title was senior outfielder/pitcher Scott Hurst, who was one of the area’s better offensive players and arguably the top closer. But it was his role as a leader that turned the tide for Bishop Amat.

“The season was a roller coaster,” Hurst said. “A lot our guys got down on themselves and us five seniors just tried to keep the team motivated. It brought us all the way to Dodger Stadium and we wound up (winning). It was a heckuva season, one I’ll never forget.”
For his efforts, Hurst, who will play at traditional power Cal State Fullerton next season, is Tribune Baseball Player of the Year.
Bishop Amat, which opened the season with four losses, appeared dead in the water a little more than a month ago after losing back-to-back games to rival St. Paul. But the Lancers, helped by Hurst’s leadership, strung together 10 wins to close the season. They capped the run with three come-back victories, including a 4-3 win over top seed Palm Desert to win the Division 3 title.
It was Bishop Amat’s ninth division title, and its fourth since 2007.
Hurst keyed surge, ranking among area leaders with a .419 batting average, with 25 RBIs and 15 extra-base hits, including six triples. He finished off the final three victories with saves in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. In three innings, he retired nine of 10 batters, givng up just a walk while striking out five. He finished the season with 19 strikeouts in 11 innings.
“I was just trying to pound the zone all year,” Hurst said. “It was my first year closing. I was trying to get the hang of it all year. It wound up working out well for our team.”
Now Hurst begins the next state of his baseball career, signing with Cal State Fullerton.
“I feel real confident going to Fullerton, which is another great program,” Hust said. “I still have some things to work on, but I think I’ll fit right in.”

andynieto1COACH OF THE YEAR: Andy Nieto, Bishop Amat
Andy Nieto, in eight seasons, has arguably become the area’s top coach. He’s won four divisional titles while also scoring some marquee wins titles. But this might be his best effort. The Lancers lost their first four games and looked in danger of missing the playoffs after a lost week against rival St. Paul. But Nieto was able to keep the team motivated and eventually the Lancers caught fire and finished the season with a 10-game win streak, including ending the season with three come-back victories to win the school’s ninth division title.
For his efforts, Nieto is Tribune Coach of the Year.
“Our guys(were) extremely resilient,” Nieto said. “They never quit. We had a lot of doubters. But those doubters learned an important life lesson — never doubt the spirit of the team. I’m proud of our guys. They deserved everything they’ve received and they deserve to be (champions).”

gavinvelasquezGAVIN VELASQUEZ, South Hills, Junior, Pitcher
Not a lot was expected from Velasquez to begin the season, but he turned out to be a hidden gem for South Hills. He was 10-1-1 with a school-record 0.67 ERA. He had five shutouts and gave up just one earned run during his first 29 innings. He also had 75 strikeouts in 83 innings. He was first team All-Sierra League.

alexgarciaALEX GARCIA, Bishop Amat, Senior, Pitcher
Garcia was the money pitcher for the Lancers, and a key factor in Amat rallying to win the school’s ninth CIF-SS title. He was 8-3 with a 2.72 ERA. The senior also had 105 strikeouts in 76 innings.

kalemortonKALE MORTON, Glendora, Senior, Pitcher
Morton finished his career on the same level of past Tartan pitchers, including Wes Roemer and Adam Plutko. His 11-0 record was the best in school history. He also had a 1.58 ERA, while striking out 76 in 71 innings. The senior also hit .383 with nine RBIs as a designated hitter. He was Baseline League MVP.

davidbanuelosDAVID BANUELOS, Damien, Senior, Catcher
Banuelos was an offensive machine for the Spartans. He hit .395 to rank among the area leaders. Ha also had 24 RBIs and had four home runs. The senior, who was first team All-Sierra League, was also solid defensively.

danielmilweeDANIEL MILLWEE, San Dimas, Senior, Utility
Millwee was a key contributor for the Saints, who advanced to the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. The senior, who was San Dimas’ lead-off hitter, hit .330 and ranked among the area leaders with 30 runs scored. He also had 13 RBIs and had eight extra-base hits. He was first team All-Valle Vista League.

peterlambertPETER LAMBERT, San Dimas, Junior, Infielder
Lambert keyed San Dimas to its second consecutive CIF-SS quarterfinal appearance. He was Valle Vista League MVP, going 11-1 with a 0.55 ERA. He also had 95 strikeouts in 76 innings. On offense, he hit .351 with 23 RBIs. Lambert also tossed a 1-hitter, flirting with a perfect game, in the playoffs.

