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From Sonora to the diamond

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From Sonora to the diamond

Posted on 01 July 2015 by La Habra Journal

La Habra native and long time ESPN the magazine reporter and writer has her first book despite not starting out that way.

By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal

Sometimes teachers can have an influence on a person long after they leave the classroom. Such is the case for sports reporter and new author, Molly Knight.

Sonora Alumna Molly Knight

Sonora Alumna Molly Knight

While attending Sonora High School, Knight had visions of becoming a doctor.  She natually excelled in her IB science courses. However, seeds were planted in of all places, her English classes, that would have a great influence in her life.
“I always had teachers at Sonora who would push me toward writing  and complemented my writing,” Knight explained.  “But I resisted because I’d think, ‘I’m a math or science person’ .  I was always surprised to get As in my English classes.  I just didn’t think of myself as a writer.”
After she graduated from Sonora in 1999, Knight went to Stanford where she studied biology, with her goal still pointed toward medical school, but the seeds that were planted by Marjie Blevins and Marilyn Middleton, her high school English teachers grew.
“They were instrumental in where I am today,” Knight explained. “I had a lot of teenage angst and they made me feel like I could get into a good college and do something great. They really are amazing.”
By her senior year at Stanford, Knight explained that she couldn’t take another organic chemistry class and decided that she liked writing and she wanted to become a writer. Knight jacket (2)
Some of her friends were moving to New York and Knight felt at the time that she needed to start over.
So she packed up and moved to New York to start her life as a writer.
She had no experience or training at all, but that didn’t stop her. She worked as a bartender and wrote  at coffee shops.
She started reviewing CDs for an indie rock magazine.  Then interned at a business magazine. She applied for an internship at FHM magazine and they hired her.  After a year, one of her editors moved to ESPN magazine and she followed.
She freelanced for ESPN and covered a variety of  topics and features.
In 2011, they sent Knight to Los Angeles to cover the divorce and legal preceding of former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.
“It was crazy because the story kept going,” Knight explained. “It was one of the first things that was really mine at ESPN.”
She found herself writing for ESPN online, doing some television work and writing for the magazine.
She enjoyed the work, and got to know some of the players and decided to move back to California.
It was at that time that players and Dodger personnel suggested to Knight that she write a book about the team.
“I blew it off at first, but then I thought, maybe I should,” she explained.
“The Best Team Money Can Buy” chronicles the story  of the Dodgers as they transitioned from the profit driven McCourt debacle and drama of his ownership to the new ownership that has a commitment to winning.
“I’m pretty straightforward,” Knight admitted.  “It’s mainly about the players, their lives and the personalities.”
Knight added that she is fascinated with extraordinary people and that is what fueled her interest in writing about the Dodgers.
She stopped working for ESPN and spent a year working solely on the book, delving deep into the team and all the surroundings.
She is excited and looking forward to the book’s release in time for the MLB All Star Game on July 14.
She is open to her future, and is just kind of taking it day by day to see where things go.
“People ask me if I’ll write another book,” she explained. “I don’t know.  It has to be an extraordinary  story.”
For now, Knight will continue to enjoy Southern California and what life is like as a published author.

 

Molly Knight book signing July 31

Ezaki Dentistry
16336 E. Whittier Blvd.
Whittier, CA
11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

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Local pitchers picked in MLB draft

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Local pitchers picked in MLB draft

Posted on 18 June 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Shanin Thomas
La Habra Journal

Staumont Teaser

Courtesy Ken Williams./Azusa Pacific University Feeling Royal: Former La Habra High School pitcher Josh Staumont was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the Major League Baseball Draft last week. Former Sonora pitcher Brandon Quintero was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 16th Round.

