Archive | March, 2014

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Athlete Spotlight: Celeste Adriano’s last-game mindset is key in leading Lady Heralds

Posted on 31 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Senior Celeste Adriano follows through after ripping a double against La Serna on March 25. Adriano leads the team with a .611 batting average, six home runs and 22 runs batted in through 12 games this season.

Senior Celeste Adriano follows through after ripping a double against La Serna on March 25. Adriano leads the team with a .611 batting average, six home runs and 22 runs batted in through 12 games this season.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

On a team that has shown plenty of offensive firepower over the course of its nonleague schedule, no one has had quite as hot a start as Celeste Adriano has for the Whittier Christian softball team.

In addition to her gaudy offensive numbers, the senior has shown plenty of flexibility in the field, playing just about every position in the field for the Lady Heralds this season.

“Even from the start, we’ve had that mentality that this is the last time we get a chance to start off strong,” Celeste said. “I think it’s made me push even more because this is my last chance and I want to make it the best.”

A transfer into the Whittier Christian program from Rosary last year, Celeste admitted it took a little bit of time to get acclimated with her new surroundings, but after a little time, the program feels like family to her now.

As a result of her hard work, dedication and belief in her teammates, she was chosen as one of the captains for this year’s team.

“She puts a lot of work in, she’s been a blessing for us since she came into the program,” said Dale Van Duyn, Whittier Christian head coach. “And she fit right in. She’s a leader without saying much and that’s what I like about her. She earned her role by what she does on and off the field. She’s doing what it takes to get to the next level.”

As a captain, she has led in every way possible, starting with her work on the field.

Through 12 nonleague games this season, the senior leads the team with a .611 batting average, six home runs and 22 runs batted in.

Those numbers have included a number of momentum-changing hits in key situations.

“I knew she could swing the stick, but sometimes they just really see the ball,” Van Duyn said. “It was about two months ago, she just walked up to the plate with a lot of confidence and that’s half the game right there. Now she looks at me and she has it in her eyes.”

In the team’s final nonleague game against Gahr last Thursday, Celeste’s two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning broke a 7-7 tie and proved to be the game-winner.

While Celeste says she didn’t change anything in regards to her approach at the plate, she believes that remaining calm while in the batter’s box has been a big help.

“I just feel calmer and I have a little more confidence than I did last year,” she said. “I’m just relaxed, calm and I hit.”

But while her offensive numbers stand out, what appeals most to her head coach is her flexibility and her willingness to provide whatever the team needs in the field.

Primarily playing left field, Celeste has played upwards of three positions in the same game, going two different infield spots to left field in one game and going from catcher to second base in the following game.

During travel ball season, Celeste’s primary position is catcher.

Celeste Adriano has played every position on the field for the Lady Heralds this season, including left field, where she robbed La Habra's Taylor Pierce of a home run in a nonleague game at La Habra on March 18.

Celeste Adriano has played every position on the field for the Lady Heralds this season, including left field, where she robbed La Habra’s Taylor Pierce of a home run in a nonleague game at La Habra on March 18.

“I’ve played Celeste at every position this year, she’s a true utility player,” Van Duyn said. “I could plug her in to any position and she could get the job done. You can’t say that about most kids. She’s a good catcher and I wish I could plug her into the infield, but we needed an outfielder and she just smiled and said ‘OK, if that’s where you need me’.”

But Celeste’s mindset during her senior year has made the difference in her performance through nonleague play.

While Celeste spends the offseason playing plenty of travel ball and working on her craft, this high school season has had a higher priority.

Knowing it’s her final year to play high school softball, Celeste approaches every game as if it’s her last with her Whittier Christian teammates.

“I work hard on the field and this is my family,” she said. “I think every game is important and so I treat every game as if it’s my last. Yes, sometimes I say that I’ll always have another game, but this year I’m not thinking like that. We have to treat every game as if it’s a La Habra or a La Serna and we have to go in with a mentality that we’re going to win.”

However, Celeste’s softball career will not end after high school as the senior signed her letter of intent last November, to play at San Francisco State.

One of the big influences that helped in Celeste’s decision with San Francisco State was Gators’ head coach Christina Byrne.

“She’s sort of like [Coach] Dale, she’s like a friend,” Celeste said. “I know she’ll push me, but I know that I can talk to her too. I went to her camps and during travel ball, she was at all those camps as well. I also love the city, it’s right there, I think that was great for me.”

With the signing done, Celeste says a big weight has been lifted off her shoulders knowing that she already has a plan in place for college.

Now the senior can breathe easier, have more fun with her teammates and continue keeping that calm demeanor at the plate.

When it comes to role models, Celeste said that her parents are always pushing her to be better, but she also takes in little bits from all aspects of her life, including her friends and coaches.

“My parents are a huge part of that, with the way they push me,” she said. “There’s a lot of little role models that I have, including Coach Dale and my friends, they always play a part in my life. There’s not one particular person that I look up to completely, but there’s little things all around that I look up to.”

