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Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Recognize Greater LA

ESPNRISE.com

Baseball - El Toro


The Chargers didn't have many seniors last year, but they were anything but a young team. Chock full of second-year starters, El Toro proved senior leadership can be overrated when you have experienced and talented juniors. El Toro followed a simple path to a Southern Section Division II title. "All through last year we got great pitching performances, played good defense and got some timely hits, especially in the playoffs," says ninth-year coach Mike Gonzales. The crazy thing is that the Chargers' pitching could be even better this year. Ace Chad Thompson returns as a senior after going 12-3 last year. The 6-foot-6, hard-throwing righty is a strikeout machine. "When Chad's on the mound, we know we're only gonna give up a few runs," Gonzales says. Senior Tyler Zeigler, a crafty lefty who won the title game last season, returns, as does junior righty T.J. Kendzora. Back at 100 percent is USD-bound senior Aaron Wirsch, a 6-foot-8 lefty who missed last season with an injury. Senior shortstop Nolan Arenado is a three-year starter who's hit over .400 the last two years. "He's just a real special player," Gonzales says. "He'll be one of the best to come out of El Toro." Fellow three-year starters Dillon Penprase (1B), Grant Andersen (C) and Trevor Jensen (3B) round out the infield. The Chargers should prove the only thing better than experienced and talented juniors are experienced and talented seniors.



Softball - Ayala


The Bulldogs are ready to make the leap. Last year's team lost in the Division II quarters to eventual champ El Modena, 2-1. While the Vanguards lost ace pitcher Kylie Wagner, Ayala returns its terrific trio. Senior utility Nani St. Germain, a Los Angeles Times All-Star who hit .394 with nine homers last year, paces the offense, while junior pitcher Jessica Hall returns after going 21-11 with a 0.95 ERA last season. Junior Mary Massei hit .382 last season.



Boys' Track - Dominguez


Heading into the final event of the 2008 state meet (the 4x400), Dominguez held a two-point lead over Long Beach Poly. If the Jackrabbits won and the Dons were second, the teams would share the crown. But Dominguez prevailed, earning the title by four points. Two runners from that relay crew return in senior Kivon Grant and junior Leon Dillihunt. Both runners are ESPN RISE All-Area picks and Dillihunt could win an individual championship as well  last year, he placed second in the 400.



Girls' Track - Long Beach Poly


While the Jackrabbits didn't prevail on the boys'side, they didn't go home empty-handed, taking the girls' state title. And with Poly's dominant performers returning, the rest of the state might be playing for second. Back is sophomore Akawkaw Ndipagbor, who burst onto the scene by winning the 400. Junior Tara Richmond won the high jump, while senior Jasmine Joseph was runner-up in the 400. Ndipagbor, Joseph and sophomore Autumn Fowler ran on the winning 4x400 relay squad.



BREAKOUT TEAMS


BOYS' GOLF  BREA OLINDA
Super soph Rak Cho placed third at SoCal regionals as a freshman last year.

GIRLS' TRACK  CLAREMONT
Placed ninth at state last year and return junior all-world hurdler Kori Carter.

BASEBALL  CAPISTRANO VALLEY
Senior lefty Tyler Matzek is arguably the nation's best pitcher.

SOFTBALL  ESPERANZA
Seniors Kristen Scharkey and Kailyn Johnson return to DI quarterfinalist.