Only a small percentage of guys who play baseball will ever hear their name called during a professional sports draft. However, two of the names called in this year’s Major League Baseball draft were from the La Habra area.
La Habra Heights resident and former La Habra High standout  Josh Staumont was the 64th overall pick of the MLB draft on June 8 becoming the highest selected player in Azusa Pacific University baseball history.
“It was an incredible day, but it is only a stepping stone to the rest of my career,” Staumont said.
The 6-foot-2-inch junior was selected by the 2014 American League Champion Kansas City Royals in the second round of the draft.
Staumont, who graduated from La Habra in 2012, was scouted as a dominating, right-handed pitcher. He has reached speeds in the high 90s comfortably, while mixing in a nasty curveball and occasionally throwing a change-up.
Staumont’s record at Division II Azusa Pacific, is 13-8 with a 3.97 earned run average. He also puts up a record breaking 198 strikeouts in a two season stretch.
This past season, Staumont was ranked second in the country with 14.29 strikeouts and ranked fourth giving up only 4.72 hits per nine inning average.
Paul Caffrey, head coach of La Habra High School varsity baseball from 2008 – 2012, remembers Staumont as a “short, chunky kid,” he said.
Coach Caffrey placed Staumont on the freshman baseball team as a sophomore in hopes he would mature. After growing six to seven inches taller into his senior year of high school, Staumont was able to grow into his body, and more importantly, his potential, Caffrey explained.
Staumont noted that while his physical maturity was important, he needed to continue to grow as a player.
“As many people affiliated with the game know, your mental maturity becomes the most integral part of the game as you have to develop and hone the tools that you have been given,” Staumont said.
During his senior season at La Habra High School, scouts flocked to watch other team mates. Command has always been an issue with Staumont, however Coach Caffrey advised professional scouts “to take a chance on him,” he said.
Caffrey has followed Staumont’s career and believes he has one of the best arms in the country. He said the talent is there and with the time and focus of being a professional, Staumont can reach his full potential.
“He has always had the ability,” Coach Caffrey said. “He is really raw … just a thrower.”
From high school, Staumont decided to play at Biola University,  where in his freshman year, Staumont led the Golden State Athletic Conference with 109 strikeouts.
He transfered to APU his sophomore year  to follow current Azusa Pacific pitching coach John Verhoeven.
Head coach of Azusa Pacific baseball, Paul Svagdis, said Staumont was a great addition to the team.
Coach Svagdis watched the first day of the MLB draft with his 12- year-old son, he said. When the Royals took their turn during the first round, Coach Svagdis told his son, “I think this is the team that is going to take him [Staumont].” He was right and he believes they will be a great fit for Staumont.
“Josh is a humble young man for a guy with such potential as a baseball player,” Svagdis said.
The Royals completed day one of the MLB draft by selecting three right-handed pitchers. Staumont was the last of the three to be chosen.
Staumont said he is “incredibly fortunate for being taken into a great organization such as the Kansas City Royals.”
He knows it is now the time to move his game to the next level, and he explained that he is ready.
“Each and every day I am trying to beat what I did the day before,” Staumont said. “I don’t compare myself to others as I am not trying to be like them, I will push to be the best version of me each and every day.”

Brandon Quintero
Former Sonora and current Cal State Los Angeles pitcher Brandon Quintero was selected in the 16th Round by the Chicago White Sox.
Raider Baseball Head Coach remembers the standout right hander for his tenacity.
“The thing that separates him is his competitiveness,” Tellers said. “When we were in the playoffs he always wanted the ball.”
Tellers explained that Quintero was being scouted as early as his junior year in 2011.
Quintero was named Pitcher of the Year twice for the Raiders and twice earned first-team All-Freeway League honors.
Quintero lead Cal State LA in wins for the last two years.  He also lead the team in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts.
“He knows what it’s going to take, he’s a straight arrow kid,” Tellers added.  “As long as he listens to his coaches he’s got a good future ahead of him.”

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WEB_LHJ Sonora_SH base_0249

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Raiders beat Knights, move to CIF Quarterfinals

Posted on 26 May 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The Sonora Raiders advance to the Southern Section Quarterfinals with a 5-2 victory against Katella.

The Raiders battled back, scoring five unanswered runs to shut down the Knights.WEB_LHJ Sonora_SH base_0173

Austin Weddle toed the rubber for the Raiders who worked in and out of jams for six innings.

“He seems to be fighting himself all the time, he’s cutting his pitches off short,” Tellers said.

Weddle started the game reliant on his fastball, but gained command of his curveball and changeup.

“He just kept battling through it,” Tellers said.

Weddle however did not have much help behind him as the Raiders defense showed one of their weaker performances.

With runners on first and second base and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Raiders got some timely defense off the bench.

Alex Penaloza hit a deep fly ball to left field. Jacob Tennyson trailed the high fly ball into the corner and eventually caught it before it got lost in the corner.

Tennyson is regarded as the fastest player in the Sonora baseball program with a 6.3 second 60 yard dash.

“He’s usually the guy out there in the late innings, and he had the smarts to get that one back in the infield,” Tellers said.

Katella was on the run, so when Tennyson hauled it in, both runners had a long run to get back to their bases, allowing Tennyson to relay a ball into the infield to double off Matt Morello from first.

“I thought for sure it was going to be a 5-4 game with a runner on third,” Tellers said expecting the play to end as a triple.WEB_LHJ Sonora_SH base_0583

The throw ended the game securing a 5-2 victory.

Katella scored their first run in the second inning.

With two on and no outs, Eduardo Ureno dropped a bunt down in front of Eli Villalobos. Villalobos tried to throw the runner out at second, but his throw sailed into center field scoring Penaloza. With runners on the corners Katella hit a grounder to Justin Mellano. Mellano made a strong throw to home to tie Gabriel Gamboa up between the basepath in a pickle. Weddle struck the next batter out before escaping the jam one batter later.

