A Costa Mesa man pleaded guilty Thursday to helping three men escape from an Orange County jail last year, an incident that sparked a weeklong manhunt that extended from Southern California to the Bay Area, prosecutors said.

Loc Ba Nguyen, 51, will serve one year in jail for his role in the January 2016 escape at the Men’s Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana, according to a statement issued by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Nguyen admitted to smuggling wire cutters, cellphones, a knife and other items into the jail that proved essential in the escape plot carried out by Hossein Nayeri, Bac Duong and Jonathan Tieu, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Nguyen was given a shopping list of items necessary for the jailbreak plot when he visited Duong at the facility on Jan. 9. He also admitted to serving as the getaway driver who spirited the trio away from the jail when they broke out early on the morning of Jan. 23, prosecutors said.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office declined to say exactly what the wire cutters and knife were used for. Previously, authorities have said Nayeri, Duong and Tieu used a “cutting tool” to saw through several layers of metal and rebar, giving them access to plumbing tunnels that led to the roof of the jail.

They then rappelled down the side of the building, where Nguyen was waiting with a car.

Jail staff did not learn of the escape for nearly 15 hours, giving the trio a lengthy head start on their pursuers. Law enforcement officials have said Nayeri, Duong and Tieu took a cab driver hostage and drove to San Jose in the days after the escape.

Their plan fell apart when Duong and Nayeri became embroiled in an argument over whether or not to kill the hostage. Duong eventually drove back to Orange County, released the cab driver and surrendered. Nayeri and Tieu were arrested in San Francisco the next day.

Earlier this year, the Orange County grand jury released a scathing report blaming lax supervision within the Sheriff’s Department and improper inmate counting procedures as key factors that both allowed the trio to escape and helped prolong their time on the run.

The Sheriff’s Department has yet to issue an after-action report on the incident, which would follow normal protocols for major events, because of the ongoing criminal case, according to Lt. Lane Lagaret, a department spokesman.

The “cutting tool” that the men used to escape was never recovered. Duong, Nayeri and Tieu were scheduled to appear in court for preliminary hearings this month, though it was not immediately clear if those had taken place.

james.queally@latimes.com

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.



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A 34-year-old Ventura County man died while attending the Electric Daisy Carnival music festival at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway over the weekend.

The Clark County coroner has yet to determine a cause of death for Michael Morse, an insurance broker from Moorpark and native of the Conejo Valley. When authorities found Morse, his body temperature had reached 109 degrees, said his mother-in-law, Linda Marshall.

Morse’s wife, Jennifer Marshall, is raising questions about the medical treatment her husband received after he began having seizures on Saturday at about 3:25 a.m. as he and two friends started to leave the festival to return to their hotel.

‘Why wasn’t he taken to a hospital?’

“They were waiting in an Uber line when he began convulsing and having seizures. At that point, he was taken into the medical tent. He remained in that tent for a little over four hours,” Jennifer Marshall said. A coroner’s official said Morse was declared dead at the speedway at 7:41 a.m. Saturday.

Marshall wants to know why her husband was not rushed to a hospital. She said no one from event promoter Insomniac, a division of the concert giant Live Nation Entertainment, has reached out to her to answer her questions.

“Why did he sit in a tent for four hours? Why wasn’t he taken to the hospital where doctors could have possibly done more?” Marshall said late Wednesday. “From my understanding, they did take other people to the hospital. But I don’t know why they didn’t take Mike.”

“This is such a senseless death,” she said.

They did take other people to the hospital. But I don’t understand why they didn’t take Mike.

— Jennifer Marshall, whose husband Mike Morse died at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas last weekend

Michael Morse (Family photo)

A spokeswoman for Insomniac was unable to be reached for comment late Wednesday. Earlier, a representative, Jaclyn Dadas, provided a statement on behalf of Insomniac that said:

“The unexpected passing of a loved one is tragic, and while the exact cause of this tragedy is still unknown, we do know that family and friends are grieving. It is with great sadness that we send our thoughts and condolences to the loved ones of the man who passed away after the festival had ended,” the statement said.

“Our health and safety plan is created over several months with local agencies. Our roaming medical personnel are available twenty-four hours a day, free of charge, with the best emergency room doctors, nurses, EMTs and paramedics in the country. A full staff of security and police are also available to all attendees. We encourage everyone to approach our caring staff and ask for help if needed.”