While in school, Celeste enjoys history and said that her teachers have made the biggest difference in piquing her interest in the subject. She also enjoys poetry and reading.

And while she says softball is her life, on the rare chance she’s not practicing or studying, Celeste enjoys hanging out with friends, eating or catching up on sleep.

But while she’s on the field she’s calm, collected and enjoying her senior season to the fullest with a small number of goals in mind for the remainder of her final high school season.

“Everything I have is for my team and I want CIF, that’s what I want,” Celeste said. “Maybe for me, I’d like to finish higher than second team [All-League], but other than that, everything else is for the team, I want a league championship, I want CIF and that’s pretty much it.”

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Athlete Spotlight: Gabe Armstrong’s efficiency earns him top spot in pitching rotation

Posted on 31 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Gabe Armstrong threw a no-hitter against Yorba Linda on March 11 and recently threw eight innings of two-hit ball against Kelso of Washington in tournament games. PHOTO BY ERIK MARKUS, LA HABRA JOURNAL

Gabe Armstrong threw a no-hitter against Yorba Linda on March 11 and recently threw eight innings of two-hit ball against Kelso of Washington in tournament games. PHOTO BY ERIK MARKUS, LA HABRA JOURNAL

by Jeremiah Girard
La Habra Journal

Heading into this season the Sonora starting rotation seemed to be set with senior Evan Sonny and junior JonPaul Sarro as both got experience last season for the Raiders and both appeared poised for another great season this year.

Then, along came a junior Gabe Armstrong, who has impressed since his first start against Fountain Valley in the team’s season opener.

“JP just did not appear to be where he needed to be after preseason play,” said Sonora head coach Pat Tellers. “And Gabe was ready to go, so he found himself in the rotation. It is not necessarily a permanent thing, but for now Sarro will see action out of the bullpen.”

Armstrong has been solid throughout including the preseason. On March 11, in a Loara Tournament game against Yorba Linda, Armstrong threw a no-hitter in a 4-0 Sonora win. In that game he struck out eight batters and only walked three.

“That was the first no-hitter I have ever thrown,” Armstrong said. “I have come close a few times but there was always the one hit late.”

Gabe’s stuff has been unhittable this year at the varsity level but heading into the season he was not expected to turn into the ace of the staff.

“He is a guy that shows up every day and gives 110 percent in practice,” Teller said. “He put in the work all offseason and he has been all season so far, and we are just seeing the results.”

The Sonora pitching rotation is the same rotation employed at first base. When Gabe is on the mound, Evan Sonny plays first base and vice versa.

“I worked on my swing a lot over the offseason,” Armstrong said. “I became pull heavy towards the end of last year and knew that I had to work on some things if I wanted to see playing time.”

Since Gabe is only a junior, he still has over a year to impress colleges and make a decision, but it is no secret that he plans to try to play at the next level and hopes to play even beyond that.

In school, Gabe considers himself to be a good student and says science is his favorite subject.

“I am having an awesome time in Physics this year,” Gabe said. “I am not too big on math though. Math is the one subject that seems to get boring.”

He has seen a lot of success on the mound this year, but baseball is not the only sport in which Armstrong has found enjoyment.

“I played basketball for a while too,” he said. “But, after my sophomore year I decided to quit and focus on baseball because I thought that it would be able to take me further.”

Gabe’s favorite baseball player is Evan Longoria and his inspiration in baseball is his father.

He has continued to pitch well since the no-hitter including an eight-inning performance against Kelso High of Washington in an Anaheim Lions Tournament game this past Saturday. In those eight innings, he only gave up two hits and struck out nine batters. At one point, he retired 18 straight batters.

He will look to continue his good play and try to lead the Raiders to another Freeway League championship.

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Late game heroics aid in Highlanders fast start in Anaheim Lions Tournament

Posted on 30 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

La Habra's Chris Nuanes reacts after making contact with a pitch against Los Altos in the first game of a doubleheader at home in the Anaheim Lions Tournament, Saturday afternoon.

La Habra’s Chris Nuanes reacts after making contact with a pitch against Los Altos in the first game of a doubleheader at home in the Anaheim Lions Tournament, Saturday afternoon. PHOTOS BY JAY SEIDEL, LA HABRA JOURNAL

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Locked in a pitchers’ duel, the La Habra baseball team got key production from the heart of its batting order in the eighth inning, leading to a 2-0 extra-inning win over West Covina, Saturday afternoon at home in the Anaheim Lions Tournament.

After failing to cash in with runners in scoring position during the fifth and sixth innings, the Highlanders, who were the designated visiting team, loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning after the Bulldogs (6-5) went to relief pitcher Donovyn Curiel.

Garrett Molnar then lined a curveball from Curiel into right-center field to score pinch-hitter Brad Hoffrichter from third base to break the scoreless tie.