Wilem Drozdowski reached on an infield single in the third to set the table for the Raiders. JP Sarro followed with another single to put runners on first and second. Eli Villalobos fouled off a pitch in front of the Raiders dugout, and Drozdowski tagged up after Roberto Jaime bobbled the catch in front of the fence. Dylan Villalobos singled up the middle to tie the game, bringing in Drozdowski.

The Raiders added to their run total in the fourth with a leadoff single by Jake Rosander. Mellano then sacrificed him over to second.

Gabe Armstrong singled putting runners on the corners and Jason Clayton singled down the line to bring in Rosander for a 2-1 lead.

In the sixth, the Raiders scored their third run on back to back doubles from Mellano and Armstrong. Armstrong would try to score on a single to left, but was thrown out at the plate. Armstrong appeared to injure his hamstring on the play.

In the seventh inning, Katella’s pitching trouble led to two runs for the Raiders.WEB_LHJ Sonora_SH base_0249

“It’s about making plays,” Tellers said, “Defense will usually cost you games, I think we got a couple from them because of mistakes on defense, and I know for sure we threw a few away.”

Eli Villalobos reached on an infield single to third base. He took second on a wild pitch and went to third on Dylan’s single to center. Another wild pitch scored Eli and put Dylan at second.

Chandler Koontz reached on a walk, then swiped second on a wild pitch. Dylan Villalobos scored on another wild pitch to give the Raiders a 5-1 lead.

The Knights season ended after they scored their second run off of Sarro who came in to pitch.

Morello singled to left to drive in the run, but would be out retreating on Penaloza’s fly ball to left.

With the Raiders road victory, they will host Serrano who knocked out Victor Valley in a 5-2 victory. That game will be played on Friday afternoon.

“It’s been a fight, and hopefully we can continue fighting,” Tellers said.

The Raiders carry 11 Seniors, and will look to the to carry the load as the season continues.

“We know that everyone’s in this together, but it’s their deal. They have no tomorrow,” Tellers said.

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Heralds jump early, hang on for second-round win over Cabrillo

Posted on 28 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Whittier Christian second baseman James Veloff records an out at second base and fires to first to complete one of the Heralds' two double plays in the first two innings during a 4-3 second-round playoff win over Cabrillo at home, Wednesday afternoon.

Whittier Christian second baseman Logan Veloff records an out at second base and fires to first to complete one of the Heralds’ two double plays in the first two innings during a 4-3 second-round playoff win over Cabrillo at home, Wednesday afternoon.

Story and photos by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The Heralds’ baseball team had to persevere, but held on to an early four-run lead to knock out Cabrillo of Lompoc, Wednesday at home, to advance to the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 5 playoffs.

Mike Rafter pitched through trouble to maintain the 4-3 final score and Brett Greene slammed to door in the seventh inning to push Whittier Christian into the next round.

The Heralds came out of the gate swinging. Mike Rafter singled and Cooper Hughes doubled down the third base line. With runners on second and third, Mike Rubio caught the infield off guard, leading to the Heralds’ first run.

“Execution offense in that first inning, we forced the issue a little bit, guys souled out, made plays, and four runs later, that’s a nice start for your pitcher,” said Brent Lavoie, Heralds head coach.

Joseph Cobian stuck his bat out and hit a slow dribbler towards the shortstop. Cooper Hughes scored easily, while Rubio and Cobian took an extra base on an overthrow.

With runners on second and third base, Mike Rubio scored on a groundout from Brett Greene and Joseph Cobian crossed the plate on a squeeze bunt from Brian Rafter.

Through four innings Rafter pitched his way through jams with minimal help from the umpires. As the Conquistadores began to see more pitches from Rafter, their at bats began to lead to run production.

In the fifth inning, Cabrillo’s Boomer Duffey doubled to left-center field, his second double on the afternoon. Brett Gregory drove him home with a single. Oswaldo Medina added another single to put runners on first and second base.

Heralds' starting pitcher Mike Rafter throws a pitch during Whittier Christian's 4-3 second-round victory over Cabrillo at home, Wednesday afternoon.

Heralds’ starting pitcher Mike Rafter throws a pitch during Whittier Christian’s 4-3 second-round victory over Cabrillo at home, Wednesday afternoon.

Feeling the pressure, the Conquistadores attempted a double steal, which led to a second run crossing the plate when Hughes’ throw got past Rubio’s glove at third base.

With two outs in the sixth inning, the Heralds’ grasp on the lead began to unravel.

A pitch from Mike Rafter skipped past Hughes, which put a runner at second base. Alex Aguilar brought Cabrillo within one run with a double to left. Dakota Veltkamp made a strong throw to cut down the runner at home, but the throw was cut off before it reached the plate.

