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Pack Mentality Gives Huskies Their Bite PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 15 May 2014 00:48

M. Terry / SFVS

Alpha Males — Andrew Marmor (left) and Tyson Turner, both seniors, were integral to North Hollywood’s return to the top of the East Valley League.

North Hollywood Rebounds Last Year’s Sub-.500 Season To Win East Valley

One of the leading traits of the Siberian Husky breed is how it tends to get along well with other dogs because of its pack instinct. The Siberian Husky is also considered very intelligent, and its versatility makes it an agreeable companion to other breeds of dogs as well as people of all ages and varying interests.

Of course if you’re “dogging it” in baseball, you’re either underachieving or not putting forth a worthy effort.

That, in part, explains the doldrums North Hollywood found itself in last year, staggering through a 12-19 season with a disjointed team that pulled in all kinds of directions except the same one.

That is not the case this year. North Hollywood may have entered the final week of the 2014 season with a modest 17-13 record overall. But the Huskies won the East Valley League with a 10-2 record, one game better than Verdugo Hills. They did so by rediscovering the importance of working together and working through adversity — but mainly, working together.

“It’s a great group that has bonded together,” Coach Hector Menchaca said. “They are there for each other. The chemistry is great. I’ve heard guys say they love the group, and that has carried on the field. They battle for each other.

“Last year the chemistry was there but not that unity. We were 12-19, and lost about eight games by one run. There was lots of frustration; guys were unhappy with their roles. They didn’t really mesh.”

Maybe there was some hangover from winning the City Section Division II title in 2012, North Hollywood’s first baseball championship in 55 years; a letdown, after all, would be natural. Or maybe they just weren’t that good, if the old axiom “you are what your record says you are” is a truism instead of a cliché.

But if, indeed, the Huskies had to redefine their idea of “team” in 2014, the one about playing together and pulling for each other was the kind of idea each player could get behind.

Consider: after losing eight games by one run last year, the Huskies are 5-3 in one-run games this year, most recently a 2-1 victory against Los Angeles Roosevelt on May 5.

That’s another reason that winning the league was not a surprise, Menchaca said.

“I knew we could be competitive, that our pitching would be good and we could play some defense which would keep us in games. Could we improve our hitting? That was key. We’re not gonna wow you with stats, but we can move guys over and manufacture runs. When I saw that during summer and fall league games I knew we’d have a shot with competing with Poly and Verdugo. The moment we swept Verdugo (in March) I felt good about our chances of winning league.”

Did we mention intelligence? The Huskies have a couple of players who are among the brightest kids you will meet.

Andrew Marmor, 18, a senior, is the team’s leading pitcher with a 7-3 record and 1.54 earned run average. On the field, Marmor has completed eight games and given up only 15 earned runs, while striking out 48 and walking only five in 68 innings. In the classroom, his 4.4 grade point average has secured him a slot at Brown University, an Ivy League school, in the fall where he plans to study physics.

Marmor — who is also batting .348 with 17 RBIs — played and pitched on the 2012 championship team; he was on the mound for the final three outs in the 10-5 victory against South Gate at Dodger Stadium. The 2014 team, now playing in Division I that’s loaded with the likes of Chatsworth, El Camino Real, defending champion San Fernando, Kennedy and Banning of Wilmington, certainly won’t have an easy path to another final. But there are similarities in this team and the 2012 squad that Marmor finds comforting.

“One [similarity] would be that this is also a ‘pitching and defense’ kind of team,” Marmor said. “Our offense is good but it’s not really how we win games. The ‘2-1’ games are more our strength. Other than that, it’s just a really close team that believes in and trusts one another to get the job done.”

Outfielder Tyson Turner, 18, another senior who is headed to Cal Poly Pomona, transferred to North Hollywood from Golden Valley High of Santa Clarita last year. He was disenchanted by the Huskies’ dysfunctional play last year, but is enthused by the cohesiveness he’s seen this year.

“The one thing I have really liked this season: I have never seen us go down without fighting. When you get down in runs early in a game, you can become defeated. But I’ve never seen us quit. We’ve been really scrappy,” said Turner, who leads the team in hits (39), stolen bases (35) and is batting .390.

“It’s something that’s evolved from last year. Those ‘2-1’ games we had last year were games we would lose. Now that we’ve won them, we’ve had the ability to make it to the playoffs.”

North Hollywood has been handed another interesting twist. The league season ended for the Huskies on May 2, after sweeping two games from Grant to secure the league championship. Their last five games are all nonleague contests; they completed the regular season on Wednesday, May 14, against University of Los Angeles (results were unavailable at press time).

“We do have tough teams in our league. But the quality of the teams we’ll see [in the final five games] are the quality of teams we’ll see in the playoffs. So it's definitely good to have these difficult games before the playoffs,” Marmor said.

“We’re a team that’s always going to battle, and trust each other to get the job done. Our pitchers know to throw strikes and let the defense make plays behind them. And our offense, we don’t have a lot of guys who hit home runs. So we get base hits, play ‘little ball,’ and trust other people to get the job behind us and bring in the runs.”

The Huskies clearly know who they are and will relish their underdog role — no pun intended — in the postseason. Perhaps the biggest fear is being hurt; their 12-player roster, already reduced because of late season injuries to key reserves David Herrera and Alan Ruiz, cannot withstand any more losses.

Still, this has been a season to value for its collaboration and cooperation.

It may yet be one worth a celebration.