alexgonzalezALEX GONZALEZ, Bonita, Junior, Infielder
Gonzalez keyed the Bearcats to another Hacienda League title. He ranked among area leaders with a .389 batting average and 28 RBIs. The junior was also one of the top defensive second basemen’s in the area. He was first team All-Hacienda League.

granthockinGRANT HOCKIN, Damien, Senior, Infielder
Hockin, the grandson of Pro Baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, was Damien’s ace in the hole. He was one of the top pitchers in the area, going 9-3 with a 1.49 ERA. At the plate, he hit .379 with 15 RBIs and two home runs. The senior was co-Sierra League MVP. He was drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Indians. He signed with Cleveland, forgoing to play at UCLA.

ericgutierrezERIC GUTIERREZ, Sierra Vista, Senior, Infielder
Gutierrez played a major role in the Dons enjoying one of the better seasons in school history, which included their first appearance in the CIF-SS quarterfinals in 20 years. He was 9-1 with a 1.22 ERA. He also hit .466 with 18 RBIs. Gutierrez was Montview League MVP.

djpetersDJ PETERS, Glendora, Senior, Outfielder
Peters was Glendora’s offensive leader and a key factor in the Tartans winning the Baseline League title. He hit .359 with 20 RBIs. He also had four home runs and 11 doubles. Peters, who will play at traditional power Cal State Fullerton next season, was first team All-Baseline League.

alexlaborALEX LABOR, Northview, Senior, Outfielder
Labor played a major role in the Vikings advancing to the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the second consecutive season, including upsetting Division 4 top seed Kaiser in the second round. He ranked among area leaders, hitting .543. Labor was All-Valle Vista.

eliasoronaELIAS ORONA, San Dimas, Senior, Outfielder
Orona was one of the top center fielders in the area. He was solid on offense, ranking among area leaders with a .344 average. He also had 20 RBIs. The senior played a big role in San Dimas advancing to the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the second consecutive season. He was All-Valle Vista League.

P: Nick Johnson, Bonita, So.
P: Isaac Archer, Bishop Amat, Jr.
P: Anthony Deeter, West Covina, Sr.
UT: Gerardo Ramirez, Diamond Bar, Jr.
C: Justin Cage, Glendora, Sr.
C: Kory Brown, Charter Oak, Sr.
INF: Michael Palos, Bishop Amat, Sr.
INF: Derek Martin, Arroyo, Sr.
INF: Jon Ayala, South Hills, Sr.
INF: Ryan Viramontes, West Covina, Sr.
OF: Jonathan Longtin, San Dimas, Jr.
OF: Justin Gomez, Bonita, Jr.
OF: Anthony Cuevas, Los Altos, Jr.

Glendora: Eric Flores, Sr., Inf/P
Bishop Amat: Adryan Ramirez, So. INF; Christian Moya, So. OF
Bonita: Joe Quire, Sr., INF; Ethan Muro, Sr. INF
Diamond Bar: Josh Sanchez, Sr. C
Walnut: Brennan McKenzie, So. INF
Sierra Vista: Christian Novelo, Sr. C
Damien: Jordan Abernathy, Sr. OF
San Dimas: Michael Starns, Sr. OF/P

1. Bishop Amat (21-11)
2. Glendora (21-7)
3. South Hills (21-6-1)
4. San Dimas (23-7-1)
5. Bonita (23-8)
6. Northview (18-12)
7. Diamond Bar (19-11)
8. Sierra Vista (22-4)
9. Walnut (15-13-2)
10. Arroyo (14-8)

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What’s going on behind the scenes at Bishop Amat? Soph’s Anthony Walters and Christian Moya leave … Who will be its next baseball coach? El Rancho’s Gabe Lopez? How about John Romano