Brett Greene came in to relieve Rafter, and induced a popout to escape the jam.

“I just had confidence in our guys, that game at Mary Star last week had a real similar ending, so I think that switch of been-here-done-that went off, you couldn’t tell that those guys played timid, they just keep playing the game” Lavoie said.

With the end in sight, Greene cruised through the seventh inning to grab the save for the Heralds.

Greene’s confidence does not reflect a player who has been on varsity for only a month, but his contributions have come at an important time.

Greene has received help from some of the leaders on the team like Rubio, Cobian and Mike Rafter and appreciated the chance to come in to relieve Rafter.

“It felt really good to be the one to win the game, it feels really great,” Greene said.

Mike Rafter took on the challenge of shutting down Cabrillo (18-13), which was fresh off a 12-inning upset of Woodcrest Christian last Friday.

Rafter struck out two in the first inning and reaped the benefit of two double plays in the second and third inning.

“We’ve turned more double plays in the past two games than we did in the past twelve games,” Lavoie said.

The Heralds have needed to adjust when Mike Rafter pitches, and have seen multiple players manning second base, but today Logan Veloff took on the challenge.

Veloff held down second base with no issues and gave his best effort with the stick in the second inning with a double between two shallow outfielders in center field and right field. Veloff continued to give the outfielders fits when he hit a bloop single in his second at bat.

“At the mid point in the year he started taking some pitches, and now he’s more in attack mode,” Lavoie said. “(Veloff’s) having success hitting the ball hard, even when he gets out.”

With a home game Friday against Big Bear High School, the Heralds (17-12) will need to continue their focus.

“Sometimes home teams can get a little too comfy in their own element,” Lavoie said.

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Sonny, Raiders’ defense shut down Patriot to advance to second round

Posted on 22 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Sonora starting pitcher Evan Sonny winds up to pitch against Patriot in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs, Thursday afternoon at Sonora High. Photos courtesy of Kurt Blodgett

Sonora starting pitcher Evan Sonny winds up to pitch against Patriot in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs, Thursday afternoon at Sonora High. Photos courtesy of Kurt Blodgett

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Last year, Sonora pitcher Evan Sonny missed the playoffs after a four-day hospital visit forced an early end to his junior season.

The now senior pitcher admitted he was a little anxious heading into his first varsity playoff start on Thursday afternoon, but settled midway through the game and delivered a complete game shutout as the Raiders topped Patriot 2-0 at home in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs.

Sonny allowed two hits, the second coming with two outs in the third inning. With help from his defense, he retired the last 12 Warriors he faced.

“I think I tried to overthrow a little bit early, but once I got my off-speed stuff working, everything came into play,” Sonny said. “I was anxious, I was ready to get out there. Our coach always says good teams find a way to win even when they’re off and I feel that’s what we did today, we found a way to win.”

In all, Sonny allowed three baserunners, two of which were thrown out at second base. Sonny faced 22 total batters, one more than the minimum for a seven-inning game.

Patriot (12-15) had only one runner in scoring position as Justin Thomas was allowed second base after a throwing error during a double-play attempt in the first inning.

Sonora’s defense was key, the infield recorded 17 outs and Sonny struck out four batters. Aside from one hit in the first inning, a chopper over third-baseman JP Sarro, none of Patriot’s swings reached the outfield.

“We tell the guys if you get to this point of the year that you have to make plays,” said Pat Tellers, Sonora head coach. “We made some plays today, Gavin [Blodgett] made some big plays at shortstop. We also challenged them and we were able to take advantage of a couple mistakes.”

However, as great as Sonora’s pitching and defense were on the afternoon, the bats struggled. Sonora recorded just two base hits, both in the fourth inning.

Sonora shortstop Gavin Blodgett prepares to throw to first after fielding a tough chopper up the middle during the seventh inning of Sonora's first-round 2-0 win over Patriot, Thursday afternoon at home.

Sonora shortstop Gavin Blodgett prepares to throw to first after fielding a tough chopper up the middle during the seventh inning of Sonora’s first-round 2-0 win over Patriot, Thursday afternoon at home.

Despite an erratic performance by Warriors’ starting pitcher Andrew Martinez, Sonora’s willingness to chase pitches helped his cause early on.

Sonora (21-6-1) was held without a hit until Gavin Blodgett singled to lead off the fourth inning. Two batters later, Jake Rosander doubled to deep left-center field to put runners on second and third base.

Justin Mellano plated the Raiders’ first run with a sacrifice fly to right field in the fourth inning. Blodgett scored from third base as the throw sailed wide right of the plate.

“We didn’t execute well offensively, we didn’t get bunts down well today,” Tellers said. “I liked the way we drove the ball, but they must have had something on us because their outfield was playing deep. They tracked them down and made them fly-ball outs.”

