Coaches like to think that they know their players better than anybody else.
Granite Hills (El Cajon) skipper-teacher James Davis thought something was out of whack as he watched sophomore shortstop Charlie St. Clair boot routine ground balls and fumble pop-ups on a daily basis in practice.
Davis had all but given up on St. Clair as a hitter. Thus, for the majority of the Eagles’ first 12 games St. Clair was covered by a designated hitter when it came to offense.
Until Saturday’s Grossmont Hills League-opening doubleheader against visiting Valhalla (El Cajon), St. Clair was a lowly 1 for 8 as a hitter.
"I couldn’t believe what I was seeing out there because I really thought this kid had talent," Davis said. "But I also knew that he wore contact lenses. So after he staggered through another bad practice, I told him I thought he should get his eyes checked again."
St. Clair admitted there was no reason to do that.
"He told me he wasn’t wearing his contacts," Davis said. "So I asked him what his vision was without them. He said, ’20/100.’ I was stunned. His father was angry."
Come to think of, it was downright dangerous.
"Once we convinced Charlie to wear his contacts it was like he was a different kid," Davis said. "He made the plays and made contact at the plate."
St. Clair was 6 for 7 with four doubles, five RBI and four runs scored as Granite Hills began Grossmont Hills League play by sweeping the Norsemen 9-0 and 13-2.
Foothills Christian fielder makes near circus catch
Christian (El Cajon) coach Mike Mitchell is working on his third decade in the dugout, but admitted he’d never seen a defensive play like the one made by the rival Knights’ leftfielder Henry Lushei.
It came in the fifth inning with the Patriots leading 9-5. Senior catcher Michael Gruber belted a fly ball that appeared to be going out for a home run, when Luschei leaped high to get his glove on the ball.
Luschei didn’t make the catch but he did keep the ball – which appeared to be going over the fence – on the playing field. Since he is a basketball player, it was similar to a goaltending play.
As he swatted down Gruber’s drive, Luschei sailed over the fence backwards, out of sight as Gruber rounded second base. Luschei immediately reappeared, jumping back into the playing field, picking up the ball and firing the ball into the infield to deny Gruber what was going to be an inside-the-park home run.
"That was a phenomenal, athletic play," said Mitchell. "To block the ball and then recover quickly enough to keep the guy from circling the bases, says a lot about the kid. I know I’ve never seen it before, and the two umpires, who have been around for decades, said they’d never seen anything like it either."
TRACK: Santa Fe Christian sprinter ranks with the nation’s best
Senior Jenna Puterbaugh of Santa Fe Christian (Solana Beach) won the 200 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays in a time of 23.70 seconds, the No. 2 time in the nation this season. She also captured the 100-meter dash in 10.76, the No. 5 time in the nation and the No. 4 time in the state.
Bulldog sinks teeth into record runs
Ramona's Ryan Morgan was a triple threat. The Bulldogs senior anchored the 1,600-meter relay to a CIF-SDS-leading 3:22.97 and went on to post the best times of the day in the 200 (22.43) and 400 (49.83) at the Jaguar Invitational.
BASKETBALL: Army-Navy forward finds new home
Six-foot-9 power forward Kregg Jones of the Army-Navy Academy has signed a letter of intent to play next season at Cal State Bakersfield. A native of Barbados, Jones averaged 10.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots a game for the 20-5 Warriors.
Other top performances
— El Camino (Oceanside, Calif.) freshman sprinter Jasmine Gibbs won the 100-meter (12.03) and the 200 meter (25.12) dashes in the Valley Center Jaguar Invitational.
— Grossmont (El Cajon, Calif.) softball sophomore third baseman Aubrie May registered multi-hit performance, belting her fifth home run in a 4-for-4 outing. She also scored three times in the 11-1 romp over La Mesa Helix.
— Senior outfielder Bobby Zarubin of Santa Fe Christian (Solana Beach, Calif.) went 7 for 10, scored nine runs and drove in three in wins over Calvin Christian (Escondido) and Escondido Charter.
— Poway (Poway, Calif.) senior volleyball ace Danny Woodley had 15 kills in a 25-17, 25-23, 25-13 win over No. 1 Mt. Carmel (San Diego) and 17 kills in a 25-17, 21-25, 25-15, 25-27, 15-13 win over No. 2 Rancho Bernardo (San Diego).
— Tyler Jordan, a Ramona senior, won the high jump at the Jaguar Invitational with a mark of 6 feet, 8 inches, which is the best in the San Diego Section this season.
— La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) senior Alex Pardieu will play lacrosse for Florida State in the fall. A four-year letterman, Pardieu was an All-CIF-SDS selection last season and was recently invited to play in the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships in England.
— Valhalla (El Cajon, Calif.) junior Torrey Rook turned in a 16-strikeout performance in a 12-inning effort against West Hills (Santee).
The Metro Conference Baseball Tournament championship will be held on Saturday at Sweetwater (National City). ... For the third consecutive season the Padres and Petco Park will host five regular-season CIF-SDS baseball contests May 7-8. On Friday, Santa Fe Christian will tackle Bishop's (La Jolla) in a Coastal League encounter at 4 p.m. followed by a South Bay League clash between Mar Vista (Imperial Beach) and Castle Park (Chula Vista) at 7. On Saturday El Capitan (Lakeside) meets Santana (Santee) in a key Grossmont Valley League duel, followed by Holtville-Palo Verde Valley at 1 and Ramona-Valley Center at 4.
Grumblings among CIF-SDS baseball and softball coaches regarding the numbers of playoff berths available among Division IV combatants are legitimate.
On the baseball front, 39 teams are qualified for 16 available playoff spots. The scene for Division IV softball is similar, where 38 teams are vying for 16 playoff positions. Seems fair enough until you look at the fact that Divisions I, II and III each have 22 teams vying for 12 postseason berths in both baseball and softball.
As for Division IV, there is a generation of difference between the 38 teams competing for postseason play. Reviewing the numbers alone, it seems obvious that Division IV should be divided into a fifth bracket.
But more than that, there is a great disparity in talent level among the teams in the current Division IV in both sports. It’s not only ridiculous, it’s counterproductive to pit teams that are clearly overmatched. Unfortunately, despite the obvious numbers within the division, a quick change is not going to happen. The CIF-SDS does not operate that way.
That’s too bad. Bottom line is the CIF-SDS needs a fifth division in baseball and softball.