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|Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer|
|Thursday, 07 June 2012 03:00|
Huskies Win First City Baseball Title Since 1955, Beating South Gate For The Division II Championship
DARRYL WASHBURN/CIF CITY SECTION
Top Dawgs -- The North Hollywood Huskies enjoy their first City baseball championship in 55 years after defeating South Gate, 10-5, in the City Section Division II final last weekend at Dodger Stadium.
To call the North Hollywood High Huskies an unlikely City champion is neither sarcastic, nor in any other way disrespectful.
This is a team that lost two of its best players – catcher Humberto Medellin and infielder Diego Cabral, both seniors – to season-ending ACL knee injuries back in March, a team that entered the Division II playoffs with a 15-15 record including four consecutive losses to end the regular season, a team still smarting from last year's final loss to Los Angeles Wilson.
And a team that was basically down to its last two pitchers for its playoff run.
Yet there were the Huskies climbing all over each other in the traditional game-ending dog pile on the mound at Dodger Stadium, to celebrate a 10-5 victory against South Gate for the Division II championship last Saturday, June 2.
It's a celebration that's been a l-o-o-o-o-n-g time in the making. North Hollywood's first and only other City baseball time came in 1957 (an 18-5 victory against San Fernando). And while it's doubtful many representatives were among the Huskies' faithful on Saturday, it's a safe assumption that team didn't have to overcome the obstacles to win a title that this one did.
DARRYL WAZSHBURN/CIF CITY SECTION
Collecting Hardware -- Winning pitcher Brayden Harris (left) and outfielder Michael Sepulveda latch on to the championship plaque and trophy given to North Hollywood for winning the Division II championship game at Dodger Stadium.
"It's been a great ride both years," said Coach Hector Menchaca, himself a (1996) North Hollywood graduate, now in his sixth season as Head Huskie. "But…these guys battled throughout the year, went through some tough times at the end of the regular season, but they competed and felt when they got to the playoffs they would be a team to be reckoned with."
Even the poor finish to the regular season, which concluded with a sixth place finish in the East Valley League, didn't discourage Menchaca. "We were competing every game. These guys wouldn't die. They were buying into the plan, into the process. They saw we were competing. They knew once the playoffs started we had a shot."
It didn't seem that way early. Although North Hollywood took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on an RBI double by catcher Zane Weston, South Gate (19-10) quickly tied the score in the bottom of the first, and went ahead 3-1 in the second on three hits, a stolen base, and a wild pitch by Huskies' starter Brayden Harris.
But in the third inning, South Gate – and especially Rams starter Gerardo Iglesias – became unglued.
North Hollywood (19-15) sent 13 batters to the plate, and mixed two hits with five walks, two hit batters and a sacrifice fly that turned into seven runs and an 8-3 lead.
Crucial to the rally: a fielder's choice grounder by Harris to Rams' first baseman Ezequiel Hernandez with two on. Instead of getting a sure out at first, Hernandez tried to throw Carlos Galvez out at second. His throw was late, and the bases were loaded with no outs. The Huskies began their parade to home plate shortly thereafter.
"You know what? I'll take it," said Menchaca. As long as we get runs on the board, that's all that matters. I don't care how we get them up there."
Now North Hollywood's championship hopes were in Harris' hands. The junior right-hander had only pitched in six games, and was making just his third start in 2012.
But Menchaca said Harris had his and the team's trust.
"When our 2-3 starters (Sebastian Piscuskas and Michel Sepulveda) got injured, he stepped up," Menchaca said. "I had a lot of confidence in him. No second thoughts of him being one of guys (to pitch in the playoffs)."
Armed with a big lead Harris dug in, throwing strikes, and doing all he could to make the Rams earn their way on base. In six innings he gave up eight hits, hit two batters, threw one wild pitch, and had one balk. But he also only walked one batter, struck out three, and stranded eight runners.
South Gate only scored one more run against Harris, on a RBI single in the fifth by Gabriel Tiscareno.
"I had a feeling the whole playoffs, if we made it this far I'd start because, me and Andrew Marmor, we were getting starts because our other pitchers had been pitching the whole season and had hurt arms," said Harris, who left after throwing 82 pitches – "a lot" for a guy who did not have a chance to build up much arm strength during the season, Menchaca said afterward.
Weston was even more emphatic. "He pitched when we needed it today," he said. "He didn't get all the calls or all the plays made behind him, but he kept his head up and finished strong."
The Huskies' offense also did its part, getting 11 hits (along with eight total walks and three hit batters) against three South Gate pitchers. Marvin Galvez had three hits and two runs scored. Anthony De La Torre had two hits and drove in a pair of runs.
Weston had two hits and three RBIs despite being hampered by back and leg injuries of his own.
"This was my senior year. There was no way I was coming out," Weston said.
Marmor – the Huskies' other healthy arm – took over in the bottom of seventh for Harris after North Hollywood extended the lead to 10-4. He gave up one run and two hits, but wrapped this unlikely title win.
A title the Huskies should enjoy for another 55 years.
"Everybody was a family," Weston said "We had injuries…(but) everybody stayed together. No one put their heads down this season. Now we're 19-15; that's not that good of a record, but we worked our butts off all season and played hard."
|Last Updated on Thursday, 07 June 2012 03:10|