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|Written by Mike Terry|
|Thursday, 27 February 2014 03:12|
Photo Credit: M. Terry / El Sol
But San Fernando Faces A Difficult Schedule As It Tries To Repeat As City Champions
San Fernando baseball coach Armando Gomez has plenty to be happy about these days. There are improvements to the team locker room, including metal stalls with steel boxes to lock up valuables.
New carpet covers the locker room as well as the hardwood floor in the coach’s office. And, of course, there are those rings the team is sporting as the defending Los Angeles City Section Division I champions.
The 2013 championship was their second Division I title in the past three years.
The Tigers now attempt to be the first team to win backto- back championships since Chatsworth did it in 2008 and 2009. But while it is certainly possible for San Fernando to repeat, it would be unfair to expect the Tigers to post back-to-back historic seasons. And make no mistake, 2013 was historic, with a school record 33 wins. San Fernando won 23 of its 24 games, and never lost two in a row.
They will play a demanding schedule that begins on Saturday, March 1 (weather permitting) against Santa Monica in the Southern California Tournament.
Among the tournament teams the Tigers also play are Marshall of Los Angeles and Culver City. Other high level tournaments San Fernando will play in are the Boras Baseball Classic in Orange County, and the Durango Tournamentin Las Vegas. Southern Section powers Bishop Amat of La Puente and JSerra of San Juan Capistrano are among the scheduled opponents.
Locally the Tigers will get Valley Mission League challenges from Kennedy and maybe Sylmar. Valley wide, El Camino Real and Chatsworth are always playoff threats. But so are Marine League teams Banning of Wilmington, Narbonne of Harbor City, and San Pedro. Gomez expects the Tigers to vigorously defend their title.
But he understands that expectations should marinate in reality. “It’s a new year, we want to win it again, and I think we have what we need to do that,” Gomez said. “The kids expect to win it again and we’ve been putting the work in, including our 6 a.m. workouts since the second day of school.
“But I’ve already told our guys to get (last year) out of their heads. If we equal that record with the schedule we have, we’ll be the number one team in the state. But I don’t see us doing that…this is the toughest schedule we’ve ever had, we have a chance to play so many good teams.
But we’re not shying away from anybody.” Gomez said the Tigers will depend again on their successful formula of good pitching and defense rather that an overwhelming offense.
This season San Fernando can call upon 10 pitchers on the team, the most arms Gomez has ever had for a varsity season. “Pitching and defense is what we really work on,” the coach said.
“Our key is to keep all our guys as fresh as we can. That’s been the key the last three years, keeping our pitching fresh. “(Offensively) we don’t wait for the home run.
We have to manufacture runs. But I think, 1-9, we’re capable of putting up some big numbers.” And there are legit reasons for optimism and confidence in Tigerland.
San Fernando returns seven starters from last year’s team, anchored by seniors Alonzo Garcia and Ariel Torres. Garcia was one of the top pitchers in City last year, and is the staff ace. He believes the team is ready to go.
“We have a tough schedule, but we’re going to challenge everybody and battle,” Garcia said. “This is the hardest we’ve worked (to prepare) in all the years I’ve been here.
And we’re still hungry to win. This is not only for us. We represent the community, the school and our families. “I’m not worried about overconfidence. We have experience, we’ve been there before.
We just have to put it together and produce on the field.” Torres, who can pay in the outfield and infield and also pitch if called upon, said he expects the newer players to quickly mesh with the returners.
“That’s why we’re out here working hard, to pump up the new guys and get them ready. Once they get a taste (of winning) they’ll want to keep coming back to it,” he said. And Torres also likes the difficult schedule.
“We’ll get tested. And that’s a good thing.” San Fernando does have to replace some key graduates in first baseman Roberto Ramos, who dominated the 2013 playoffs and was named City player of the year; shortstop Jose Haros, a defensive whiz who vacuumed up every ball hit his way; and centerfielder Carlos Robles.
But they also embrace a couple of key transfers — Marquis Jackson, a strapping 6-4 senior first baseman and pitcher who was previously at Chatsworth, and Kai Gomez, a junior who attended Agoura the last two years. “Marquis has some pretty good pop in his bat like Roberto. And on the mound he can [throw] around 91 mph,” Gomez said. “He’ll definitely help us big time.”
If you’re wondering about the surname of Kai, a shortstop and pitcher, yes he is the coach’s son. But he is firm in declaring that in no way was nepotism part of his making the team. “On the field it’s ‘coach and player’; at home it’s ‘father and son,’” Kai said. “There’s not really a difference and I don’t picture it any other way. Off the field he is my dad, and I can go to him for anything. But on the field it’s a coach-player relationship.” Kai had wanted to attend San Fernando as a freshman.
But he said his mom wanted him at Agoura, and when he had a chance to transfer to San Fernando as a sophomore, he changed his mind at the last second and stayed at Agoura.
Now the time feels right. “I started wanting to come to San Fernando halfway though my sophomore year, to be a Tiger. Once a Tiger, always a Tiger,” he said. “I’ve played travel ball and ‘scout’ ball with most of these guys so it was an easy transition. They’re my brothers. Last year watching them at Dodger Stadium and knowing who the returners were, I knew we’d have a good shot to go back this year.”
|Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 03:21|