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Spartans Show Winning a City Title is Kids Stuff Freshman-Loaded Lineup Gets Sylmar Past Westchester In Division II Final PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 05 June 2014 04:04

Champions — The upstart Sylmar softball team is all smiles after winning the City Section Division II title. M. Terry / SFVS

No player currently on the Sylmar softball roster was born the last time the Spartans won a City Section championship in softball.

They better not be; the year was 1987.

That Spartan squad won the City 4A championship, beating El Camino Real and snapping the Conquistador’s then 73-game winning streak.

The 2014 Spartans squad may prove to be remarkable in its own way.

There are seven freshmen on the Spartans’ 13-player roster. Five were in the starting lineup when Sylmar played Westchester of Los Angeles to decide the City Division II championship on May 31 at UCLA. And it was Sylmar who emerged victorious, winning a taut pitcher’s duel, 1-0.

The only run of the game was driven in by — what else — a freshman. Sylmar shortstop Gabriela Monge lined an RBI single to right field with two out in the fifth to provide the winning margin.

But lets not give all the credit to the kiddies.

Sylmar (19-15-1), the seventh seed in the playoffs, also won this game because Clarrisa Estevane had the kind of senior moment that will be talked about in the Spartan community for years to come.

The 12th grade right-hander —primarily a shortstop who pitched only 24 innings in seven appearances during the season and brought a 2-4 record into the final — spent most of the sunny afternoons shooting laser fastballs and baffling change ups past the flailing Comets bats, striking out 12 while walking two. She gave up three hits, all singles, and only one of them was hit hard.

Estevane, who threw 99 pitches in the seven-inning complete game, had at least one strikeout in every inning. She fanned every Westchester starter except shortstop Shalonda Woods. Four players struck out twice. There was only one inning, the fourth, where Estevane retired the Comets side in order. She did it by striking out the side.

“When I was warming up I felt like everything was working today,” Estevane said. “And even though we’re a young team, I had a lot of confidence in them, that they would make the plays if the ball was hit.”

Westchester (15-7), the fourth seed, only had one runner get as far as third base. Danecia Kearney reached there in the fifth with two out. But Estevane ended the threat by, of course, striking out Myla Daigeau.

“This was her best game of the year,” Sylmar Coach Melissa Snee said of her one-day ace. “She was on point today, definitely. I didn’t think one run would decide it; I was hoping we’d bring our bats out more than we did.

“I went with [Estevane] because she had more speed than the others, and she was mentally ready to go. She’s a four year player but she doesn’t pitch too much; I mainly want her on the field at shortstop."

Estevane had to be that precise. The Spartans weren’t doing much offensively against Westchester starter Veranae Woods — one of three triplets in the Comets lineup with Shalonda and Sharnitra Woods, all seniors — in the beginning, generating only one hit in three innings and that was by Estevane. Sylmar would only collect five hits for the game.

“It did feel that it would be huge for whomever got the first run,” Snee said.

Sylmar broke through in the fourth. Estevane slapped her second hit of the game leading off, and worked her way around to third base with two out. Up stepped Monge, who drove the first pitch she saw into rightcenter for a run-scoring single.

“She was pitching strikes consistently,” Monge said of Veranae Woods. “So I went up there being aggressive and swinging. I knew with a runner on third I had to get something done.”

Because Sylmar was so young this season — one junior and five seniors complete the roster — there was no way to predict this kind of outcome in 2014. During the regular season, the Spartans were predictably streaky, winning three, losing three, sometimes in the same week.

“We started off rocky, and then we just progressed,” Monge said.

But Snee, now in her eighth season, had put together as full as schedule as possible, getting games against a variety of programs including Arroyo of El Monte, St. Anthony of Long Beach, Fillmore, Sonora of La Habra, Pasadena, Canyon of Canyon Country and Glendale. The Spartans also had two strong Valley Mission League teams in Kennedy and San Fernando to battle. And by the time the playoffs rolled around, Sylmar had gone from promising to precocious.