An Electric Daisy veteran

It was Morse’s third time attending the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. He had also attended the event when it was held in Los Angeles, his wife said. She said her husband thought it would be his last time going to the event.

“He said he was ready to move on and try some new things in life,” Jennifer Marshall. said. “He just wasn’t into it as much as he had been in the past.”

Morse told her he was planning on taking it easy and “wasn’t intending or planning when I talked to him to be taking any drugs,” she said. No drugs were found on his body nor in his hotel room, she added.

“The last time I spoke to him that evening, he was complaining how hot it was.”

Above-normal temperatures

According to the National Weather Service, the temperature Friday in Las Vegas as the first musical sets began at 7 p.m. Friday was 105 degrees, which is above normal for this time of year but not record-breaking. Around 3 a.m., just before Morse started his seizure, the air temperature in Las Vegas was 79 degrees. Musical sets were scheduled to end at 5:30 a.m.

Electric Daisy was held over three nights, from June 16 through Sunday.

Fatal overdoses at raves

There have been a number of deaths among people who have attended Electric Daisy Carnivals and other raves sponsored by Insomniac in the past. Since 2006, there have been at least 29 confirmed drug-related deaths nationwide among people who attended raves organized by Los Angeles-area companies. Of those, 21 attended events promoted by Insomniac, which became a subsidiary of Live Nation in 2013.

On Tuesday, the parents of Nicholas Austin Tom, a 24-year-old San Francisco man who died from an Ecstasy overdose at the Electric Daisy Carnival in 2015, filed a lawsuit against the rave’s promoters, claiming the slow response to their son’s medical emergency contributed to his death.

Ecstasy, a drugs commonly taken at raves, can cause the body’s internal temperature to rise dramatically, up to 108 degrees. At that temperature, organs can begin to fail and trigger seizures that lead to death.

Separately, there have been six deaths among people who attended raves held by Hard Summer in Southern California since 2014, a concert brand that is also run by Live Nation. Three of them went to the Hard Summer music festival last summer at the Auto Club Speedway in an unincorporated part of San Bernardino County near Fontana. All three died of Ecstasy overdoses.

The event is scheduled to return to the venue for a two-day run beginning Aug. 5.

‘He embraced life’

Jennifer Marshall said her husband was a native Ventura County man — born in Westlake Village, raised in Thousand Oaks. He went to college at Cal State Northridge.

“He really embraced life. He was always up for a challenge to try something new. He was always there for his friends, for his family,” she said. “He absolutely adored animals. And he was the nicest person you could have met.”

The couple first met when they were 18, working at the same Best Buy store, and began dating when they were 21, she said. He later owned his own insurance firm, Morse & Morse Insurance Brokers.

His mother-in-law, Linda Marshall, said he was “far too young to die.” “He loved his family, his nieces, his nephews,” she said. She knew that he was fond of music at electronic music festivals.

Morse was an organ donor, Linda Marshall said, and his organs were taken for patients in need of transplants.

Besides his wife, Morse is survived by his parents and a brother.

Insomniac’s move to Las Vegas

Insomniac moved the Electric Daisy Carnival from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to Las Vegas in 2011 following a Los Angeles Times investigation that found that Insomniac paid a government manager working for the taxpayer-owned stadium.

The investigation was published following the fatal overdose of a 15-year-old girl who attended Electric Daisy Carnival at the Coliseum in 2010.

Insomniac’s chief executive, Pasquale Rotella, was indicted in 2012 on six felony counts in an alleged bribery-and-embezzlement scheme. Last year, Rotella pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charge, and agreed to pay $150,000 to Los Angeles County and serve three years of probation.



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Sheriff’s deputies approached a man who was urinating on a planter Wednesday at a Pasadena transit station and made an alarming discovery.

In his duffel bag, the deputies found a cache of weapons, including a loaded AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, a handgun, rope, a machete, two loaded 30-round magazines, several rounds of loose ammunition and a notebook with unidentified writings, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The handgun’s markings indicated it was restricted for those in law enforcement or government, officials said.

