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Baseball: El Camino Real rises up in summer ball

July 28, 2011 |  9:37 am

What's going on at Woodland Hills El Camino Real? The school that has relied on Jose Cardona for so long has found some new players this summer, which is the reason the Conquistadores will be playing Chatsworth on Friday for the VIBL championship at 7 p.m. at Birmingham.

"They've come together as a team," Coach Josh Lienhard said.

Shortstop Mason Novak, a returning starter, leads the team with a .480 batting average and 21 RBIs. All-City outfielder Chris Nicholson has been a steady player. Then come the newcomers.

Junior pitcher Luke Laurita, a left-hander up from junior varsity, is 6-0 with a 1.58 ERA. Sophomore first baseman Hayden Rappoport, up from JVs, is batting .467 with 19 RBIs.

And most surprising, the Pope brothers, Michael and Josh, have been handling the catcher position. When Michael, a junior, hurt his wrist, Josh, a sophomore, stepped right in as the starter. Of course, there could be a little family feud when Michael gets healthy and wants his starting job back, but Lienhard said, "They've got a close bond."

Justin Russell, a varsity backup last season, is expected to start on the mound on Friday.

Chatsworth and El Camino Real have combined to win 15 City Section baseball titles, so expect lots of alumni to be paying attention on Friday.

-- Eric Sondheimer