Conspiracy theorists will have a field day with what allegedly has gone on behind the scenes over the past few weeks in regards to Bishop Amat baseball and coach Andy Nieto. If you think Nieto resigning Thursday after winning his fourth championship at the school was a surprise, you haven’t been reading our blog. First, the big news. A day after Nieto resigned, sophomores Anthony Walters and Christian Moya, two huge pieces to their championship team, left the school according to sources. Moya is reportedly transferring to South Hills. Back to Nieto and Amat baseball. I don’t normally pay close attention to comment speculation and predictions, except in this case, what has been rumored for weeks came to fruition, and what’s been rumored to follow is curiously taking shape. On the same day Nieto resigned, Bishop Amat principal Richard Beck confirmed that El Rancho junior varsity coach Gabe Lopez was at the school droping off his resume and inquiring about the opening that just became vacant a few hours earlier. For the record, Beck said Thursday the position wouldn’t be floated until today, would close on June 20 with a decision hopefully by June 30. It’s also interesting that two days before Nieto resigned, a well-placed source in Whittier told me that Lopez already was set to take over once Nieto made it official. Beck said that isn’t true. “Anyone that applies will have just as good a shot as the next one. There are others who have applied already as well. There isn’t one person we have in mind.” Beck said. However, if Lopez gets the job, folks are going to wonder if this was a backroom deal all along, and if new applicants ever had a chance. Although Nieto understandably denied it, sources have been emailing and calling me the past month suggesting he was ready to leave Amat, and that he would wind up at St. John Bosco. Sources have confirmed Nieto already has had cursory conversations with Bosco about its opening. There are also rumors Nieto could wind up at Damien, but there is one problem with that, Al Leyva is still the coach there. Want more fun speculation, Nogales’ John Romano, who just retired after more than 30 years at the school and more than 600 victories, said he is absolutely interested in Amat’s opening and will also be leaving his resume. Also, for those wondering if Bishop Amat softball coach Kristen Dedmon was returning after her first year, the answer is yes, she’ll be back. In football news, Aram Tolegian posted this on his In the Huddle Blog...

Bishop Amat’s next quarterback also could be junior-to-be Ryder Ruiz, the brother of Amat Hall of Famer Rio Ruiz

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Breaking News: Bishop Amat baseball coach Andy Nieto resigns a week after winning his fourth CIF championship

By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
Bishop Amat baseball coach Andy Nieto, one of the winningest baseball coaches in Southern California over the last decade, announced Thursday he is resigning less than a week after earning his fourth championship in eight years at the school.
Bishop Amat started the season with four losses and was on the verge of not making the playoffs, but ended with ten straight victories culminating with last week’s stunning come-from-behind 4-3 victory over top-seed Palm Desert for the CIF-SS Division 3 title at Dodger Stadium.

There was speculation for weeks that Nieto was considering leaving, and Thursday he told his team he was resigning both as coach and teacher at the school to pursue other opportunities.
“For me, I’m always seeking new challenges and new experiences,” Nieto said. “After a lot of thinking for me personally and my family, there couldn’t be a better time in terms of the timing.
“Things are at a very high level in where the program is and how I’m leaving it, and I wish everyone at Amat all the success in the future.
“In terms of what’s next for me, God willing, everything will work out.”
Whether Nieto is eyeing openings at St. John Bosco or Servite, which both compete in the tough Trinity league or a return to college remains to be seen.
“There are things out there, but for me nothing is concrete and nothing is on the table,” Nieto said.
Nieto was asked a few times during the playoffs if he was considering leaving, but said on multiple occasions he had no intention of resigning, repeating it again soon after the championship, but also noting that he never says never.
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Bishop Amat boys basketball and football camps this month

Bishop Amat boys basketball and football camps are both this month.
HIT AND HUSTLE: Bishop Amat’s Hit and Hustle Football camp with head coach Steve Hagerty and crew is Saturday, June 21, from 9-3 p.m. (forcing you to miss World Cup Football, I know, I know). Applications for the camp can be found a bishopamat.org under boys athletics/football. $75 gets you six hours of instruction, lunch, a group photo, shirt and a camp certificate.
BOYS BASKETBALL: Coach Brandon Ertle, his staff and members of the Lancers varsity basketball team is conducting their annual boys basketball camp from June 16-19 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., at Bishop Amat. The camp is open to anyone entering grades 5-9. The camp is for both the experienced and inexperienced player, provided you’ve got the $100 bucks to cover the four days. For more info contact coach Ertyle at (626) 962-2495 ext. 5822, bertle@bishopamat.org

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Damien’s Grant Hockin passes on UCLA, agrees to sign with Cleveland Indians for $1.1 million

MLB TRADE RUMORS: The Indians have reached an agreement with second-round pick Grant Hockin on an above-slot $1.1MM bonus, according to MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo (on Twitter). The 61st overall selection in the draft had been assigned a value of $928.7K, according to Baseball America.

