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Teams' aptitude for success

Four local teams hoping they have enough talent to put together winning seasons.

March 08, 2011|By Jeff Tully, jeff.tully@latimes.com

BURBANK — Hector Perez has built a winning baseball program at Bellarmine-Jefferson High over the last 11 years.

Along with turning out a crop of players who have won league player-of-the-year honors and players who have gone on to compete on the college level, Perez has a postseason track record that no other area baseball coach can match.

Under Perez, the Guards have qualified for the CIF Southern Section players for eight straight years.

"I've just been fortunate to have been able to coach some pretty good players over the years," said Perez, a Burroughs High graduate.

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Bell-Jeff, along with Burbank, Burroughs and Providence, has its share of talented players this season. Here is a look at how the teams are shaping up.

BELL-JEFF

Perez has surrounded himself with some new assistants this season, including Bell-Jeff graduate Matt Magallon and former St. Francis and Glendale Community College standout Andrew Sember.

One of the most positive storylines with the Guards (11-7 last season) this season is the return of senior Philip Diaz, who severely injured his ankle last season only two games into his junior campaign.

"I think they had to put a cadaver bone or something in his leg," Perez said of the player who will pitch, as well as play catcher and shortstop. "Just for him to be able to come back is inspirational for the whole team. He's worked extremely hard to come back."

As a sophomore in 2009, Diaz, a former All-CIF Southern Section pick, hit .311 (19 for 61) with 25 runs scored and 13 runs batted in.

Also returning for the Guards are sophomores Johnny Karalis (outfielder/pitcher) — .353 with 18 hits and 15 runs scored last season — Mitch Kellog (catcher/pitcher), Adolfo Bermeo (second base) and Ryan Okiishi (first base), along with juniors Sam Kachikian (third base) and Matt Landini (shortstop/pitcher).

Other players Perez hopes will contribute are sophomore Damean Sanz (outfield) and freshman Demitri Moreno (outfield).

Last season, Bell-Jeff placed third in the Santa Fe League. Perez is hoping his squad will have enough talent to make another postseason run.

"Definitely Salesian is going to be good," Perez said. "But St. Anthony could have a good team and Verbum Dei may be the sleeper of our league."

BURROUGHS

Many in the Pacific League predicted the Indians (12-16) would finish sixth last season. But Burroughs surprised many by finishing third.

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