The deputies quickly arrested Christopher Harrison Goodine, 28, at the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line station shortly after 9 a.m. Goodine was taken to county lockup, where he’s being held on $10,000 bail, according to jail records.

Investigators were still looking into Goodine and his plans.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said there was no evidence of a link to terrorism, and he credited deputies with averting catastrophic violence.

“For these deputies, just another day … looking at the small things that end up turning into big things,” McDonnell said. “There but for the grace of God, we could have had a tragedy today here in Los Angeles.”

The deputies — who provide security to Metro’s bus and rail lines across the county — had been on patrol at the sheriff station. They were driving away when they spotted the man, later identified as Goodine, urinating in public.

“We don’t know what could have happened if he wasn’t taken into custody,” McDonnell said.

Goodine is a resident of Union City, Ga. A man with the same name was arrested in 2015 after he walked into the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, wearing a bulletproof vest and a ski mask, DNAInfo reported.

At the time, New York police described him as a “quasi-homeless” man who had brushes with the law in Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Washington, D.C.

Goodine is scheduled to appear in a Pasadena courtroom Friday, according to jail records. It’s unclear if he is being represented by an attorney.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno



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Police have arrested a man who they say tried to kidnap a woman while she was at work in an Irvine baby store, authorities said.

Irvine police arrested Charlie Choi, 47, on suspicion of attempted kidnapping with the intent to commit rape, said Irvine Police Department spokeswoman Kim Mohr.

Police found Choi on Monday around 4:30 p.m. in his Irvine home in the 300 block of Fountainhead, according to an Irvine Police Department news release.

“Police used investigative leads as well as information from the community to apprehend Choi,” according to the news release. He is being held on $1 million bail.

Surveillance video released Monday shows a man in a white shirt and plaid shorts talking to an employee at Mon Beau Bebe in the Woodbury Town Center around 7:20 p.m. He followed her around the store before grabbing her hair and trying to drag her into the storage room by her ponytail.

The woman crouched down on the floor and tried to free herself, and “told him there were video surveillance cameras in the store,” according to an Irvine Police Department news release. After about 15 seconds the man let go of the woman and ran out.

Police are still looking for a motive, Mohr said. “There’s no indication at this point that they knew each other.”

Reach Sonali Kohli at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.

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A man was fatally shot by South Gate police Tuesday morning following a pursuit that ended in a crash involving multiple vehicles, authorities said.

The man was struck by gunfire and pronounced dead at the scene in South Gate, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which is assisting in the investigation. No officers were injured.

Capt. Darren Arakawa, a South Gate police spokesman, told KTLA-TV that officers were patrolling a neighborhood just after 7:45 a.m. when they received an alert about a stolen vehicle in the area.

As the officers investigated, they got additional information indicating the vehicle may have been linked to a carjacking in Los Angeles, he said.

A squad of police cruisers began following the vehicle and tried to stop it.

But the motorist continued driving and crashed into a vehicle at the intersection of California Avenue and Santa Ana Street, Arakawa told the news station. That vehicle collided with a second vehicle.

The suspect then struck three parked vehicles, the captain said.

After the crash, the suspect left the stolen vehicle and ran into an apartment complex, where the police shooting occurred, he said.

Two people injured during the crash were taken to hospitals in the area, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA



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A police officer shot a man while responding to a domestic violence call in Sherman Oaks late Monday night, authorities said.

Los Angeles Police Department officers arrived at the 4200 block of Matilija Avenue about 11 p.m. and found a 75-year-old man holding a steak knife, authorities said. Police tried to “de-escalate” the situation but weren’t able to do so, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said during Tuesday’s Police Commission meeting. At some point, police used a Taser, and ultimately an officer shot the man once in his torso, he said.

The man was transported to a hospital in critical but stable condition, and no officers were injured, said LAPD Officer Irma Mota.

A steak knife was recovered and officers from the LAPD Force Investigation Division were at the scene Tuesday morning, Mota said. She did not know how many officers were present at the time of the shooting, and said there were no body cameras or in-car video.

Times reporter Kate Mather contributed to this post.

Reach Sonali Kohli at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.


UPDATES:

3:35 p.m.: This article was updated with the man’s age and information from L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck.

This article originally published at 9:55 a.m.



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Police are looking for a man who they say tried to kidnap a woman working at an Irvine baby store Saturday.

