CHS softball comes alive for 8-5 comeback win

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and Claremont High School’s new softball coach Brian Ota really knocked it out of the park during practice on Tuesday.

During a pre-workout conference with his team, Coach Ota was roasting each player’s performance during the Pack’s 7-2 win over St. Lucy’s the previous day. The mood was lighthearted, but the message was serious—the game shouldn’t have been close and the girls need to sharpen their focus as the competition becomes tougher.

“I will take an ugly win over a pretty loss,” he said. “But in this sport, more than any other, you have to keep your head in the game.”

Coach Ota knows what he is talking about. He retired from Los Angeles Unified School District in 2017 after a 40-year career, during which he was a teacher, coach and athletic director. He taught physical education at Bravo Medical Magnet High School where he was the boys basketball coach for 26 years and the softball coach for 12 seasons.

“I have been coaching since I was 17,” he said.

Coach Ota, who is a Diamond Bar resident, is married with two grown children. Both his son and daughter were accomplished athletes in high school.

He took over leading the Pack in August and immediately began holding practices so that he could build a team.

Coach Ota told his team if they want to get better, they have to play for themselves and their teammates, not to please someone else. He also stressed the importance of hard work.

“We are going to do whatever we can to make the playoffs, that should always be the goal,” he said. “Are we going to do it as a first place team? You never know, but I do know this is a strong league. So, if you want to go to the playoffs you must get better mentally.”

Coach Ota did have a few words about the mistakes the team has made in recent games.

“These girls have played a lot and they know when they have made mistakes, but you should not make them in the first place. That is part of winning—you can’t make those mistakes. I am trying to clean that up, and we are trying to change the culture a little bit,” he said.

The girls had an opportunity to put the coach’s words to the test on Wednesday, when they hosted Ranch Cucamonga for a non-league game. The Pack’s top pitching prospect, junior Katlin Entrup, had a solid start, but fielding errors contributed to a third inning rally by the Cougars.

However, the fifth inning changed all of that. Down 4-0, Claremont put together the rally of a lifetime, stacking on eight runs and securing the 8-5 win.

“It’s like they forgot how to hit,” Coach Ota said after the game. “We were quiet for five out of six innings, but a comeback is a comeback and win is a win.”

Palomares League, which begins on Friday with an away game against Alta Loma, will be a 15-game triple round robin. “In a 10-game season, if you lose a couple of games you are probably out, but in a 15-game season anything can happen,” Coach Ota said.

“The preseason has been tough, I know our record is only 3-6, but we have played some tough teams.”

The team’s bats have been pretty quiet all season, with four shutouts for a 4-6 overall record. However, Claremont’s record does not tell the full story according to Coach Ota, who points out he scheduled a particularly tough preseason with several division one teams. For example, they lost to Norco 4-0, who is a nationally top ranked team.

He gives some of the credit to Entrup, who gave up very few runs even when the competition was fierce. “She has been doing well, even in our losses. She held Mater Dei to two runs and they are ranked number five in Orange County,” he said.

Coach Ota likes Claremont’s prospects and is looking forward to the start of league.

“I always think positive. You have too or you won’t last long in this game.” Coach Ota said.


Pomona-Pitzer thumps competition earning playoff bid

Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball team was crowned SCIAC Tournament Champions after a lopsided 68-45 victory over Occidental College on Saturday in Claremont. It’s the first title for the Division 3 Sagehens since 2008 and catapulted their national rank to 11th.

The victory was particularly sweet because Tigers snapped the Sagehens’ 18-game winning streak with a very close, 64-63, loss on February 16 in Eagle Rock.

It was a complete team effort by Pomona-Pitzer as they outplayed the Tigers on both ends of the floor, shooting 50 percent from the field while putting up seven steals, six blocks, and limiting the Tigers to a 34.5 field goal percentage, according to a news release from Pomona-Pitzer athletics.

Micah Elan led the team with 21 points and was named SCIAC Tournament Player of the Year while Daniel Rosenbaum added 14 points, five assists and five rebounds.

The Sagehens travel to Walla Walla Washington for a first round NCAA playoff game against the University of Texas at Dallas on Friday.


—Steven Felschundneff


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