- Blair Angulo, Reporter, WeAreSC.com
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WEST COVINA -- Ty France and C.J. Saylor jog out the corner gate, walk along the outfield fence and, together, retrieve the American flag that waves during their baseball games at South Hills High School. Having fulfilled their duty as team captains and now eying a celebratory snack, the dynamic duo briefly stops at the snack shop behind left field.
Suddenly they sprint back toward the dugout at the sound of Huskies head coach Kevin Smith's whistle, again in unison.
They've known each other for about a decade, their friendship beginning on little league diamonds and growing on travel ballclubs. They bat third and fourth in the South Hills lineup, forming a tandem feared by pitchers across the San Gabriel Valley. And they've signed on to play together next season at San Diego State.
"They were role players for a couple of years," Smith says. "Now they're big time."
Both stand at around 5 feet 10, but France is the flashier of the two. Hair flows out of his hat, his eye black is purposely smeared and the web of his infield glove is bold green. France is a natural third baseman, Smith says, but has unselfishly stepped in at shortstop and doubles as closer.
"When I get on base I feel like he's going to get me in every time," Saylor says. "When Ty's hitting behind me, I know he's going to get the job done."
Saylor is the louder of the two, a fiery catcher who demands attentiveness from the other eight players on the field. He sports a buzz cut and old-school stirrups.
"He takes charge," France says. "When we're in the dugout he's always on everyone, making sure they're in the game."
They're not quite similar but both equally important to South Hills' success. Smith has had both on varsity for four years. As freshmen, France and Saylor were part of a Huskies team that captured the CIF-Southern Section Division III championship at Angel Stadium.
"If we're going to be successful, they've got to be our leaders," Smith says. "They've done that. They've done everything I've asked them to do."
Winning it all in 2009 raised expectations but, despite a combined 41-11 record the next two seasons, a repeat never materialized. South Hills is off to an 8-2 start this year and, with France and Saylor leading the way, the Huskies are serious contenders in Division II.
"We started with a bang," France said, "and we want to finish with a bang."
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.