Can the Loyola Marymount University baseball team pull a Snow job on the West Coast Athletic Conference?
The answer will come shortly as the Lions open a new chapter in their baseball annals this week with a new coach--Dave Snow--and a new conference, the WCAC.
The Lions played UC Riverside and USC earlier this week and play a weekend series at Fresno State beginning Friday as Snow tries to instill a new confidence in the team. Snow was previously an assistant at national champion Cal State Fullerton and head coach at Valley College, where he won four league titles in five years.
He succeeds Marv Wood, who coached Loyola for 15 years. In recent seasons the Lions increasingly found themselves in over their heads in the tough Southern California Baseball Assn., which has been disbanded. They were 23-38 last year.
Building for Future
"We're trying to build a strong foundation for the future," said the 34-year-old Snow.
Loyola returns 15 lettermen, featuring a strong offense and an all-star outfield. The pitching is less settled despite the return of four hurlers.
The Lions by position:
Infield--Keystoners Damien Bonenfant (.308 average) and Robbie Foster (.331) and first baseman Mike Whitt (.292, six home runs) are solid and will get competition from freshman Chris Donnels, the CIF player of the year at South Torrance. Donnels played shortstop in high school but may play other positions at Loyola.
Outfield--Loyola could be exceptional here, returning all-leaguers Reggie Lambert and Billy Bean and bringing in several talented newcomers. Lambert, the senior leadoff hitter and center fielder, batted .347 with 30 stolen bases and led the team in nearly every offensive non-power category.
Bean, a junior, switches from left to right field and carries a .338 bat that produced six homers and 43 runs batted in over 55 games last year. Bean, a left-hander, may also do a little pitching.
Newcomers include freshman Pat Sullivan out of Loyola High and sophomore Donald Kretschmar from Cerritos College. Letterman Jim Holleran, a third baseman last year, switches to left.
Catching--The position is filled for a while. All sophomore Jim McAnany did as a freshman was bat .304 with five 5 homers and 37 RBIs and play in 57 of 61 games. He'll be backed up by junior Ken Lund and freshman Ron Hodges.
Pitching--Change-ups are part of the game, and Snow may be throwing the biggest change by moving Tim Layana, a seven-game winner last year, to the bullpen. The junior has been Loyola's top starter the last two seasons while the relief corps has mostly been incendiary. "He will be our stopper," Snow said.
The staff is entirely right-handed. Seniors Scott Halverstadt (5-8), Gus Hein (3-5) and Chris Ipsen (3-5) compete with newcomers Erik Hakanen (freshman from Westchester High), Matt Francis (sophomore transfer from San Diego) and Steve Polk, a junior from Simi Valley.
WCAC play begins in mid-March. The new league may not match the SCBA, which regularly produced national contenders, but is still formidable.