Patriot shortstop Luis Perez bobbled a ground ball by Blodgett in the fifth inning, allowing Sonny to score and give the Raiders a 2-0 lead.

Sonny and the defense took care of the rest as Sonora cruised into the second round and extended their current win streak to 16 games.

The Raiders will face Century in the second round. Century, the champion of the Orange League, defeated Monrovia 2-0 on Thursday afternoon. A coin flip will determine the site of the game.

“It’s about making plays and we did, that’s why we’re continuing,” Tellers said. “It doesn’t matter who you play at this time, they’re all good, you never know what you’re going to run into. We just have to prepare for our next opponent and we get to do that, starting tomorrow or tonight.”

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Raiders shut out La Habra, extend win streak to 13 games

Posted on 09 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Gavin Blodgett recorded a RBI-triple and came home to score in the fourth inning during the Raiders' 5-0 win over La Habra, Friday at Sonora High.

Gavin Blodgett recorded a RBI-triple and came home to score in the fourth inning during the Raiders’ 5-0 win over La Habra, Friday at Sonora High.

by Jeremiah Girard
La Habra Journal

Sonora pitching threw yet another shutout as the baseball team earned a 5-0 victory and a three-game sweep over the La Habra Highlanders, Friday afternoon at Sonora High.

It was their sixth shutout in 13 league games. Overall, the Raiders’ pitching and defense have allowed just 11 runs total in Freeway League play.

The Raiders had already clinched the Freeway League before the game started but did not come out looking complacent.

The bats showed up from the get-go and managed two runs in the first inning. In the inning, Sonora’s first two batters reached before Jake Rosander bunted them both into scoring position.

“We have been executing really well lately,” said Pat Tellers, Sonora head coach. “That is why we have been winning games. When you can trust your number three hitter to bunt guys into second and third the game gets easier to manage.”

Jose Gomez and Gabe Armstrong chipped in with back-to-back RBI singles.

Armstrong was also the pitcher for the Raiders on the day and pitched a complete game shutout, allowing four hits and two walks while collecting eight strikeouts.

“I thought I pitched well today,” Armstrong said. “I got myself into some trouble at some points, but all-in-all I knew I was hitting my spots.”

The Highlanders (11-14, 5-8) did threaten in the fourth inning. They had runners on second and third with no outs, but Armstrong struck out Brad Hoffrichter before issuing a walk to Kyle Schuh to load the bases with one out.

Armstrong then struck out David Calderon and Isaiah Gonzalez to get out of the inning.

“We had some pretty good chances but we did not execute,” said John Sothern, La Habra head coach. “We are not playing like we did earlier in the year, we’re missing some good opportunities.”

La Habra's Robert Leffler (shown against Troy) threw five innings and allowed five runs on eight hits while striking out two batters in La Habra's 5-0 loss to Sonora, Friday afternoon at Sonora High.

La Habra’s Robert Leffler (shown against Troy) threw five innings and allowed five runs on eight hits while striking out two batters in La Habra’s 5-0 loss to Sonora, Friday afternoon at Sonora High.

The Raiders (18-6-1, 13-0) added two more runs in the fourth inning on an RBI triple by Gavin Blodgett and an RBI sacrifice fly by Andrew Piraino.

They finished off the scoring in the sixth with an RBI groundout by Evan Sonny.

Robert Leffler was on the mound for the Highlanders, pitching five innings and allowing five runs on eight hits with two strikeouts and two walks.

“Robert just did not have his best stuff today,” Sothern said. “He battled well though and did not pitch himself out of the game.

With two games remaining in league play, Sonora and La Habra find themselves in very different predicaments.

Sonora is 13-0 in league and are only playing for playoff seeding.

“We already have the league clinched,” Tellers said. “But you want to go into the playoffs on a winning streak and this team had a goal to go 15-0 so they want to reach it.”

La Habra sits at 5-8 in league and needs to sweep Buena Park along with some help from other parts of the league.

“It is that simple, every game is important,” Sothern said. “We need to beat Buena Park both times and we need Troy to sweep Fullerton.”

The Highlanders will take on Buena Park on the road and Sonora will host Sunny Hills, Tuesday afternoon.

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Raiders top La Habra to earn second consecutive league crown

Posted on 07 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Sonora's Gavin Blodgett retires La Habra's Andrew Gallegos before firing to first for a double play in the first inning of Sonora's 3-1 win at La Habra High, Tuesday afternoon.

Sonora’s Gavin Blodgett retires La Habra’s Andrew Gallegos before firing to first for a double play in the first inning of Sonora’s 3-1 win at La Habra High, Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Jay Seidel, La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

After five innings of shutout baseball, the Sonora baseball team secured its second consecutive outright Freeway League title by scoring three runs in the sixth inning and ousting rival La Habra 3-1, Wednesday afternoon at La Habra High.