“I was just looking for a fastball to drive out to right-center field, but [Curiel] hung me a curveball and I had to stay back on it,” Molnar said. “My dad and I have been going to the park and working on driving pitches the opposite way, so when he threw it, I just stuck with it and put it where I wanted. Earlier, we were just trying to get a run across and when we didn’t, it took away some momentum, but we knew we had to compete until the game was over.”

Two batters later, catcher Michael Borg added a sacrifice fly to score Chris Nuanes and Ricky Garcia pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom half of the eighth inning to preserve the win and a 2-0 tournament start.

“That’s the big difference with this group, they grind it out, they find a way,” said John Sothern, La Habra head coach. “Last year’s group would have folded at the first mistake, but this year’s group didn’t, they just kept chipping away and we found a way to win.”

The runs in the eighth inning were celebrated most by starting pitcher Andrew Gallegos, who pitched seven innings, allowing three hits while striking out six batters and walking two to earn his third win of the season.

“He was good, he was lights out in the fall, but struggled after Christmas break and dropped to the No. 2 spot,” Sothern said. “His last two starts have been good. His struggle early was getting behind batters and allowing walks, but today he was efficient with his pitches and threw them for strikes. He kept us in the game.”

La Habra's Cody Sciacca makes a catch near the warning track during the Highlanders' 3-1 win over Los Altos, Saturday afternoon at home.

La Habra’s Cody Sciacca makes a catch near the warning track during the Highlanders’ 3-1 win over Los Altos, Saturday afternoon at home.

Gallegos came out strong from the start and consistently worked ahead in the count and threw first pitch strikes.

Garcia earned his third save, despite loading the bases with no outs.

“I just wanted to hit my spots, I’ve been struggling lately hitting those spots and I felt good today,” Gallegos said. “I’ve been trusting in my stuff in these last two games and getting first pitch strikes was big for me today, it helped me to get ahead in the count.”

Gallegos got plenty of help from his defense, including outfield assists from Molnar in left field and Nuanes in right field.

West Covina’s Ryan Viramontes hit a sharp liner to the corner in left field that one-hopped the outfield fence in the fourth inning.

However, Molnar, starting in left field for the first time this season, barehanded the ball off the fence and fired to second base, where Viramontes was tagged out trying to stretch the single to a double.

In the sixth inning, Nuanes played a fly ball in right field and threw out Viramontes again, this time as he was trying to advance to third on the out.

“I wasn’t going to let him get to second base, so I threw a hose over there,” Molnar said of his play in the fourth inning.

In the eighth inning, Garcia gave up a leadoff single, walked a batter and Victor Meraz reached on an error by third baseman Carlos Lomeli to load the bases.

However, Lomeli collected a ground ball and threw to home for the first out, Garcia got a strikeout and Viramontes flied out to center field to end the eight-inning contest.

West Covina starting pitcher Anthony Deeter through six shutout innings, allowing four hits while striking out two batters and walking three others.

The Highlanders (6-3) earned a 3-1 victory over Los Altos in their first game of the day. Robert Leffler earned the pitching win, his third of the season, while Gallegos and Cody Sciacca came up with RBI triples in the fourth and sixth innings to put La Habra ahead.

“We just want more of the same,” Sothern said of the team moving forward. “We don’t want to play too up or down depending on who we’re facing. We just need to keep coming out, have good pitching performances, play good defense and execute when called upon and hopefully we can continue this run.”

The Highlanders will continue play in the Anaheim Lions Tournament with a Monday afternoon game against West Torrance at 3 p.m.

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Raiders baseball struggles on opening day of Anaheim Lions Tournament

Posted on 30 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Sonora pitcher JonPaul Sarro pitches to Murrieta Mesa in the second game of a doubleheader at home to kick off the Anaheim Lions Tournament. Sonora finished 0-1-1 on the day. PHOTOS BY JAY SEIDEL, LA HABRA JOURNAL

Sonora pitcher JonPaul Sarro pitches to Murrieta Mesa in the second game of a doubleheader at home to kick off the Anaheim Lions Tournament. Sonora finished 0-1-1 on the day. PHOTOS BY JAY SEIDEL, LA HABRA JOURNAL

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

In an 11-inning contest, the Sonora baseball team couldn’t connect with runners in scoring position and Kelso High of Washington struggled to get baserunners as the teams ended in a scoreless tie at Sonora, Saturday afternoon in the first game of the Anaheim Lions Tournament for both teams.

Sonora’s Gabe Armstrong and Kelso’s Tyler Parsons locked into a pitcher’s duel, both working eight innings before giving way to the bullpen.

The game featured stellar defense from both sides, including a diving catch by Sonora’s Justin Mellano in the top of the fourth inning and a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play by Kelso to end the 11th inning.

“Pitching was phenomenal, you couldn’t ask for a better job out of those two,” said Pat Tellers, Sonora head coach. “It all comes down to playing behind them and I thought we did a good job. We made a few changes for this game that worked out and Mellano made some nice plays in the outfield. But there’s the other part of the game too, which is execution at the plate and we failed to do that.”

