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An Escalating Arms Race : All’s Not So Quiet on Western’s Front Where Lodding, Tellers Are Making a Pitch to Lead Pioneers to a Baseball Championship

Times Staff Writer

Rich Lodding and David Tellers of Western High School want to take the Pioneers where they have never gone before--to a Southern Section baseball championship.

Lodding and Tellers, both right-handed pitchers, combined to win 27 games to help Western win two Orange League titles in their first two seasons as varsity starters. The Pioneers also won a 3-A playoff game each year.

But such accomplishments won’t satisfy either in this, their senior years.

“The coach (Dave Bowman) talks about winning the league and just getting as far as we can in the playoffs, but some of the guys on our team want to get past the second round this year,” Tellers said.

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Most of the guys,” Lodding emphasized.

Western has advanced to a Southern Section baseball final only once in 27 years--in 1963, when the Pioneers, with pitcher Andy Messersmith, lost to Long Beach Poly, 4-0, in the major division championship game at Anaheim’s La Palma Park (now called Glover Stadium).

Western hasn’t come close to a title game since. The Pioneers haven’t reached the semifinals in 22 years. For eight straight seasons (1975-82), they didn’t even make the playoffs.

But with Lodding and Tellers on the mound and a solid team behind them, Western could do well in this year’s postseason tournament.

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Lodding, a 6-1, 165-pounder, is 7-2 with 44 strikeouts and an earned-run average of 1.78.

Tellers, a 5-10, 160-pounder, is 6-1 with 40 strikeouts and a 1.88 earned-run average. He has walked only eight batters in 52 innings.

Both are also hitting well for Western, which is 7-1 in league, 15-4 overall, and holds a two-game lead over second-place Valencia.

Lodding, who bats third in the lineup, is hitting .352 (19 for 54) with 18 RBIs. Tellers, who bats sixth, is hitting .333 (18 for 55) with a team-leading 21 RBIs.

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But it is their pitching that is most valuable; few teams win Southern Section championships with one pitcher.

“I feel both could pitch for some major colleges right now,” Bowman said. “They’re tops on the high school-level and they should do well when they move on.”

Both are being recruited by UC Irvine, Cal State Los Angeles and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Neither will make a decision until the season’s end.

Lodding and Tellers have known each other since playing in the Cypress Pony League. But they have different pitching styles, though the end result usually is the same.

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Lodding is a power pitcher who relies on a fastball and a curve, and he has been experimenting this season with a knuckleball.

Tellers, a finesse pitcher who relies on a fastball, curve and changeup, tries to fool batters by changing speeds on his pitches. With his excellent control, he records more ground-ball outs than strikeouts.

Lodding shows little emotion on the mound. Tellers, who plays third base when not pitching, wonders sometimes whether Lodding really wants to be there.

“He has no expression on his face, no smile,” Tellers said. “He looks like he’s in his own world. I’ll try to build him up by telling him to look alive.”

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Lodding said his behavior stems from concentration. He tries to block out everything but the batter.

“It’s not that I’m not intense,” he said. “I just don’t like a lot of people telling me what to do because it messes me up.”

Tellers is much more demonstrative and temperamental. He’s been known to kick dirt around the mound when someone commits an error. He’s confident--to the point of being cocky--and he is demanding of his teammates.

“He’ll walk by you in the dugout and say, ‘Routine ground ball, you gotta be there,’ without even looking at you,” Lodding said.

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Tellers admits he is tough on his teammates, but says that his criticism is not meant to be taken personally.

“I’ve told the players in team meetings that I might get on their case, but it’s not because I don’t like them,” he said. “I just tell them they’ve got to make the plays. I haven’t really gotten on anyone this year, though.”

The pitchers’ differences carry over into their outside interests.

Lodding is an Angel fan. Tellers is a Dodger fan.

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Lodding’s idea of a good time is taking his girlfriend out for ice cream and a movie. Tellers doesn’t have a girlfriend.

“I have no money,” he said. “Anyway, baseball comes first.”

Tellers’ ideal night out is to go to a hockey game with his buddies.

“The only reason I go is to watch the fights,” he said. “They make some great checks and the refs let ‘em go. It’s rad .”

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The two are good friends on the baseball team, but Lodding, who was a quarterback/defensive back on Western’s football team, tends to socialize with the football players, whereas Tellers socializes mostly with baseball players.

“We might go out to a couple of (baseball) games together, but I haven’t seen Rich at many parties,” Tellers said.

Lodding: “I’m usually with my girlfriend.”

The competition between them on the field is friendly. There really is no ace on the Pioneers’ staff.

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“People say we have a strong one-two punch, but kids in school ask me who’s the one,” Tellers said. “We’ve been putting up a good battle, but it doesn’t matter who’s better. We just do the job.”


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