The Raiders were limited to one hit through five innings by La Habra starting pitcher Andrew Gallegos, but a leadoff single and a throwing error put runners on second and third base to start the sixth inning, setting the stage for Andrew Piraino.

The senior launched Gallegos’ second pitch to deep left center field, scoring Henry Bustamante from third base despite a near diving catch by Highlanders’ center fielder Brad Hoffrichter.

Jake Rosander singled in the second run and Jose Gomez drove home a third run with a fielder’s choice at second base to put Sonora up 3-0.

“It feels good to get it out of the way so that we can prep for CIF,” Piraino said of earning the league title. “We knew we were going to have a good shot to get it done early, so it was all about taking care of business.”

La Habra's Andrew Gallegos threw five scoreless innings before giving up three runs in the sixth inning as La Habra fell to Sonora 3-1 at home, Wednesday afternoon.

La Habra’s Andrew Gallegos threw five scoreless innings before giving up three runs in the sixth inning as La Habra fell to Sonora 3-1 at home, Wednesday afternoon.

The Highlanders (11-13, 5-7) tried to respond immediately in the bottom half of the inning. Chris Nuanes lined a one-out double to left center field and Gallegos earned a walk.

After both runners advanced on a groundout, Austin Saad lined a base hit to center field, scoring Nuanes, but Gallegos was held at third base as center fielder Justin Mellano’s throw home sailed far wide to the first base side.

“I would say [Mellano] has one of the best center field arms in the league and we saw him in pregame, he lets it rip and it’s on target,” said John Sothern, La Habra head coach. “In a situation like that, it’s fifty-fifty and I’m not a huge subscriber in sending guys with two outs, especially when you have a guy charging a ball that’s shallow with that type of arm.”

With runners at second and third base, Garrett Molnar grounded out to third base to end the threat.

JP Sarro came on to pitch a perfect seventh inning to record the save and preserve the victory for starting pitcher Evan Sonny, who pitched six innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out four batters and walking two.

“I was battling, my back was hurting a bit so I was leaving the ball up a little bit, if I had kept the ball down more, I probably could have gone through with no runs,” Sonny said. “I love the pressure and the intensity of the game. Coming out and pitching against your rival, there’s nothing like it.”

Sonora's Justin Mellano attempts a sacrifice bunt in the second inning, but popped out to La Habra third baseman Garrett Molnar during Sonora's 3-1 win at La Habra, Wednesday afternoon.

Sonora’s Justin Mellano attempts a sacrifice bunt in the second inning, but popped out to La Habra third baseman Garrett Molnar during Sonora’s 3-1 win at La Habra, Wednesday afternoon.

During the first five innings, Gallegos and Sonny kept the offenses at bay. Neither side allowed a runner to third base until the fifth inning, when the Highlanders stranded Molnar there on a groundout by Jordan Smith.

Until the sixth inning, the Raiders (17-6-1, 12-0) never got past first base.

“Gallegos was outstanding on the mound, he moved the ball in and out, changed speeds and did a great job keeping them off-balance,” Sothern said. “I was very pleased with what he did today. Unfortunately, we had a situation where a mistake is made, but for five innings, he minimized those mistakes.”

Gallegos took the loss despite pitching five-plus innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on three hits while striking out three batters and walking none.

Sonny, who has been plagued by minor injuries, was taken out after six innings, which allowed Sarro to earn his fourth save of the season.

“Our pitching has been solid all year round,” said Pat Tellers, Sonora head coach. “It’s huge having JP in the bullpen, knowing how strong he was as a starter last season. We can now put him on the mound and have him throw strikes and he’s made a great adjustment in that regard. He’s a great guy for it because he’s so competitive. We like putting the ball in his hands if it’s close.”

In addition to its league title, the Raiders extended a winning streak to 12 games and haven’t lost since Mar. 31.

The two teams will meet again Friday afternoon at Sonora High. While the Raiders have already wrapped up the league title, the Highlanders now find themselves in dire need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“We’re in this situation for a multitude of reasons,” Sothern said. “At this point in time, we have to do whatever it takes to win these last three games. If we lose on Friday, we’re at the mercy of Fullerton and Troy. At this point, you go [into the playoffs] any way you can. We’ve pinned ourselves in a corner and now we’re either going to find a way out or not.”

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Heralds fall in close contest against league rival Valley Christian

Posted on 07 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Cooper Hughes (shown against Crean Lutheran) drove home the first of two Heralds' runs with a groundout during Whittier Christian's 3-2 loss to Valley Christian, Tuesday night at Valley Christian High.

