City emerges from league shadows

May 02, 1994|By Lem Satterfield and Reuben Sack

Patterson. Southern. Poly.

That triumvirate of city baseball teams was, as usual, the one most observers figured to be among the city league's best during the preseason.

Few mentioned the team at City College, yet the Black Knights were lurking.

"We've come out of the dark this year," said City coach Bill Walker. "And it's fun to finally be whipping some of these guys."

After struggling to a 5-8 record last year, the Knights have been an explosive surprise this season.

Behind a powerful lineup, a formidable pitching staff and a stingy defense, City (7-0 in its 3A division) is undefeated through 10 games.

And yes, the Knights have surpassed the traditional powers -- Southern (1993 3A champ), Patterson (4A runner-up in 1993) and Poly (1993 City-Wide champ) -- as the team to beat. They downed Poly, 7-5, last week and Patterson by a combined 17-4 in two games.

"We've beaten Patterson twice [yet] still haven't gotten any recognition in the [Top 20 rankings]," said City junior Pat Mowray.

The Knights also have recorded a 12-3 battering of Dunbar, which returned plenty of depth from a 9-3 squad that reached last year's 2A playoffs. Mount Carmel, a team that dominated City in recent years, lost, 10-0, via the five-inning, 10-run rule.

But with today's game against Southern and another against Poly on May 9, Walker knows the Knights still have major tests to pass.

"I did not expect our lineup to come through like it has," said Walker. "I knew our pitching would be pretty good, but our bats -- they've really been hitting the heck out of the ball."

But the team's strength, Walker said, is on the mound. "Our pitching has carried us this far," he said.

The ace, John Hamilton, is undefeated in three complete-game decisions, with 32 strikeouts in two games against Patterson and 10 more against Poly. For the senior right-hander, that's 42 strikeouts in 21 innings, thanks to an excellent fastball and a sharp curve.

"I was clocked between 85 [mph] and 90 [mph] during last summer with the Pressman Cardinals," said Hamilton, 17. "Ninety's the highest point I've reached."

As can be the case with live-armed throwers, however, Hamilton (19 walks) has sometimes struggled with the strike zone.

"The first two games against Patterson I was nervous and had 15 walks between them," said Hamilton. "I only had four walks against Poly. My curve and my changeup are coming through now."

Following Hamilton in the rotation are senior right-hander Harry Martin (3-0, 2.13 ERA), and right-hander Mowray (2-0, 2.06).

Included among Martin's victories are two complete games. He has walked only four batters in 23 innings; he has fanned 26.

Though the hurlers have come through, so has the Knights' offense. "Our bats have been surprisingly strong," Walker said.

Mowray, also a third baseman, is the team's best hitter, averaging .577 in 26 at-bats with 10 RBIs -- two doubles and two triples among his hits -- and 11 steals.

Four seniors also have bolstered the lineup, including second baseman Chris Ryan (.486, 18 hits, six doubles), who has 18 RBIs. Also a shortstop, Hamilton is hitting .407 with 11 RBIs and six stolen bases.

Martin (.300, 12 RBIs) and shortstop/third baseman Jerard Franz (.355, seven RBIs) also have made significant contributions. Ryan, Mowray, Hamilton and first baseman Sean Cooper each have a home run.

"I think we've got the best pitching staff in the state," said Hamilton. "And with the way we're hitting, and as solid as we're playing, I don't think anybody can beat that combination. But we never underestimate anybody."

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