Armstrong, who already has a no-hitter this season, continued a strong start to his junior season by throwing eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out nine batters and walking none.

In a stretch from the first inning to the seventh inning, the junior right-hander retired 18 batters in a row.

Almost equally as strong was the Hilanders’ left-handed starter Parsons, who also threw eight innings, allowing five hits while striking out six batters and walking none.

But despite his strong performance, the Raiders found three key chances to get on the board.

In the fourth inning, Jake Rosander hit a two-out double to deep right field, but Mellano lined out to right field to end the threat.

Mellano then found himself on third base twice, in the seventh and 10th innings, but Henry Bustamante flied out to end the seventh inning and Evan Sonny popped out to shortstop Hayden Gillen to end the 10th inning.

“We’re still being stubborn at the plate, we aren’t executing and it’s been a bunch of little failures at the plate,” Tellers said. “It’s something we have to change mentally and physically. It’s really effecting us when we have the opportunity to get guys in and others aren’t doing their job.”

Steve Christen pitched the final three innings for the Hilanders (1-1-1), pitching out of trouble in two of those innings.

Sonora's Jake Rosander takes a swing at a pitch against Murrieta Mesa, Saturday afternoon at home in the Anaheim Lions Tournament.

Sonora’s Jake Rosander takes a swing at a pitch against Murrieta Mesa, Saturday afternoon at home in the Anaheim Lions Tournament.

Kelso had just two baserunners, one of which was thrown out by catcher Andrew Piraino while trying to steal second base in the seventh inning. Quentin McDaniel singled off Armstrong with one out in the first inning, but was stranded at second base.

Gavin Blodgett pitched three perfect innings for the Raiders, striking out four batters in the process.

“We have to execute, otherwise this season will continue the way it is, we’ve had seven one-run games,” Tellers said. “When we make a mistake defensively, that’s when it will cost us because we can’t manufacture a run. The pitching that we’re getting has been keeping us in ball games, but the first defensive mistake we make will cost us.”

The Raiders dealt with a different problem in their second game, a 4-2 loss to Murrieta Mesa.

Sonora (5-5-1) committed five errors in the contest and the Rams broke up a 2-2 tie with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to drop the Raiders to 0-1-1 on the day.

The Raiders continue play in the Anaheim Lions Tournament with a Monday afternoon home game against Torrance at 3:15 p.m. Sonora will again be the designated visiting team.

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Lady Raiders come through in extra innings, take third in Whittier Tournament

Posted on 30 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Sonora pitcher Sam Casanas battled out of jams and helped the Lady Raiders to a 3-1 win over Knight, Saturday afternoon at Whittier High.

Sonora pitcher Sam Casanos battled out of jams and helped the Lady Raiders to a 3-1 win over Knight, Saturday afternoon at Whittier High.

by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The Sonora softball team took third place in the Whittier Tournament with a 3-1 win over Knight High of Palmdale, Saturday afternoon at Whittier High School.

Both pitchers threw gems, forcing extra innings in a scoreless tie through seven innings. However small ball and defense were the difference between the two teams.

“For them to pull it off, my pitcher and my defense really stepped up today,” said Michelle Rodriguez, Sonora head coach. “They were put in some challenging positions and that’s always something great to see.”

The Lady Raiders were led by Sam Casanas who pitched eight innings to take the victory.

“She was throwing a lot of strikes, she found some spots that were really comfortable for her where she likes to pitch and the umpire was really calling those for her,” Rodriguez said.

The Lady Raider bats were kept quiet through seven innings, but jumped at the opportunity with a runner in scoring position.

In the eighth inning, Emily Hauke dropped a bunt to move Ashley Diaz to third base. On the throw to first, the ball sailed over the first baseman’s head, scoring Diaz from third and advancing Hauke to second base.

“I try to tell them it’s not the big home run or the base hit, it’s the little things that count,” Rodriguez said.

Two batters later, with Ashley Bordy pinch running on third base, Leandra Jew brought Bordy home on a sacrifice fly.

Taylor Clark added a bloop single and Katie Amaral singled and advanced to third on multiple fielding errors by the Hawks.

With a three run lead, Sam Casanas continued her mastery in the circle.

“I had those butterflies,” Casanas said, “I needed to pull through and I really think I did, and my defense behind me really helped me tremendously as well.”

Knight led off the inning with a single up the middle to score the runner on second base. A dribbler up the middle brought the winning run to the plate.

“I just told myself we can do this, I have my great defense,” Casanas said.

Pitching with runners on was normal by now for Casanas who consistently left runners stranded on base.

“I was putting it out of my mind, my defense and I managed even if there were runners on, we got out of it,” Casanas said.

After seven innings of excellent defense and pitching, the Lady Raiders were locked in defensively. So much such that they retired the second batter in the inning during an aftershock despite having two runners in scoring position. The Lady Raiders then escaped winning 3-1 on a grounder where the runner was tagged out on her way to first.

