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2004 High School Team Of The Year
Chatsworth Claims Consecutive Titles
By Alan Matthews
Final National High School Top 50
Chatsworth High became the first California school last year to finish atop Baseball America's high school poll in the 11-year history of the rankings. The Chancellors liked the view from the top so much that they ran the table in 2004, compiling a perfect 35-0 record and repeating as the No. 1 team in the BA/National High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 50.
"Losing to us is unacceptable and no one takes it very well," senior outfielder/righthander Jason Dominguez said. "But no one said at the beginning of the season we were going to go undefeated. It goes without saying, because we expect to go out and win every game."
Dominguez and his teammates met those lofty expectations. The Chancellors set a California record with 50 consecutive victories dating back to a 3-0 loss to Sabino High of Tucson in April of 2003. They won their final 15 games last season and never let off the accelerator as they motored through their 2004 schedule.
The season concluded with a 7-1 win over San Pedro High (31-4) at Dodger Stadium in the California Interscholastic Federation division IV city section title game. It was the second straight sectional title for Chatsworth (California does not have a state championship) and its fourth in the past six years. Chatsworth has also earned a top-20 ranking in six of the past seven seasons.
Model Of Consistency
Similar to last season, Chatsworth's climb to the top spot was gradual and steady. The Chancellors lost 10 seniors off last year's club, including three Division I signees, the most notable of which was righthander Justin Cassel, the team's ace. While Cassel was putting together a strong freshman campaign at UC Irvine, Dominguez was leading the Chancellors' charge up the rankings.
Despite the defections, the public school with an enrolment of 3,300 was ranked No. 24 in BA's preseason poll. With six seniors, a junior and--a rarity in any major prep program--two freshmen headlining the roster, Chatsworth cracked the top 10 on May 1. The following two weeks saw five of the nation's top six teams stumble and when Tomball High was ousted from the Texas Class 5-A playoffs May 22, Chatsworth's rise to the top spot was complete.
Dominguez, who signed with Pepperdine and went undrafted because of signability concerns, relished his role as the staff's top arm and offensive stalwart. He hit .490-6-35 and was perfect atop the mound, going 13-0, 1.38.
He got the nod in the sectional final against San Pedro and was dominant in front of an estimated crowd of 3,500, tossing a complete game, allowing five hits and a run with seven strikeouts.
"I've been waiting four years for that," Dominguez said. "The three years before I watched the (Joe) Guntzs and the (Justin) Cassels throw and I knew if we got there my senior year, it would be my time.
"I knew this was the last game of my career. There's only one way to go out and that's winning."
The one-sided affair was something Chatsworth was accustomed to. The Chancellors cruised to run-rule wins in 17 of their 35 games, outscoring their opposition 372-67. They batted .418 as a team and set a school record with 49 home runs.
It all began with senior second baseman Willie Cabrera, who held down the leadoff spot a year after a knee injury ended his junior season early. Cabrera led the team in average (.545) and runs (60) but more significantly provided the pivotal play Chatsworth needed to complete the season undefeated.
The Chancellors trailed Kennedy High of Granada Hills 7-1 in the semifinals of the sectional playoffs before Cabrera hit a solo homer to lead off the fourth inning. The home run sparked a rally, with Chatsworth scoring five times in the inning and plating four more in the fifth on its way to a 10-7 victory.
"It was one of the biggest hits of the season, if not the biggest," coach Tom Meusborn said. "Here was a guy chasing a record, we're trailing in that game and seven was the most we had given up all year. When Willie hit that home run, you just got the feeling, 'OK, here we go.' "
Cabrera's home run fueled Chatsworth's comeback and also broke the California record for hits in a season, topping current Rangers catcher Gerald Laird's mark of 68, set with La Quinta High in 1998. Cabrera's finished the season with 72 hits.
Dominguez batted behind Cabrera and was followed in Chatsworth's order by his little brother, 5-foot-10, 175-pound Matt. The younger Dominguez set a state freshman record with 65 RBIs to go along with a .461 average and eight homers.
The 14-year-old third baseman figures to extend the school's long tradition of winning for three more years, a tradition Chatsworth's critics claim is built on a foundation of inferior competition.