Opinions on the 6’3″, 195-pound Hockin varied, as ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him 49th among draft prospects, while MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo ranked Hockin 91st and Baseball America ranked him 109th in the draft. Law feels that Hockin, a client of MVP Sports Group, flashes four above-average pitches with a clean arm slot. BA feels that only three of his pitches have above-average potential, also noting that he doesn’t have a wipeout offering.


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Bishop Amat rallies and stuns Palm Desert, 4-3, to claim CIF-SS Division 3 title

Photo gallery of Bishop Amat’s 4-3 victory over Palm Desert

Bishop Amat rallied to beat Palm Desert, 4-3, to give Amat its fourth championship under coach Andy Nieto in eight years, and ninth title all-time. Steve Ramirez’s story is below.


By Stephen Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
A little more than a month ago, the Bishop Amat High School baseball team looked all but dead, losing three consecutive games and was in danger of missing the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.
Today, the Lancers are champions.
Michael Palos had a RBI double to tie it and Bryan Menendez followed with an RBI single for the lead and the Lancers rallied late for the fourth consecutive game to win the school’s ninth CIF-SS championship with a 4-3 victory over top seed Palm Desert in the Division 3 title game Friday at Dodger Stadium.

Christian Moya and Palos had two hits each for the Lancers, who finished 21-11, closing the season with a 10-game winning streak and its fourth CIF-SS title since 2007.
Andrew Clark, Gil Sauceda and Kyle Kabeary had two hits each for Palm Desert, which finished 27-7. It was also the Aztecs second loss to Amat in a championship game, losing 7-0 here in 2011.
“Winning a CIF championship is sweet, but winning it this way is even better,” Palos said. “It speaks volumes of the character of our team. We had our backs against the wall the whole time (during the playoffs), but we never gave up on ourselves.
“We always believed we could come back. We just picked each other up, rallied around each other. It just makes the victory that much more sweeter.”

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Former Arcadia Football coach Dick Salter dies. He was 87

salterFormer Arcadia High School football coach Dick Salter passed away at his Covina home surrounded by his family on Friday. He was 87.
Salter was head coach at Arcadia from 1970-89. During that time he led the Apaches to CIF championship game appearances in 1977 and ’78. Prior to Arcadia, he also had a long stint as head coach at Cathedral. Salter later won CIF championships as an assistant coach at Bishop Amat and Upland.

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Gladstone baseball coach Rich Remkus retires after more than 30 years and 609 victories at school


Count another longtime San Gabriel Valley baseball coaching legend as gone.

Gladstone High School said Friday that Rich Remkus has retired after 30 years at the helm of the Gladiators’ baseball program.

“It’s just time,” Remkus said. “I’m retiring from teaching this year and I just wanted to make a clean break of it. I’m reaching the age where I’m slowing down and I just want to be able to devote some time some of my other hobbies in life while I’m still able to do it.”

Remkus joins other area baseball coaching stalwarts John Romano of Nogales and Monrovia’s Dave Moore, who ended lengthy careers following the end of the 2014 season.

During Remkus’ 30 seasons, Gladstone made the CIF-Southern Section playoffs 24 times and won a CIF championship in 1986. Remkus’ teams also won 12 league championships and played on one of the best-kept fields in the Valley.

“He had a reputation for having the nicest-manicured field in the area,” Gladstone athletic director Chuck Shore said of Remkus. “That didn’t come without a lot of sweat and hard work and time commitment. The district will only do so much with a facility but he wanted it to be the best, so he put the work in.”

“He has put Gladstone on the map in many ways. The players who came out of his program, when they went to college, they knew how to play the game.”

Remkus, 63, enjoyed one of the biggest moments of his career this spring when he won his 600th game on Mar. 12 against Rosemead. Remkus finished with 609 wins.

He had been considering retirement for some time, but stuck on 597 wins before the season started, Remkus said his family and friends pressured to come back and surpass the 600-win plateau.

Remkus cited the 1986 CIF championship and being able to coach his son Tommy in the 2010 San Gabriel Valley All-Star Game as the two biggest highlights of his career.

“Standing on that field with him (Tommy) that day was not only a big thrill as a coach, but as a father,” Remkus said. “The CIF championship and that one particular All-Star game, were the absolute highlights of my career.”

