Notebook / Alan Drooz : Lady Lions Are Long on Character but Come Up Short in Pitching and Hitting

If losing builds character, nobody needs to feel sorry for the Loyola Marymount University women's softball team. It has loads of character.

It could use loads of pitchers.

In a season in which Loyola's basketball and baseball programs have experienced a rebirth, first-year Coach Mary Hirt has attempted to play the inaugural West Coast Athletic Conference softball schedule with a pick-up team of campus walk-ons. The team has no scholarships, no pitching machine, no batting cage and--worst of all--no skilled pitchers. One player didn't know which hand to wear a glove on.

The result: The feckless Lady Lions haven't won a game on the field (they've managed to pick up two forfeits) and have been shut out in more than half of their 25 games.

Hirt, an energetic non-faculty coach, gamely plods onward and optimistically says she is building for the future.

"We don't have a pitcher. That's where we're getting killed," she said. "We've got no pitcher or pitching machine. How are you going to learn to hit without seeing pitching? It's kind of a Catch-22 situation.

"The other day I used six (pitchers). I think the morale of the team would go up with a pitcher. Now we just lob 'em in and hope we can get a strike. But what they lack in athletic ability they make up in character.

"I'm working on their confidence level, in bringing it up. In the beginning of the year I don't think they knew what they would be up against. Won-loss we've really struggled but the improvement is there. Next year I'll get them in a weight-training program and a running program. I think it'll build, a little bit more every year."

After lack of a pitcher, the biggest problem for Hirt is lack of scholarships and a budget. So far this season she has run a bake sale, a car wash, a hit-a-thon and a clinic, all to raise funds for the team. She said she has been told there may be a few scholarships to work with by 1988. She hopes to get a booster club going.

"I'm trying to get the system to work," she said. "Right now all my recruiting is through the Catholic (high) schools and right off campus. If they give me a scholarship or two then I can bring in a pitcher. Then we'll be competitive. I'd really like to build a program if I can get the school to work with me."

In her mid-20s, Hirt says she has played, coached or umpired softball "all my life." She works for the Santa Monica Parks and Recreation Department and is putting in all the time she can at Loyola.

"I think things are going to be better," she said. "I just hope the school reciprocates a little for what we've put in. That would make it worth it."

Cal State Dominguez Hills basketball Coach Dave Yanai, who was so desperate for back-court players last season that he started four forwards in conference play, has signed East Los Angeles College sophomore guard Leonard Eaton.

The 6-2 native of Bay City, Tex., averaged 19.3 points and 4.1 assists at East L.A. and was a first-team All-Inland Valley Conference selection. His scoring increased in conference games to 23.9 points per game, second in the conference. He shot 49% from the floor and 77% from the foul line.

Eaton is projected as the Toros' point guard next season.

Keith Malone of Serra High, The Times' South Bay player of the year, was the only South Bay player to receive honorable mention on USA Today's high school basketball All-American team. The newspaper listed 15 All-Americans, then a state-by-state honor roll. The only Californian in the top 15 was 6-10 Scott Williams of Wilson in Hacienda Heights.

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