Surveillance video shows a man in a white shirt and plaid shorts talking to an employee at Mon Beau Bebe, in the Woodbury Town Center around before 7:20 p.m. He followed her around the store before grabbing her hair and trying to drag her into the storage room by her ponytail.

The woman crouched down on the floor and tried to free herself, and “told him there were video surveillance cameras in the store,” according to an Irvine Police Deptartment news release. After about 15 seconds the man let go of the woman and ran out.

The suspect is described as an Asian man in his 40s, of medium height and build. “He was last seen wearing plaid shorts, a white short-sleeve shirt, tennis shoes and eyeglasses.”

Anyone who recognizes him or has information should contact Irvine Police Det. Ed Kim at (949) 724-7179 or ekim@cityofirvine.org; or Det. Keith Herter at (949) 724-7183 or kherter@cityofirvine.org.

To read the article in Spanish, click here

Reach Sonali Kohli at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.



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Police urged Britain to stay calm on Monday as authorities investigated the fourth terrorist attack within three months, this time directed against the Muslim community.

One person died at the scene and 10 more were injured when a man drove a van into worshipers who were gathered near a north London mosque as Ramadan prayers ended shortly after midnight.

All the victims were Muslim. A 48-year-old white man was arrested at the scene, Prime Minister Theresa May said.

A witness who helped to detain the driver at the scene until police arrived said the motorist shouted, “I want to kill Muslims” and “Kill me.”

Locals said an imam implored the crowd outside the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park who were holding the man not to harm him but deliver him over to authorities, which they did.

Police said the counter-terrorism unit was investigating and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is Muslim, said extra police were being deployed to reassure communities, especially those observing the holy month of Ramadan.

“While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge, it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect,” Khan said. He was referring to three other recent attacks in Britain, all of them claimed by the Islamic State group.

Speaking outside her Downing Street residence, the prime minister also delivered a strongly worded statement saying this was an attack on the values that Britain holds dear.

“Like all terrorism, in whatever form, it shares the same fundamental goal: It seeks to drive us apart and to break the precious bonds of solidarity and citizenship we share in this country,” she said.

May added that it was a “reminder that terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms” and the government’s determination to tackle this would be robust, regardless of which community it was directed against. The statement was a clear attempt to ensure that Britain’s large Muslim community feels protected and to quell any feelings of double standards.

Overnight, some local residents had been quoted criticizing the authorities for what they believed was a failure to brand this incident terrorism as quickly as they had the other recent events.

May said that it had been labeled a “terrorist incident” within eight minutes and stressed that this attack was being treated just as seriously as previous ones that have been carried out in the name of Islam and largely targeted non-Muslims.

“There has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years, and that means extremism of any kind — including Islamophobia,” May said.

Tensions are currently high in Britain following the recent attacks.

The first occurred March 22, when a man drove a car over Westminster Bridge, killing four people, and then fatally stabbed a police officer who was guarding the Houses of Parliament before being shot dead.

In May, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at the exit to an Ariana Grande concert at an arena in the northern city of Manchester, killing 22, including many children.

And earlier this month, a trio of men armed with knifes drove their rented van over London Bridge, hitting and killing pedestrians before attacking people with knives inside Borough Market, a popular area full of bars and restaurants. Eight people died and the three assailants were shot dead by police.

Separately Monday, a suspected attacker drove into a police vehicle on the Champs-Elysees shopping district in Paris, and was immediately arrested, the Associated Press reported. No one was reported injured.

The Muslim Council of Britain described the attack near the mosque as a retaliatory hate crime and said there were concerns about rising Islamophobia in Britain that were not being treated with adequate seriousness.

“During the night, ordinary British citizens were set upon while they were going about their lives, completing their night worship,” said Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “Muslim communities have been calling for increased action to tackle the growth in hate crime for many years and transformative action must now be taken to tackle not only this incident but the hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia.”

The attack took place near the once-notorious Finsbury Park Mosque. Chairman Mohammed Kozbar said that on Saturday, members of different faiths had met to remember the slain Labor Party member of Parliament Jo Cox, who was stabbed and shot in the days before Britain’s referendum on its membership in the European Union by a supporter of far-right organizations.