“We wanted to get the team a lot of games and experience,” Snee said. “When I first saw the fresh in out offseason class, I felt we had some players and talent. I hoped they would mesh together. I thought getting them a lot of experience now would pay off down the road.

“They had moments where they made freshmen mistakes…. but we were patient. What I liked: they battled all year long and wanted to compete.”

It might have even been an unexpected blessing to be seeded so low. Nobody saw them as a title threat. So even though the Spartans had to get through Panorama and Bravo of Los Angeles — seeded second and third respectively — in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Sylmar hammered both schools by scores of 13-5 and 6-0. Estevane threw the shutout against Bravo.

“I think there was some good competition in [the playoffs]. But I still think we were seeded too low,” Snee said. “We didn’t win a lot of our games but we had a lot more experience than other teams because we had played so many more games.”

And then they capped their title run by ousting Westchester, whose biggest playoff win had been over top seed Arleta in the other semifinal game.

“The experience of getting here alone would have been great,” Snee said. “As a coach I’d never been to a championship game. It’s very exciting to have this group of girls get here and win it.”

A championship 27 years in the making.

“Finally,” Estevane said, glancing down at her championship medal. “We came close my freshman year, and I wanted to go out strong as a senior.”

Kuehl and Shriver In Runoff for Yaroslavsky Seat

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Former state Sen. Sheila Kuehl will face Bobby Shriver in a November runoff in their race to replace Zev Yaroslavsky on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Kuehl finished atop the field of candidates in the June 3 election, but was well short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

John Duran, a West Hollywood Councilmember, despite strong endorsements late in the race, including from Mayor Eric Garcetti, lagged a distant third.

"I'm the only person that's represented most of this district, so most of my voters had already voted for me,'' Kuehl told reporters as election returns rolled in. "And you know, when they vote for you, they're kind of invested in you.''

She said the big difference in the campaign was "experience.'' "Because the county is not like a city, the county is the implementation arm of the state,'' she said. "So experience for 14 years in Sacramento is more relevant.''

Supervisor Gloria Molina, who endorsed winner Hilda Solis to fill her own First District seat, had hoped that Duran might secure a second Latino seat on the county board.

"Latinos make up close to 48 percent (of the county population) -- yet, to date, just one Latino has served on the Board,'' Molina said. "John Duran represents a younger generation of leadership, one which will reinvigorate the Third District and Los Angeles County as a whole.''

Yaroslavsky, who has represented the roughly 2 million residents who live in the affluent Westside/ San Fernando district for 20 years, will term out in December. He did not endorse a successor.

Shriver and Kuehl split other key endorsements and had far outstripped Duran in fundraising, collecting nearly $1.9 million and $1.2 million to Duran's roughly $400,000. Shriver contributed $1 million to his own campaign and raised the balance through individual donations capped at $300 each under campaign finance laws.

Former Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich, public watchdog Eric Preven, tutor Yuval Kremer, environmentalist and automotive technician Doug Fay and film lighting technician Rudy Melendez ran with little in the way of funding or big-name endorsements and gained little traction with voters.

Kuehl highlighted her policy work and experience in state government as critical to the role of running the county. The first openly gay or lesbian member of the Legislature, Kuehl served in the Assembly for six years and then as a senator for eight more.

She has fought for legislation to protect victims of domestic violence, establish paid family leave and safeguard the environment, among other efforts. She said her priorities for L.A. County are affordable health care, improving the child welfare system and creating a countywide public transit system.

Shriver, former Santa Monica mayor and a nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, stressed his work on homelessness and cleaning up Santa Monica Bay and also sees his entrepreneurial experience as key to managing the county and its $26 billion budget.

Together with Bono of the rock band U2, Shriver cofounded the nonprofits DATA, ONE and (RED) to fight poverty and disease in Africa. He said his focus as supervisor would be on expanding transit options, job creation and water cleanup and conservation.

Kuehl had implied that Shriver, 60, is a lightweight, while Shriver positioned himself as an innovator to a stodgier Kuehl.