The Lady Raiders take home third place in the Whittier Tournament.

“This was a really important game for us to have, going back into our schedule,” Rodriguez said.

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Lady Heralds persevere, beat Gahr in slugfest at home

Posted on 27 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Whittier Christian's Hannah Gabriel homers off Gahr pitcher Deidra Genera in the first inning of the Lady Heralds' 9-7 nonleague win over Gahr at home, Thursday afternoon.

Whittier Christian’s Hannah Gabriel homers off Gahr pitcher Deidra Genera in the first inning of the Lady Heralds’ 9-7 nonleague win over Gahr at home, Thursday afternoon. By Erik Markus, La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

After falling to La Serna by mercy rule on Tuesday, the Whittier Christian softball team shook it off quickly and responded by slugging it out against Gahr at home in a 9-7 victory, Thursday afternoon.

While Hannah Gabriel kept the Lady Heralds even with the Gladiators early on, it was Celeste Adriano’s two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning that broke a 7-7 tie and all but sealed the win for Whittier Christian.

“It happened at the right time, I knew I had to go into that at-bat calm,” Adriano said. “Usually there’s a little more pressure, but I knew what I had to do and it happened. I feel it’s all-around, I always have to step up, this is my senior year.”

Adriano’s shot was the fifth home run from both teams combined in a game that was back-and-forth throughout.

Despite giving up seven runs, five of them earned, Gabriel battled for the complete game in the circle and retired the side in order in the seventh inning to preserve the win.

“I just had to stay focused and within my game, as well as trust my fielders,” Gabriel said. “I had to believe that if the ball did go out there that they would have my back all the time.”

But Gabriel was as important at the plate as she was in the circle. After Gahr freshman Malia Quarles put the Gladiators up with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning, Gabriel responded with a two-run home run to left in the bottom half.

When Quarles hit a second two-run shot to center field in the third inning, Gabriel repeated the feat again, hitting another home run to left field in the bottom half of the inning as the teams remained deadlocked after three innings at 4-4.

“I never really look to hit home runs, this is the first year I’ve hit a home run,” Gabriel said. “Usually I’m just a base-hit hitter, but the weight room has made a difference. The home runs were big, I wasn’t trying to swing for the fences, I just waited for the right pitch and swung.”

Gabriel finished 3-for-3 at the plate with two home runs, four runs scored and four runs driven in.

After Quarles’ first two at-bats, Whittier Christian head coach Dale Van Duyn elected to walk the power-hitting freshman for the remainder of the contest.

“I have a lot of respect for her and that’s why I walked her,” Van Duyn said. “She can flat-out hit the ball and I have to respect a player like that, but it takes a team to win. [Gahr] is a good team, I have nothing bad to say about their team, they’re a good team.”

Gahr (7-8) reclaimed the lead in the fourth inning when Alyssa Cuffia drove home Celeste Gonzalez with an RBI-double to left field.

However, the Lady Heralds again battled back, this time with small-ball.

After an error put runners on second and third base, Katelyn Wagner laid down a squeeze bunt to bring home Gabriel from third base, which tied the game.

Erica Romo followed with an RBI-single and, later in the inning, Mackenzie Lou also drove home a run with a single as Whittier Christian took a 7-5 lead after five innings.

“It’s not just the long ball that wins games, we have to execute,” Van Duyn said. “We worked on a lot of things with a lot of different kids and it showed today. I was really proud of them, we worked on our bunts and we worked on our hitting. It’s a good win for the team.”

But the Gladiators had one more response as Alyssa Rodriguez scored on a throwing error and Cuffia scored on a sacrifice fly by Sabrina Quarles to tie up the score.

Adriano delivered the exclamation point with her line drive homer to center field with no one out in the bottom of the sixth inning to give Whittier Chrisitan a big win before league play.

“It felt really good after getting killed earlier in the week,” Adriano said. “This was a team that we were equal to and we did what we had to do to win, which was nice.”

Whittier Christian (7-5) opens up the Olympic League with a road game at Heritage Christian, next Tuesday afternoon.

“You can’t get a better game before league,” Van Duyn said. “If you could plan a game to play before league started, this would be it right here.”

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Local high school athletes excel in unlikely sport

Posted on 25 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

By Nathan Percy La Habra Journal Over the past weekend, high school athletes met at Ladera Vista Junior High School in Fullerton to take part in a sport that isn’t offered on high school campuses, but one that is gaining popularity in rapid fashion.

Sonora Tanner Quinto breaks away for the Fullerton Lions Rugby Club at the annual Fullerton tournament last Saturday.

Sonora Tanner Quinto breaks away for the Fullerton Lions Rugby Club at the annual Fullerton tournament last Saturday.

The sport is rugby and students from all three La Habra area high schools have been making the short trip to participate as part of the Fullerton Lions Rugby Club, which hosts the Fullerton Rugby High School International Invitational each spring.