Many coaches in Southern California complain that Chatsworth piles up victories and gaudy stats against weaker city section teams that don't have the high-round draft picks that some of the suburban Orange County schools produce year-in and year-out.
Meusborn, however, feels his schedule is legitimate, and contends his team deserves its lofty status.
"We've played our schedule every year for the last 15 years and I think it speaks for itself," said Meusborn, who is 373-80 in that time as head coach. "We're playing in the San Fernando Valley and we went to Las Vegas and played five games in three days and won all five.
"We've heard that . . . we don't play a tough tourney schedule, but we feel like we did play a good schedule. We just go out and try and win, whomever we're playing."
The Chancellors will have to listen to its critics throughout another offseason. But once again, they'll own the preeminent of bragging rights: Baseball America's No. 1 team.
AROUND THE NATION
• Corpus Christi High of Moody claimed its first-ever Texas 5-A title with a 6-1 win over Flower Mound High. The Trojans inched up the rankings from No. 28 in the preseason to No. 2 with a hard-nosed team comprised of young nucleus of players and a righthander/catcher that dealt his way into prospect status. Junior Luis Flores, a second-team All-American, did not allow an earned run in 91 innings, going 14-0 with 160 strikeouts and eight walks while batting .405-5-40.
"We proved that it's not just strictly talent, we proved that it's team chemistry and just selflessness," coach Corky Gallegos said.
Moody received remarkable production throughout its lineup. Leadoff hitter senior center fielder/catcher Jeremy Sauceda hit .453, scored 56 runs and was 31 for 34 in stolen base attempts.
Alfredo Joseph, a 15th-round pick by the Devil Rays, and Jose Patino were the other seniors that played prominent roles but No. 2 pitcher Jason Rodriguez and Flores return next season along with sophomores Ramsey Gonzales and Robert Robles.
Moody (42-1) lost once, a 6-5 setback in extra innings to Tivy High of Kerrville March 26. Approximately 6,000 fans packed Dell Diamond in Round Rock for the title game, many of whom made the 4 1/2 hour trip from Corpus Christi.
• The top prospect in the Class of 2005 closed out his junior season with a 2-for-4 afternoon opposite another high-profile junior, Justin Bristow. Shortstop Justin Upton doubled twice and struck out against Bristow in a loss in the Virginia Class 3-A quarterfinals as Bristow and Mills Godwin High of Richmond defeated Upton and Great Bridge High of Chesapeake 4-2.
• Western Branch High (20-8) of Chesapeake won the Virginia Class 3-A title with a 3-2 victory over Westfield High of Chantilly. The win marked the first state title for Western Branch and the final game in the 20-year career for Western Branch coach Jim Stanko, who retired. Westfield junior Brandon Snyder homered in the loss.
• Germantown Academy of Fort Washington, Pa., capped its season with a 32-2 record and a No. 16 final ranking in the Baseball America/National High School Baseball Coaches Association Poll. The private school assembled a roster including nine players slated to play at the college level. Germantown won the Pennsylvania Independent Schools State Tournament, capping a 24-game winning streak with an 8-0 shutout over Perkiomen School of Pennsburg. Senior righthander Joe Matteo, a Lehigh signee, struck out 13 in the two-hitter.
• The season came full-circle for Milton High in Alpharetta, Ga. Ranked No. 20 in the BA/NHSBCA Preseason Poll, Milton stumbled out of the gate, going 6-6. But Milton responded by rolling off 10 straight wins to sweep all five of its best-of-three postseason series to claim the Class 5-A Georgia championship. Milton boasted a pair of All-Americans in outfielder Dexter Fowler, a Miami signee, and shortstop Eddie Prasch, who was drafted by the Pirates in the third round.
No. 42 Milton defeated Lassiter High of Marietta 14-12 and 10-6 in the championship series. Milton second baseman Russell Harben hit three home runs in the final series. Junior first baseman Brandon Henderson hit a game-winning grand slam in the first game versus Lassiter.
• Columbus (Ga.) High won the 4-A title and finished the season ranked No. 5. The Blue Devils pounded Northgate High of Newnan 11-0 and 9-1 to win their eighth state championship. Junior lefties Iain Sebastian and Zack Martin and senior southpaw Brad Rulon held the Vikings to five hits in the two games.