It's Time to Play Ball : El Dorado Makes Big Pitch for No. 1 Ranking in County

Times Staff Writer

You can't compare the Dodgers' pitching staff with El Dorado High School's, but Steve Gullotti, Golden Hawk baseball coach, believes seniors Jeff Petredes and Scott Holcomb will make as big a contribution to the Hawks as Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Jerry Reuss, Rick Honeycutt and Bob Welch make to the Dodgers.

"When they're on the mound, the whole team is confident it's going to win," Gullotti said. "Other teams don't hit the ball very hard, there isn't as much pressure on defense, and they're not letting guys on base.

"Like they say, pitching is the game. Look at the Dodgers. They spent $5 million on their pitching. It only cost me a couple of Cokes."

Many coaches believe the one-two pitching punch of Petredes, a hard-throwing right-hander, and Holcomb, a left-handed finesse pitcher, makes El Dorado Orange County's best team.

Petredes, a 6-foot 2-inch, 210-pounder, went 6-2 with a 0.84 earned run average and struck out 56 last season. This will be his third year on the varsity. Holcomb, a 6-1, 170-pounder, moved to Placentia from Missouri last April and went 2-2 during the Hawks' final eight games.

Gullotti hopes the pair will have the kind of impact Fountain Valley's Bob Sharpnack (a right-hander) and Don Snowden (a lefty) had last season, when they led the Barons to the Southern Section 4-A championship.

It usually takes at least two quality pitchers to win a Southern Section title, but Gullotti will need such pitching just to make the playoffs. The Empire League, with four teams in The Times' Top 10, will be one of the county's most competitive and talented leagues.

The Sunset League also will be one of the county's strongest and is represented by three teams in Top 10. Here's a closer look at The Times Top 10:

1. El Dorado: In addition to their two fine pitchers, the Golden Hawks return five other starters--three infielders and two outfielders--from a team that went 13-10 in 1985.

Brett Boone, who hit .345 last year and is the son of Angel catcher Bob Boone, is back at second base, Shawn Blankenship, who hit .320 last year, is the shortstop and Sean Shedlock, a junior, is the third baseman. Rob Sporrer and Jim Buck are the returning outfielders.

Steve Gill, a left-hander, is the team's No. 3 pitcher and will play center field when not pitching. With Petredes and Holcomb on the mound, Gill is likely to spend most of his time in the outfield.

Pitching is El Dorado's obvious strength, but the Golden Hawks also will be good defensively and offensively. And Gullotti likes the mental attitude of this team.

"They didn't make the playoffs last year, and a lot of them haven't been as successful in high school as they want to be," he said. "They're hungry."

El Dorado is 6-1 this season and has advanced to the final of the 32-team Loara tournament against Loara.

2. Ocean View: The Seahawks have several players returning from last season's 21-8 team, which won the Sunset League and reached the 4-A semifinals, and they'll be bolstered by many players who competed on Coach Bill Gibbons' Colt (15- and 16-year old) All-Star team, which won the Colt World Series at Lafayette, Ind. last summer.

The most notable addition is David Holdridge, a junior who was the ace of the Colt team staff and is off to an excellent start this year. In 11 innings, the hard-throwing right-hander has not allowed a run and has struck out 18. He also is Ocean View's No. 3 hitter and will be the designated hitter when not pitching.

Other players from the Colt team who are starting for the Seahawks are shortstop Mike Fyhre, second baseman Jim Van Patton, third baseman David Lenhardt and first baseman/pitcher Brent Knackert.

"The seniors accept this group as being legitimate, quality players," Gibbons said. "They have no doubts whether they belong or not. It's been a very healthy, competitive arrangement."

Ocean View also returns pitchers Brett Johnson and Craig Anderson, outfielders Phil Chess and Mike Abascal, and catcher Blaine DeBrouwer. The Seahawks are 3-1 this season.

3. Mission Viejo: Orange County Player of the Year Bob Brucato, who had a 12-0 pitching record and hit .437 with 5 home runs and 35 RBIs, has graduated, but the Diablos return eight starters, including their entire infield, from a team that went 20-8 and lost to Diamond Bar, 3-2, in the 1985 2-A championship game.

Catcher Don Roberson, first baseman Robert D'Marino, second baseman Bob Doran, shortstop David Hori and third baseman Mark Preston are back, as are pitchers Kyle Abbott and Phil Houston.

But the ace of the staff is junior right-hander Jack Bailey, a transfer from Westminster, who has allowed just three earned runs in 12 innings this season and has struck out 17 for the Diablos (3-1).

Offensively, Doran, who batted .364 last year, is the team's No. 3 hitter, but Mission Viejo is not considered a power-hitting team. There are no weak spots in the lineup, however.

"Without Brucato, we miss some punch in the lineup, but we're stronger overall this year than we were last year," said Ron Drake, Mission Viejo coach. "We have nine guys who hit the same."

4. Loara: The El Dorado pitchers have received most of the attention this year, but Saxon Coach Ray Moore thinks he has a pitcher--Jeff Patterson--who is in the same class as Petredes and Holcomb.

Patterson, a 5-11, 160-pound right-hander, is a hard-throwing senior who went 5-4 last year and was a first-team, All-Empire League selection. He also plays first base.

Loara also returns five other starters from a team that went 14-14 last season. Curtis Henson begins his third season at third base, junior Carlos Vargas is the shortstop, Wade Clester is in center field and Mike Golia will play right field. Brian Roberts is the catcher.

The Saxons are 5-1 and have reached the Loara tournament final where they will play Empire League rival El Dorado. On their way to the championship game, the Saxons defeated Sunny Hills, Marina, Katella and Los Alamitos.