The tournament, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this past weekend, consists mostly of California teams, but also attracted out-of-state teams as well as one from Canada. “It’s the fastest growing sport in America right now, mostly because it’s going to be in the 2016 Olympics,” said Phillip Marquez, head coach of the Lions U18 team.

“Not everyone knows about the sport, people are starting to jump on it right now. As far as Fullerton, we’re one of the oldest youth groups throughout the nation, this is our twelfth year and we’re already putting boys on the US team and in college.”

The Fullerton Lions Club formed 12 years ago and offers both boys and girls teams, with four different age groups for boys and currently two for girls. In earlier years, the Lions have hosted local high school football standouts, such as former La Habra running back Josh Quezada and former Whittier Christian running back Johnathan Marquez, among others.

This year, eight high school athletes from both La Habra and Sonora High Schools are participating in the Fullerton Lions rugby teams, and word continues to spread about the sport on both campuses. La Habra seniors Tyler Dean and Andy Mata, along with juniors Richard Parker, James Pirtle, Lucas Thomas and Sonora junior Antonio Apodaca are all members of the Lions’ U18 team.

La Habra's Lucas Thomas, Tyler Dean, Richard Parker, James Pirtle, Andy Mata and Sonora's Andy Apodaca Jr. pose before their next match at the Lions Tournament Saturday afternoon in Fullerton.

La Habra’s Lucas Thomas, Tyler Dean, Richard Parker, James Pirtle, Andy Mata and Sonora’s Andy Apodaca Jr. pose before their next match at the Lions Tournament Saturday afternoon in Fullerton.

For most of the boys, rugby started as an alternative to football, but all have ended up preferring the sport because of its style of play.

“I loved football, but rugby’s just a different sport, it’s so much more fun,” Dean said. “Football is a team sport, but they have a star quarterback or star receiver. With rugby, you need an entire core, everyone gets the ball, even the big guys. I love the selflessness.”

But the second aspect that separates rugby from most other sports, according to all the athletes, is the heightened sense of camaraderie shared between teammates and opposing players alike.

“Teams will even host meals for their opponents after matches, the tradition of it is great,” Dean said.

While some are starting to learn about the sport as they have been playing their first couple of seasons, others were introduced during their playing days in La Habra Pop Warner football.

“One of my Pop Warner coaches, Joseph Quezada, he played for Fullerton and told me to check out a game,” said Parker, who has played in the tournament for two years now. “I came down to check out a game and I fell in love with it. I love the physicality and the aggressiveness. It’s just nonstop action.”

Such bonds become essential during the course of a grueling four-month season in which games are played nearly every Saturday. This year’s schedule included two tournaments. The team took second place in the Cup Championship match at this year’s Fullerton Tournament. In addition, the boys try to spread word of the sport on campus by word-of-mouth or using social media.

“I’ll post pictures on Instagram or Facebook every now and then,” said Apodaca, who found out about rugby from his older brother. “They’re just ways to advertise the team, I’m always talking to guys and telling them they should check it out.”

However, this sport isn’t restricted to just boys, a pair of Sonora girls have found their athletic calling in rugby as well, participating for the Lady Lions’ U18 team.

Sonora Senior Johanna Pasutin and junior Tanner Quinto smile after a Fullerton Lions Rugby Club victory at the Fullerton tournament Saturday at Ladera Vista Junior High School in Fullerton.

Sonora Senior Johanna Pasutin and junior Tanner Quinto smile after a Fullerton Lions Rugby Club victory at the Fullerton tournament Saturday at Ladera Vista Junior High School in Fullerton.

Sonora senior Johanna Pasutin, in her fourth year and captain of the Lions, and junior Tanner Quinto, joining for her first season, are currently playing to defend a national championship that the Lady Lions won last year.

For both Pasutin and Quinto, the love of the sport comes from similar aspects. “One of my soccer teammates told me about rugby and I fell in love with it,” said Pasutin, who celebrated her 18th birthday on the first day of the tournament.

“Usually I’m really aggressive and I was always looking for something since my dad didn’t want me playing football. I love the camaraderie, after games we go out and eat with teammates and interact with other teams, I love that aspect of it.”

The girls’ team took first in this year’s tournament’s bowl match. While rugby has gained its footing at the youth level, the opportunities to play at the next level are growing.

Collegiate teams have been formed locally at both Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton College. In addition, more colleges and universities are offering scholarships in the form of rugby packages as opportunities for kids to continue their education and play the sport they love.

“I would like to continue and play in college, but right now it’s just step-by-step, I just want to keep improving,” Mata said.

“It opens so many doors for colleges, some of these kids get an ultimatum to either play football or rugby and some of them are starting to drop football,” Marquez added. “We have kids in local colleges and Division 1 colleges playing rugby.”

In addition, at the end of the regular season, players have a chance to further their skills on an All-Star team, the Orange County Griffins.

The opportunity to keep playing is a goal for Pasutin, who has played for the Griffins for the last three years. Quinto is hoping to make the team in her first season with the Lions.