Cooper Hughes (shown against Crean Lutheran) drove home the first of two Heralds’ runs with a groundout during Whittier Christian’s 3-2 loss to Valley Christian, Tuesday night at Valley Christian High.

by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

CERRITOS – A transfer from Whittier Christian before the start of the season, Tyler Radecki pitched a gem for Valley Christian leading to a win over his former team 3-2, Tuesday night at Valley Christian High.

After a quick first inning, the Crusaders roughed up Mike Rafter, who started the second inning with a strike out, but then gave up a single past second baseman Daniel Howard.

The next hitter sent a long fly to Dakota Veltkamp which dropped when it caught the wind. Rafter was able to pitch out of the jam with the Heralds down one run.

The Crusaders continued to swing hot sticks in the third inning.

Valley Christian doubled the lead with three consecutive singles to start the third inning. A sacrifice fly scored the third run. Again Rafter was able to battle and escape the jam down 3-0.

The Heralds picked up Rafter in the fourth inning when Mike Rubio led off the inning with a single.

“Offensively it took us a time through the lineup to get our timing down,” said Brent Lavoie, Heralds head coach. “(The) second and third time I thought we squared up a bunch of balls, the process was really good, (we) hit a bunch of balls hard.”

Brian Rafter tried to sacrifice the runner over to second, but ended up pushing the bunt too far and Rubio was thrown out at second base. Mike Rafter reached on an error and Joseph Cobian was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Cooper Hughes grounded out but scored a run, Mike Rafter scored on a passed ball to narrow the gap to one run.

The Crusaders tried to extend their lead, but were shut down by Mike Rafter who pitched around a leadoff double.

“When the pressure moments arise, Rafter seems to get a little bit better,” Lavoie said. “There’s no fear of failure, bottom line the kid’s not afraid to fail and that’s what makes him so good, being able to battle in those type of situations.”

By this point in the night, the Heralds had seen Radecki’s best stuff, but were unable to push across another run.

“(Radecki) pitched a heck of a game, kept some guys off balance, and they played defense behind him,” Lavoie said.

In the seventh inning, junior varsity call up Brett Green had a long single off the right centerfield wall. Isaiah Carreon followed him with a single, but the Heralds were retired on a called strike three and a lineout to the first baseman.

The Heralds host Valley Christian on Friday. With a 4-5 record in the Olympic League, the Heralds control their own destiny for a playoff birth. The Heralds should be able to seal a playoff birth with a win in one of their next three games.

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Highlanders swept by Troy as offensive woes continue

Posted on 05 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

La Habra's Chris Nuanes pitched three shutout innings before Troy scored three runs on him in the fourth inning, leading to a 3-1 loss on the road, Monday afternoon.

La Habra’s Chris Nuanes pitched three shutout innings before Troy scored three runs on him in the fourth inning, leading to a 3-1 loss on the road, Monday afternoon.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

From an offensive standpoint, the La Habra baseball team has nearly executed its gameplan to completion over the past week with the exception of one aspect: scoring runs.

In a make-up game due to poor air quality last Wednesday, the Highlanders took advantage of an erratic performance by Troy starting pitcher Evan Frobisher in order to get on base and used sacrifice bunts to move runners into scoring position.

However, La Habra couldn’t come up with key base hits to bring runs home, stranding 10 runners in a 3-1 loss to Troy, Monday afternoon at Troy High.

“We did a very good job at getting them on and getting them over, we just failed at getting them in,” said John Sothern, La Habra head coach. “Sometimes you have a guy that squares a ball up and just hits it to somebody, I can live with that. We had guys in full counts reaching for balls out of the zone and putting it in play with a pop up or weak ground ball when it could have been ball four.”

La Habra’s lone run in the first inning was the product of a sacrifice fly ball off the bat of Michael Borg with the bases loaded, scoring Andrew Gallegos from third base.

The Highlanders (11-12, 5-6) loaded the bases with one out in the second inning and again with no outs in the fourth inning. On both occasions, La Habra came up empty-handed.

“The last two games were must-win games for us, so getting the execution was huge,” Sothern said. “We did a great job of making [Frobisher] labor, we did a lot to force him to rush to the plate and get him out of his rhythm, but if we don’t jump on a guy who is in that situation, we give them the momentum.”

For three innings, starting pitcher Chris Nuanes controlled Troy’s bats, limiting the Warriors to just two hits.

However, in the fourth inning, after La Habra’s failed attempt with the bases loaded, Troy (10-11, 7-4) rode the momentum to the tune of three runs on five singles.

Singles by Jonathan Banuelos and Michael Lozano, along with a walk to Kris Amparo, loaded the bases for the Warriors with no outs.

Pinch-hitter Brett Boller and catcher Ryan Park collected RBI-singles, while another came home when Matthieu Bouchard grounded into a double play.