5. Edison: The Chargers return five starters, including shortstop Jeff Kent, who hit .500 with 25 RBIs last season as the team's third baseman and is being recruited by schools such as Stanford, California, Fresno State and Arizona State.

Also returning is senior third baseman Mark Miller, who hit .310 last year, senior first baseman Jeff Bruelette, senior center fielder Tom Sizlo, and junior designated hitter Bernie Colacchio, who hit three home runs in three games last week.

The Chargers are 6-2, and have reached the 32-team El Segundo tournament final where they will play Arcadia Saturday. Kent has 11 hits in the eight games, and Sizlo has nine.

Edison's top newcomers are second baseman Joe Aversa, left fielder Mike Crosby and pitchers Mike Tunstall and Mike Guccione. Tunstall, a senior left-hander is 2-0, and Guccione is 1-0.

Edison has a solid defense and good team speed with Sizlo, Crosby and Aversa.

6. Santa Ana: Bill Ross begins his 28th season as Saints coach with an excellent team that features seven returning starters from last season's 22-5 team.

Catcher Hector Olivares, who hit .350 and was a first-team, All-Century League selection last season, is back for his third varsity season, and junior John Hefler, who hit .424 with eight doubles last year, moves from third base to center field.

The Saints will be strong up the middle with returning shortstop Shaun Sterling, who batted .335 last season, and second baseman Armando Olivares, who hit .355. Brian Flores, a designated hitter who had a .315 average in 1985, moves to first base, Jesus Chavarria will play third base and Jaime Franco will play the outfield.

Santa Ana's pitchers aren't overpowering, but Ross said he thinks Ray Lopez (once he recovers from shoulder problems), Hector Arvizu and Fred Barrios will be adequate. Hefler also will pitch, Ross said.

Hefler, who hit right-handed last season, had an operation on his left shoulder in November that has forced him to bat left-handed this season. He has three hits in Santa Ana's first two games (the Saints are 3-0), and should be able to start batting right-handed again next week.

7. Los Alamitos: Robbie Katzaroff, who set an Orange County record with 51 hits and also had 27 stolen bases, is back in center field, and J.T. Snow, who hit .440 as an outfielder last year, will move to first base and bat in the No. 3 spot.

Second-year Griffin Coach Mike Gibson returns eight players, including three pitchers, who have started for Los Alamitos. The Griffins don't have one outstanding pitcher, but right-handers Randy Hacker and Gary Loe and lefty Brooks Peters give the Griffins a solid rotation.

Peters will bat cleanup and double as the team's designated hitter when not pitching. Also returning is catcher Mark Wolfe and third baseman Ron Scanlon. The Griffins, coming off an 18-9 season in which they finished third in the Empire League, are 3-1 this season, and reached the semifinals of the Loara tournament, where they lost to Loara, 10-4.

8. Esperanza: The Aztecs have an abundance of talented players, including catcher Eric Cox, a three-year starter who hit .395 and is considered by most professional scouts as the county's best defensive catcher, outfielders Kevin Clancy and Emmitt Cohick, both all-league performers in 1985, and junior shortstop Tom Reddington, an all-league player who hit .335 last season.

Their only question is pitching.

"That's where we become human real fast," Esperanza Coach Mike Curran said.

The Aztecs graduated ace Dave Salcido, who was 10-1 last season, and No. 2 pitcher Greg Haskell, who was 6-3, and will rely this season on senior left-hander Steve Halweg, who was 3-1 in 1985, and senior right-handers Tim MacNeil and Jeff Darby.

"They're not an experienced group, like El Dorado's pitchers, but I think they can do very well," Curran said. "If our pitching comes through, we could be pretty good."

Esperanza, defending Empire League champion with an 18-8 record, is 5-1.

9. Westminster: The Lions, who return 12 players who started seven games or more in 1985, have scored 53 runs in their first five games this season.

"My arms are tired from coaching third base," said Bill Whiteley, third-year Westminster coach.

It's a pain Whiteley can live with.

The Lions have a powerful lineup, led by junior shortstop Al Rodriques, who hit .410 last season and had two home runs and nine RBIs in a 21-3 win over Miraleste two weeks ago, senior first baseman Steve Gulley, who hit .464 with 4 home runs and 23 RBIs last year, and senior center fielder Robert Martinez, who hit .360 and had 12 stolen bases in 1985.

As long as the Lions receive decent pitching, they'll be a team to contend with in the Sunset League. John Gonzalez, a junior left-hander who was 3-4 last season, is the staff ace, which includes senior right-hander David Turner, most valuable player of the junior varsity team last year, and freshman lefty Ryan Klesko.

Westminster also has good team speed with second baseman and lead-off hitter Mike Skjonsby, who had 14 stolen bases last year, and Rodriques and Martinez, who each stole 12 bases.

10. Western: Like El Dorado, the Pioneers also have an outstanding pair of pitchers in senior right-hander David Tellers, who was 11-3 with a 1.50 earned run average last season, and Rich Lodding, a senior right-hander who was 5-4.

Lodding also is one of Western's top hitters, having hit .410 with 38 hits last season. Coach Dave Bowman returns three other starters--senior shortstop Paul Boucher, junior second baseman David Brown and senior center fielder Shaun Frattone.

The Pioneers, Orange League co-champions with Valencia last year, made it to the second round of the 3-A playoffs, where they lost to Downey, 5-4. Western is 2-2 this year.

"We have good pitching and we're a better defensive team this year," Bowman said. "Our offensive lineup also should be more consistent. There are no easy outs."

The returning players will be joined by newcomers Dan Price, a first baseman, and Frank Miller, who will play right field.

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