“A lot of colleges are opening their minds to women’s rugby as well, right now most just offer men’s rugby,” Pasutin said. “But we still have a chance to play for the all-star team, the Griffins, this will be my fourth year and Tanner should make the team too. It’s definitely a goal to make that team.”

The Lions continue their season though April, with playoffs starting in May. While Marquez has been in talks to start a high school team, he continues to work and develop his current club.

The Fullerton Lions are well established in the youth rugby world and are always looking to expand the sport of rugby in Southern California.

“It’s a game where you just need your mouthpiece and your cleats, which are called your boots, you just carry those around and if you have enough people, you can start a game,” Marquez said. “These kids are making friends with our competitors on the field. That’s the difference with this sport.”

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Lady Heralds no match for highly-ranked La Serna

Posted on 25 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Whittier Christian's Melissa Martene robs La Serna's Dominique Mejia of a hit with a diving catch in the second inning of the Lady Heralds' 12-0 loss, Tuesday at La Serna. Photos by Erik Markus, La Habra Journal

Whittier Christian’s Melissa Martene robs La Serna’s Dominique Mejia of a hit with a diving catch in the second inning of the Lady Heralds’ 12-0 loss, Tuesday at La Serna. Photos by Erik Markus, La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Going up against the top-seeded team in CIF-SS Division 3, the Whittier Christian softball team couldn’t contain La Serna, falling 12-0 in five innings, Tuesday afternoon at La Serna High.

The Lady Heralds had no answer for La Serna starting pitcher Jamie Wren, who allowed just one hit in five innings of work.

Defensively, Whittier Christian (6-5) was uneasy and misjudged line drives which, without the help of an outfield fence, allowed the Lady Lancers to put up runs.

“If we had basic plays, it would be 6-0, but we missed those plays,” said Dale Van Duyn, Whittier Christian head coach. “I think that has a lot to do with my outfielders being hesitant to go in for the ball because they didn’t have the fence behind them. They’re a good team, no doubt about it, I think we can take a lot from this game.”

La Serna leadoff hitter Taylor Becerra singlehandedly did half of her team’s damage, batting 3-for-3 with a double, triple and a three-run home run to go with four runs scored and six more driven in.

The Lady Lancers (10-1) put up 14 hits against Lady Heralds’ starter Hannah Gabriel and only got stronger with runners on base.

“Right now our girls are on a roll,” said Mike Reed, La Serna head coach. “They’re seeing the ball well, hitting it well and just getting after it. They want it and they’re out there to prove to everybody what we can do.”

After being held in check for the first two innings, La Serna erupted for 11 runs over the final three innings.

Whittier Christian's Celeste Adriano launches a Jamie Wren pitch into center field for a double in the first inning of the Lady Heralds' 12-0 loss, Tuesday at La Serna.

Whittier Christian’s Celeste Adriano launches a Jamie Wren pitch into center field for a double in the first inning of the Lady Heralds’ 12-0 loss, Tuesday at La Serna.

In contrast, the Lady Heralds had runners on first and second base in the first inning thanks to a double by Celeste Adriano and a walk issued to Katelyn Wagner.

“We had a few hits, but we didn’t have the key hits to go with it,” Van Duyn said.

The two were the only baserunners of the day for Whittier Christian as Wren settled, striking out six batters and walking none.

Wren helped her own cause by driving in two runs with her first two at-bats.

“She really worked it today,” Reed said of Wren. “And Taylor nearly hit for the cycle, but all the girls did a fantastic job today. Those two were just outstanding.”

For Van Duyn, despite the lopsided loss, the game still serves as a learning tool for Olympic League play, which starts April 1 at Heritage Christian.

Whittier Christian hosts Gahr for the team’s final nonleague game before league play, Thursday afternoon.

“They’re another extremely good team,” Van Duyn said. “Overall, I definitely think we’re getting better right before league and hopefully CIF.”

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LH Council looks for options on damaged building

Posted on 25 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal

After hosting meetings, weddings and other community events, and the home to one of the oldest community clubs in La Habra since the 1920s, the Women’s Clubhouse is at a crossroads. Since being deemed unusable more than a year ago, the city is looking at options for the building.

Repairs needed: The Women’s Clubhouse located at 200 W. Greenwood Ave., has been closed due to ceiling collapse since  2012. The city is looking to determine plans for the future of the city building.

Repairs needed: The Women’s Clubhouse located at 200 W. Greenwood Ave., has been closed due to ceiling collapse since 2012. The city is looking to determine plans for the future of the city building.