“In the top half of the inning, [La Habra] kept getting guys on base and it’s a momentum changer when you have situations like that and you can’t score,” said Dave Shirota, Troy head coach. “In the dugout, we felt like we were going to score a couple runs and pull this one out. It was another good game, both teams played defense and pitched well, we just got some timely hits and that was the difference.”

La Habra stranded four base runners in two innings against Troy reliever Kevin Deming, including two runners at third base.

Lozano pitched a perfect seventh inning to secure the season sweep for the Warriors. Frobisher earned the win, pitching four innings and allowing one run on four hits while striking out two batters and walking three.

The win also puts Troy two games ahead of La Habra and Fullerton for second place and keeps the Warriors alive for a share of the league title with Sonora.

“We know Fullerton is looming and we know they’re a good team, like La Habra,” Shirota said. “Every team poses a problem for us and I believe we pose a problem for everyone. It’s great to see our guys pulling out close games. We’re a young team and La Habra’s a young team, so we look at this and think there will be plenty of close games in the next couple years. We didn’t think we’d sweep this year, so our guys are excited.”

The Highlanders were aided by two sharp relief innings by Carlos Lomeli, who allowed just two base runners, one of which was picked off in a double play.

Kyle Schuh led the way offensively with two of the Highlanders’ three bunt singles on the afternoon. Jake Tourville reached third base twice after a walk and a hit-by-pitch.

Nuanes took the loss, pitching three-and-two-thirds innings and giving up three runs on seven hits while striking out four batters.

The Highlanders, in the midst of a three-game week, will now set their sights on Sonora, starting with a home game, Wednesday afternoon.

“In terms of us playing, I felt we played fairly well from a defensive perspective,” Sothern said. “From an offensive perspective, I don’t care how many hits we get, because it doesn’t always equate to runs. We need to be able to score and we’ve hit a rough patch with that. Ultimately, it comes down to our guys doing whatever it takes and if they don’t, this is the result we’ll see the vast majority of the time.”

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La Habra can’t overcome early trouble, falls to Troy

Posted on 05 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

La Habra's Robert Leffler (shown against Los Altos) escaped early trouble and threw a complete game, but the Highlanders were shutout by Troy's Brett Boller in a 3-0 loss, Friday afternoon at home.

La Habra’s Robert Leffler (shown against Los Altos) escaped early trouble and threw a complete game, but the Highlanders were shutout by Troy’s Brett Boller in a 3-0 loss, Friday afternoon at home.

by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

La Habra baseball’s starting pitcher Robert Leffler pitched a complete game, but was outdueled by Troy pitcher Brett Boller in a 3-0 loss to the Warriors, Friday afternoon at La Habra High.

What separated the two starting pitchers was a strong start. Leffler fell into an early jam, which led to two runs in the first inning.

From there, Troy’s Boller kept the La Habra offense at bay, scattering five base hits in a complete game shutout.

A single, walk and a catcher’s interference had the Warriors in business early. They pushed across two runs before Leffler settled in.

“I thought he settled down after the first three hitters and did a good job putting the ball in play,” said John Sothern, La Habra head coach.

Leffler appeared to be a completely different pitcher from then on with a one-two-three second inning and finished his day with six innings of one run baseball.

“He was competitive, 80 pitches in seven innings, for the most part he pitched like our No. 1 pitcher today,” Sothern said.

With the loss, the Highlanders fall to 5-5 in league play and 0-2 against Troy.

The Highlanders will visit Troy on Monday in a make-up game after Wednesday’s game was cancelled due to poor air quality.

The Highlanders struggled to string together hits off of Boller who utilized a curveball and good location of his pitches.

“It’s a matter of not making adjustments,” Sothern said. “Their pitcher’s not throwing hard, and instead of us just letting the ball travel and using the entire field, we’re seeing these pitches that are hittable, or maybe just out of the zone, and trying to do too much with it. When you try and do that, you’re not going to get the results you want.”

The Highlanders did begin to find success in the fifth inning. Kyle Schuh laid down a bunt-single with one out in the inning.

Chris Nuanes followed Schuh with a double to the gap on a liner over the second baseman’s head.

The Warriors huddled at the mound before setting down the next two batters on a lineout and a flyout to escape without any further damage.

With two outs in the sixth inning, Brad Hoffrichter reached third base on a fly ball, which the Troy right fielder lost in the sunlight.

Jake Tourville came in to pinch hit but lined out to end the inning.

Again with one out, Schuh came up in the seventh inning and singled up the middle. Schuh showed great plate discipline reaching first base with two strikes.

“He’s had good at bats, he’s done good things he just doesn’t have the average to show for it but it was nice to see him today,” Sothern said. “He lays down that bunt, beats it out, then he ends up with the two strike single up the middle, something we preach all the time, so I was very happy to see that from him today.”

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