BASEBALL : Arizona's Halcovich Got a Break and Is Making the Most of It

Frank Halcovich got his wish. The former state JC player of the year from College of the Canyons, is part of the University of Arizona's pitching rotation and its full-time designated-hitter.

He started the season in the rotation, but not getting much chance to bat. Coach Jerry Kindall said Halcovich would be the designated-hitter against left-handed pitchers, but there is only one left-handed starter in the Pac-10.

Since freshman Alan Zinter, the starting designated-hitter, had an emergency appendectomy two weeks ago, however, Halcovich has been in the lineup every game. And he's made the most of his chance, batting a team-high .410. Halcovich has 32 hits in 78 at-bats, including 9 doubles and 4 home runs. He has 21 runs batted in and a slugging percentage of .679.

While Halcovich was doing full-time designated-hitter duty, Kindall removed him from the rotation. But now another injury has forced his return. Heath Lane, who took Halcovich's No. 2 spot, injured his arm in a game against Cal last Saturday.

Halcovich replaced Lane and pitched the next six innings, allowing six earned runs and seven hits to take the loss. Even so, he pitched well enough to earn a starting assignment today against Stanford in Tucson. Halcovich is 3-5 with one save this season, and has a 6.35 earned run average.

Arizona, the defending national champion, is 27-19 overall, 6-12 in the Pac-10. The Wildcats probably need to win nine of their remaining 12 games to earn a spot in the 48-team NCAA playoffs.

Add 'Cats: Sean Murphy, a freshman from Simi Valley High, has been the starter in center field for Arizona in several recent games.

Murphy is batting .260 with two home runs and 12 RBIs.

More 'Cats: The signings of Tom Reddington and Rick Lantrip, two highly regarded high school shortstops, means that Greg Fowble, Arizona's starting shortstop this season, will probably have to move over to second base.

Fowble, a freshman from Granada Hills High, is hitting well at .299, but is fielding erratically with 27 errors in 45 games.

Reddington, from Esperanza High in Anaheim, and Lantrip, from Golden West High in Visalia, were on Collegiate Baseball Magazine's list of the top 20 college prospects in the West. Reddington is batting .400 and was first-team all-state as a junior. Lantrip is batting .450.

Fading fast: UC Riverside was considered one of the top baseball teams in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn.--at least it was before conference games began.

The Highlanders started CCAA action with a 17-5 nonconference record, but have gone downhill since. Riverside started the week 3-9 in conference CCAA games and Coach Jack Smitheran said there is a simple reason--fatigue.

One week into the conference season, the Highlanders hosted a baseball tournament and wound up playing seven games in six days. "It just ate us up," Smitheran said. "Financially, it's a real money-maker, but it destroyed this team. We have a lot of freshmen who lack the experience of playing consecutive ballgames like that. We're just physically worn out."

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