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Turning the Beat Around in Baseball

Mira Costa detours off Skid Row as the baseball team sees a victory this week.

Mira Costa’s baseball team started the month with a five-game losing streak, but thanks to winless Leuzinger and Crespi, the Mustangs ended their string of bad outings with a three-game winning streak.

Overconfidence was a problem, said coach Cassidy Olson. Though he tried to temper expectations for the Mustangs, who lost seven of their nine starters from last season’s league championship team, some of his players might have been drinking their own brand of Kool-Aid.

“We won some games early and I think that gave us an overinflated opinion of ourselves,” Olson said. “We won nine in a row at one point and everyone started thinking we were a little better than we were.”

Still, Olson believes if the Mustangs keep their noses to the grindstone they have a shot at repeating as champs. But the Bay League is quite competitive this season. With the exception of Leuzinger, who Mira Costa beat twice this week, including a 22-0 beatdown, any of the league’s five other teams could capture the crown.

“Peninsula looked like the team to beat and then West demolished them,” said Olson, referring to a 9-2 victory by West Torrance on Wednesday. “As bad as I feel for the coach at Leuzinger, and he’s a real good guy, all of the other five teams could legitimately win the league. It’s as good as I’ve ever seen it.”

If Mira Costa expects to contend, the Mustangs will need to focus more.

“The key for our guys is not to worry about our record and play one inning at a time,” Olson said. “We’ve got as good a chance to win the league as anyone.”

Pitcher Sean Isaac (5-1) is just one of those reasons. In addition to his quality outings—he pitched well despite his only loss at West last week—Isaac is batting almost .500.

“He’s carried us so far,” Olson said. “He’s just been solid.”

Third baseman Turner Conrad, shortstop Garrett Fedor, outfielder Anthony Lombardo and catcher Ian McLoughlin also have helped carry a load.

“Turner is hitting the ball great. Defensively, our anchors have been Ian and Garrett,” Olson said. “But the other kids have made valuable contributions, too.”

Sea Hawks hit the fast track

It’s early, but Redondo Union finds itself tied with West atop of the Bay League baseball standings.

Despite it, first-year coach Jeff Baumback says the Sea Hawks, who recorded a 4-2 decision over Palos Verdes on Wednesday, haven’t accomplished anything.

“We’ve only (won) three games in league,” said Baumback, who took the helm at Redondo this season after spending seven seasons as pitching coach at Long Beach Wilson. “But beating PV was big for us.”

Pitcher Drew Kozain secured the victory over Palos Verdes, striking out Connor Averill with the bases loaded. It allowed Redondo (12-9, 3-0 in league) to capture its fourth consecutive victory heading into Friday’s rematch with the Sea Kings at Redondo.

Baumback, 31, says he was surprised with how deep the talent pool was at Redondo. Still, he believes for the Sea Hawks to continue their success, they’ll need to enhance their mental toughness.

“That’s the biggest hurdle I’ve had, believing we could win,” Baumback said. “The talent level is there, but sometimes if things don’t go our way or teams are good, we almost seem intimidated.”

Senior rightfielder Travis Fischvogt, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI in the win over Palos Verdes, is batting over .400 and has two home runs. Junior first baseman Dylan Hatch leads the team with four home runs. Junior catcher Jake Jimenez, junior leftfielder Cameron Bennet, senior Richard Atherton, the team’s leadoff hitter, and shortstop Matt Esparza have all been contributors.

“We’re pretty balanced,” Baumback said. “We’ve got two good pitchers in Grant Wessel and Drew. We’ve got a good mix. We can run and hit for power.”

Defense will factor how well they fare in the league chase.

“Cutting down on mistakes and playing fundamentally sound baseball will be a key,” the coach said. “We’ve improved mentally, and the kids are confident and getting more confident every week. But it really comes down to us playing well defensively and being patient on offense.”

Panthers' dramatic turnaround

A 10-1 romp over rival Palos Verdes on Wednesday was Peninsula’s latest triumph and kept the Panthers unbeaten (3-0 in league, 6-11 overall) in league play.

Though the change in fortunes might surprise some, Peninsula’s Tim Hall, in his 17th season as head coach, isn’t one of them.

“If you look at our record and some of the scores of our games, it’s really perplexing,” Hall said of the team’s early struggles. “But it’s not surprising how we’ve played lately. We’ve been in games all year and doing some good things even when we lost. We just had a hard time putting it together.

“Now we’re not making some of those mistakes we made earlier. We’ve been rounding into form. We wanted to use the preseason to make sure we were ready for league.”

Senior third baseman Allison Blackman is one reason they’ve been steady. She is hitting .451 with three home runs and 19 RBIs.

“She’s been a very consistent and dangerous bat that we’ve been able to rely on,” Hall said.

Ditto for leadoff hitter Cathy Lajeunesse, the team’s leftfielder, who is batting .302 with 11 RBIs. Lajeunesse has legged out three triples and has been a catalyst at the top of the lineup.

Centerfielder Ashley Gonzalas and freshman Brook Christensen also have played well.

“Ashley made an incredible catch in the Palos Verdes game and Brook has delivered some big hits for us in league,” Hall said.

Starting pitcher Andie Siegel (5-6) has been a hit, earning wins in two of her three league outings.

“She pitched really well for us in all three league games,” Hall said. “She’s done a great job holding down league opponents. The defense has been good too, committing only one error in the last three games.”

The Panthers also have hit the ball well. They scored seven runs in the final inning at Palos Verdes, where they turned a close contest into a blowout. Peninsula also rolled a seven in the final inning in a victory over West Torrance and scored five in its last at-bats in a win over Mira Costa.

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