Street parties, spearheaded by her widowed husband Brendan, took place around the country over the weekend under the banner of celebrating that Britain has “more in common than that which divides us,” which Cox had said during a speech in Parliament.

Kozbar said the gathering in Finsbury Park had taken place at the Muslim Welfare House, not far from where Monday’s attack occurred.

Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting of her emergency COBRA committee Monday morning to assess the situation and Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the government would be making sure that places of worship were adequately protected using a dedicated fund for the purpose.

Police said the man who died had been receiving first aid from the public when he was struck and it was therefore too early to know if he died as a result of the attack.

Witnesses described seeing the large white van mount the sidewalk on Seven Sisters Road shortly after midnight and drive into the group of people who had recently finished prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, when believers fast during daylight hours. Police arrived within 10 minutes, sealing off the entire area and the suspect was taken into custody.

Witnesses described scenes of chaos in the moments after the attack.

The bodies of the injured were scattered around and emergency crews were administering CPR. Police said none of the victims were treated for knife wounds and a search of the alleged assailant’s vehicle did not find anything that could make it a risk to the public. Of the injured, eight were taken to the hospital and two were treated at the scene.

Overnight, groups of men prayed on the sidewalk near the site. A helicopter hovered over the scene Monday as a large police cordon blocked the streets near Emirates Stadium, home of the Arsenal football club.

“This was an attack on London and all Londoners and we should all stand together against extremists whatever their cause,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism.

The area where the attack took place is deeply multicultural and near Finsbury Park Mosque, which was considered a hotbed of radicalization and the subject of constant headlines and controversy in the ’90s and early 2000s.

Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza, with his distinctive hook for a right hand, became the imam of the mosque in 1997 and his militant rhetoric inspired one of the 9/11 attackers, one of the suicide bombers who blew themselves up on the London transport system in 2005 and the attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid.

The mosque was shuttered following a 2003 police raid and Hamza was removed from his post but continued to preach on the sidewalk outside the building until his 2004 arrest under the Terrorism Act. He was ultimately found guilty of inciting violence by a British court in 2006 and sentenced to seven years in prison and extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges in 2014. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

“These have been a terrible few weeks for London,” the London mayor told reporters at the scene. “Unprecedented in recent times.”

Boyle is a special correspondent.

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A homeless man and his 17-year-old girlfriend have been arrested and charged with fatally stabbing a man earlier this week near a 101 Freeway on-ramp in Hollywood.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office filed a murder charge Thursday against Alex Conn Vasquez and alleged he carried out the killing of Jimmy Bradford, 47, during a robbery.

The slaying occurred about 8 a.m. Monday in an area frequented by commuters and tourists. It marked the third homicide this year in the neighborhood, a noticeable decrease from prior years, according to LAPD Det. John Radtke.

Investigators believe that Vasquez, 23, and his teenage girlfriend attempted to rob Bradford, which led to a verbal and physical fight, Radtke said.

Like Vasquez, Bradford was homeless and likely panhandling in the area, near Hollywood Boulevard and an on-ramp to the 101 Freeway.

Prosecutors allege that Vasquez stabbed Bradford several times in the back before fleeing east on Hollywood Boulevard with his girlfriend.

Witnesses alerted police, and paramedics rushed Bradford to the hospital where he died.

Radtke said officers delved into the investigation, recovering surveillance video and witness accounts. Officers were familiar with Vasquez, who has had prior run-ins with the law, he said.

A key break in the case came when his girlfriend turned herself into authorities and “made admissions” in connection with the killing, Radtke said.

Her identity was not released because she is a minor. She was charged with murder in juvenile court, and a judge will later decide if she will be prosecuted as an adult, police said.

Officers, aided by an FBI team, arrested Vasquez on Tuesday in the 4600 block of Santa Monica Boulevard and he is being held without bail in L.A. County lockup.

Once in custody, Vasquez spoke with detectives and “pointed the finger” at his girlfriend, with whom he also has a child, Radtke said. The detective did not know the child’s current whereabouts.

It’s unclear if an attorney was representing Vasquez, who has been in and out of custody over the last four years.

In 2013, he pleaded guilty in two grand theft cases, and in 2014, he was sentenced to two years in state prison on a felony robbery conviction, according to court records. He also pleaded guilty to petty theft in 2013.