Remkus, who lives in Chino, also retired from teaching and enjoyed his last day at the school on Friday. The veteran coach said anyone looking for him going forward will likely find him on a golf course or in the mountains.

“I want to try and get my golf game back in shape and I really love the mountains,” Remkus said. “I want to spend a lot of times doing some hiking and camping up in the Sierras. It’s kind of a personal passion of mine. But I’m also going to like sleeping in everyday.”

Gladstone will begin the process of finding Remkus’ replacement immediately. A party with Remkus’ former players is also being planned. Former players interested in attending are encouraged to contact Shore for details at CShore@azusa.org.

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Damien’s Grant Hockin drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Indians

Update, Hockin to Indians: Damien High School senior Grant Hockin was indeed the first local player chosen in the Major League Baseball Free Agent draft, going in the second round to the Cleveland Indians. He was the only area player taken on the first day of the annual draft.
The 6-foot-2 right-hander was predicted to go somewhere between the middle of the second round to early in the third round. The Indians chose him with the 61st overall selection, the 19th pick in the second round.

Damien High School senior Grant Hockin will spend a good part of this evening waiting by the phone. He has spent more than half his life playing baseball, so it’s a day he always hoped would come.

The Major League Baseball Amateur Draft gets underway with two rounds today and the third through seventh rounds on Friday. Hockin, a 6-foot-1 right-handed pitcher, will likely be the first local player selected.

“I’m excited, a littler nervous. Every emotion you can think of,” he said. “I worked hard and I am hoping that all pays off.”

Hockin, 18, is in a no-lose situation. He already has signed with UCLA and can go that rout if he isn’t satisfied with where he is selected or the contract negotiations that follow.

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Bishop Amat girls basketball camp, June 23-26 .. Chance to work with five-time CIF champion coach, Richard Wiard

Bishop Amat High School girls’ basketball coach, Richard Wiard, is holding his annual Lady Hoopster Basketball Camp June 23-26 from 1:30-5:00 daily. The camp is open to girls entering the 5th-9th grades. Girls will receive instruction in basketball fundamentals, a camp t-shirt, and the chance to win daily prizes. The cost of the camp is $90. For more information, contact Coach Wiard at rwiard@bishopamat.org or 626-962-2495 ext. 5868

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San Dimas’ Janelle Wheaton wins MVP to lead north to 9-6 win; Northview’s Hayley Gomez wins HR Derby

WHEATON SHINES: San Dimas’ Janelle Wheaton, who took second place in the home run derby with five, was a triple away from the cycle, including a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth, to lead the North to a 9-6 comeback victory over South in the San Gabriel Valley softball all-star game on Monday afternoon.

“It’s pretty awesome to get to play with all the girls I played against all season,” said Wheaton, who was named the game’s MVP. “Today we got to become teammates, and to end if off with a home run was great.”

Northview’s Hayley Gomez wins HR Derby with 8 … watch a few of them here

Northview’s Ana Mejia hits an HR for the North, then talks about it

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Rio Hondo league loses football appeal to avoid Central, will now face East San Gabriel Valley’s best

The Rio Hondo and Monrovia, who won three Mid-Valley championships over the past five years, will join the best public schools in the San Gabriel Valley after losing its appeal today to avoid the Central Division in football, which includes the likes of Charter Oak, Glendora, West Covina, Bonita and South Hills, who hail from the Palomares and Sierra Leagues, and will be part of the division starting in the fall. There was a time while winning their Mid-Valley titles that Monrovia fans thought they were better than them all, including Bishop Amat in the Pac-5. Well, now they get their chance to prove it on the field.

IS MONROVIA’S FOOTBALL DYNASTY OVER?: Some of the luster was already off the Monrovia High School football program when the CIF-Southern Section proposed that the Wildcats, along with the Rio Hondo League, be moved to the Central Division.

Monrovia had just come off a season in which it was walloped by St. Francis in the area’s biggest nonleague game of the season and later lost in the semifinals of the Mid-Valley Division playoffs despite a being prohibitive favorite to win its fourth consecutive division title.

Then came word that head coach Ryan Maddox, who had guided the program to one of the most successful runs in area history, resigned to focus on other career goals. Maddox’s departure led to a longer-than-expected job search that saw some very high-profile local coaches say “thanks but no thanks” to being the next head coach.

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