In late December 2012, a portion of the building’s ceiling collapsed. City inspectors discovered what was determined as significant damage to a roof truss and red-tagged the building.
According to Interim City Manager Jim Sadro, the City hired an engineering consultant to evaluate the building’s structural condition.
“They have determined that several of the roof trusses in the main hall are severely cracked and at risk of further failure,” Sadro explained.
The cost of reparing the 6,900 square-foot facility, including required ADA improvements, is estimated at almost $1.2 million. Additional facility improvements necessary to make the building more functional and improve the HVAC may cost an additional $200,000, for a total potential project cost of $1.4 million, according to Sadro.
Demolishing and rebuilding the facility could double the costs for the city to an estimated $3 million. An amount that La Habra Councilman Tim Shaw said is not in the city’s price range.
“We don’t exactly have that just lying around,” he said.
This is where the City Council has decided to look for suggestions from the community  as to what should be done with the facility at 200 W. Greenwood.

“We really need to use that location for something that will benefit the community,” said La Habra Councilman Jim Gomez.  “Whether we sell it or keep it. It needs to be used for something  for the entire community.”
Gomez is looking to hear from the community to get some ideas for the city property.
“Regardless, whatever we do needs to be carefully thought out, and I really want  to engage the community and get their feedback as to what we should do,” Gomez said.  “Because we have a lot of options and I don’t want to rush into anything. ”
Gomez points out that one of the options could include selling the property to a developer. He added that the sale could net around $500,000 – $600,000 for the city.
That money is something that could be applied to another public use area like developing a dog park at  Vista Grande Park.
If it is sold to a developer, Gomez said there would have to be conditions.
“I don’t want to see some high density project there,” he added. “It will have to be some homes that will blend into the neighborhood and make sense as well.”
Another option could be to create a public park.  Gomez added that it could be another in partnership with  developers like KABOOM and Forresters.  The city has similar developments located at Guadalupe, Portola and soon to be Descanso Parks.
Gomez encourages the community to call him at: (714) 329-0365 to give their thoughts.
“The bottom line is that is has to be something that benefits the entire community,” he said. “I want to hear what the public has to say.”

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Heights residents look to help combat crime

Posted on 25 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

By Daniel Hernandez
La Habra Journal

After an increase in crime the last couple of months in La Habra Heights, officials at the March city council meeting discussed but did not pass an ordinance approving the posting of neighborhood watch signs throughout the city.

Community watch: A mock up of the proposed signs that will be posted throughout the LH Heights community to help deter crime.

Community watch: A mock up of the proposed signs that will be posted throughout the LH Heights community to help deter crime.

Three councilmembers felt they required more information before making a final decision on allowing the newly formed Heights Watch to post warnings to thieves throughout the city. Two other councilmembers, Michael Higgins and Kyle Miller, excused themselves from the chambers due to a possible conflict of interest. Both are a part of a foundation that supports the newly organized Heights Watch, and because of the California Political Reform Act, City Attorney Christi Hogin advised that the two councilmembers recuse themselves from the discussion.
Yet community members and officials seemed to agree that posting newly designed brown and orange signs with the trademarked “Boris the Burglar” logo around the neighborhood could have an effect in warding off would be thieves.
“A criminal who enters a neighborhood and sees a well-organized neighborhood watch is bound to go to an easier place,” Higgins said after the meeting. “And this is why I feel it is vital that we have an active and robust watch system in the Heights.”
Members of the community voiced the same concern.
“You can’t have too many eyes and ears in our community,” said resident Kathy Sauble.
Although everyone seemed to agree that solutions are needed to repel theft, the council was apprehensive.
One concern with the new signage is the planned whereabouts. Nobody seemed to have an answer as to where the new signs would be placed. Also, according to Heights Watch member Rich McClish, the group had not asked the National Sheriff’s Association for permission to use the trademarked Boris the Burglar symbol on the signs.
The discussion for more neighborhood safety programs comes after teenagers from a local high school allegedly broke into a La Habra Heights mansion last November, partied and stole items including a $250,000 mounted snow leopard. The act, which made national news, was caught on camera. The suspects were taken into police custody during school hours and will be arraigned in court this week.
But more recently, residents have had their mail allegedly stolen and ransacked from local mailboxes.
“Most people don’t report it,” said Mayor Roy Francis, who also had his mail stolen.
Some residents fear the crimes are the result of gang members in the area, or criminals recently released from California state prisons because of overcrowding.

This is all unknown. But what is known are the feelings of frustration, fear and anger that victims of these crimes experience and the desire to stop the crimes from happening. Early in February, video surveillance showed a suspect calmly strolling to the front of a house  belonging to McClish’s  neighbor and throwing a brick through the window. The man took what he wanted from the house then calmly walked away.
The same suspect allegedly returned to the same house 30 minutes later and stole more items.
“We’ve gotten lazy, at least on my street, at identifying who lives on the street and who’s casing our street,” McClish said about implementing the new Heights Watch program. “Signage is critical.”
Statistics released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department show a crime upswing in the Heights, but not by much. According to preliminary data released by the LASD on its website, property crime rates in La Habra Heights rose by .2 percent when compared to 2013, so far.
There have been two reported burglaries in 2014 compared to one reported incident at this time last year. Overall in 2013, there were 33 reported burglaries and 21 reported larceny theft incidents in the Heights. So far this year, there have been three incidents, as opposed to two incidents this time last year.

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