Before this week, Hollywood had seen two homicides this year, including an officer-involved killing. On Jan. 31, police fatally shot a Solomon Picart, 37, inside a Sunset Boulevard restaurant after he stabbed three people in a rampage.

Bryan Delatorre was fatally shot at his Hollywood apartment building on May 19.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno



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The nickname is a playful jab, and a badge of honor when Cal State Fullerton baseball coach Rick Vanderhook bestows it.

Vanderhook will sometimes refer to a Titans veteran as “the old man,” in recognition of the service that player has put into the storied program. Timmy Richards, Fullerton’s senior shortstop, has heard it quite a bit lately.

“It always cracks me up when he calls me the old man,” Richards said. “Usually it comes with experience. It comes with an expectation that he puts on you to be a leader, and it is something that I do try and embrace.”

Richards embodies the moniker. One of only three seniors on the Titans, he’s a heart-and-soul player whose leadership is invaluable for Fullerton as it opens the College World Series against top-seed Oregon State on Saturday in Omaha.

Richards hit .500 (10 for 20) in the first two rounds of regional playoffs. Defensively, he’s quietly been one of the nation’s better shortstops. He committed only four errors in 23 Big West Conference games and helped the Titans rank eighth nationally in defense.

On a team with a preseason All-American and six All-Big West selections, Richards only garnered all-conference honorable mention. His value is measured more in his 188 career games played for Fullerton and the calming presence he brings.

“He doesn’t need to have all those awards and stuff,” teammate Hank LoForte said. “You can tell just by looking at him that he’s a grinder. We follow his lead. It’s just really nice to have that kind of guy that can control things when things get rough.”

Vanderhook saw Richards do that during Game 3 of last weekend’s super regional against Long Beach State, when Richards gathered his teammates on the mound during some hairy moments of the tension-filled finale.

“He went out and made a trip and calmed some guys down,” Vanderhook said. “You only get three trips in a game, so when you’ve got a shortstop that can make a couple, that gives you five. You know that he knows how to the handle the guys’ personality.”

Fullerton’s 2-1 win against the Dirtbags at Blair Field was extra meaningful for Richards. He played at the stadium for Long Beach Wilson High, and the moment symbolized his path.

Richards was undersized for a shortstop but started for Wilson as a sophomore. He raised his batting average nearly 100 points from his junior to senior season after he simply buckled down.

“More than anything he just came to the ballpark everyday and worked his tail off,” Long Beach Wilson coach Andy Hall said.

“I wish I could take more credit,” Hall added. “I really believe kids are born who they are and it’s their work ethic. Timmy’s like that. He’s not the biggest guy. He’s not the fastest guy. But he’s gotten to where he is by his work ethic.”

Hall remembers a turning point in Richards’ maturation, when he benched the player for missing a class.

“From that point on, he never missed a class,” Hall said. “[With] leadership, you have to get stung before you realize what you have to do.”

Hall texted Richards after the super regional win and told him it was a just reward for returning for his senior season. Richards could have turned pro when he was drafted in the 18th round by the Minnesota Twins last year, but he returned for another shot at Omaha, where the Titans went 0-2 in 2015. Last season’s first-round elimination in a regional left a bad taste as well.

That Richards is playing for Fullerton and not Long Beach State is a changeup. Having grown up near the campus, his favorite player is former Dirtbags shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and he envisioned occupying the same shortstop space at Blair Field.

But Richards felt Fullerton’s style fitted his. He also remembers watching nearly every Titans-Dirtbags series played in his backyard.

“Fullerton pretty much won every one,” Richards said. “Being a Long Beach State fan at the time, but watching Fullerton win, it might have persuaded my opinion a little bit.”

Richards now looks up to former Titans shortstops Justin Turner and Christian Colon, players who might have fit the Vanderhook old-man tag. Richards smiled when asked if he feels older than his teammates.

“I don’t know if mentally I’m that much older than them, but I think my body’s been through more,” he said. “I’ve been banged up a little bit this year, and I think that’s a little bit of where the ‘old man’ title comes from, too.”

The ironic part of Richards’ elder role is that he is unable to join his teammates’ solidarity move of growing facial hair.

Said Richards: “If I could grow the beard, I’d do that with them.”

sports@latimes.com



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