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Southern Section Baseball Playoffs : Mater Dei Finds Some Strength in Numbers With Talented Outfielders

Times Staff Writer

Bob Ickes, Mater Dei High School baseball coach, had a problem that most coaches would gladly welcome.

The Monarchs’ starting outfield--left fielder Mike Basse, center fielder Larry Sutton and right fielder Jim Austin--all had signed with Division I colleges. Basse signed with Tennessee, Sutton with Illinois and Austin with Arizona State.

But another talented player, designated hitter Greg Shockey, had been overlooked by most scouts and college coaches. Ickes decided to showcase Shockey, alternating him with Basse as the team’s designated hitter or left fielder at midseason.

The move has given the Monarchs’ additional depth in the outfield and some added exposure for Shockey. University of North Carolina has offered Shockey a scholarship, and coaches from Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach have talked to him about a possible scholarship.

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Mater Dei (21-3) enters the second round of the Southern Section 5-A playoffs at 3:15 today against host Ocean View (15-10-1).

Austin leads the county with 9 home runs and 43 RBIs, both school records. He also set a school mark with 18 career homers. Basse tied with Jim Short of Esperanza for the county lead in triples with six. Sutton earned a school-record 27 walks.

“But Shockey was the biggest surprise of the season,” Ickes said. “He was a relief pitcher for us as a junior and became our most consistent hitter this season. He had only three games in which he didn’t get a hit.”

All but Shockey began their careers at Mater Dei on a freshman team that had a 19-3 record. Shockey transferred from El Toro to Mater Dei after his freshman season.

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Sutton, a three-year starter, is the leadoff hitter with a .306 average. Ickes considers him the team’s best hitter.

“Larry is the most knowledgeable hitter on the team,” Ickes said. “He has a great sense of the strike zone and has walked 52 times the past two years.”

Sutton began playing baseball as a 6-year-old in Brea. He turned down offers from Arizona State, Arizona and Cal State Fullerton to join Augie Garrido, former Titan coach, at Illinois.

“The other schools were great programs, but Garrido sold me,” Sutton said. “I also thought the academics were stronger at Illinois.”

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Sutton is an ideal leadoff hitter, reaching base safely 46 times this season and scoring 22 runs.

“I’ve always hated to walk,” he said. “But I know if I get on base, one of the next three guys (Basse, Austin or first baseman Joe Ciccarella) will get a hit and drive me in.”

Basse, who lives in San Juan Capistrano chose Tennessee over USC, Loyola Marymount and Indiana.

Basse, the team’s fastest player, has a club-leading 18 steals. He waited three seasons to start on the varsity team, but was receptive to platooning with Shockey.

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“There’s no animosity on this team,” Basse said. “We do everything together. Everyone is so compatible. We all have the same general attitude on the field . . . to play hard and win.

“Since I already had a scholarship, I thought it was a good idea to let Greg play left, as long as I got to hit. I like being involved in the game more playing left, but if I can help Greg, fine.”

Ickes said Austin is the best power hitter he has coached. Austin displayed his strength early in the season when he hit a towering homer over the scoreboard in left field against Servite.

Austin began playing baseball in the North Mission Viejo Little League and now lives in Coto de Caza. Austin played football for two years at Mater Dei and was the most valuable player on the sophomore team.

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“I quit football to concentrate on baseball,” he said. “Baseball was always my sport. I’m not real big (5-feet 11-inches and 170 pounds) and didn’t see much future in football.”

Austin visited North Carolina and had several other visits scheduled, but he canceled his trips when he returned from Arizona State.

“I knew that was the school for me,” he said. “Most of their outfielders are gone next season, and they guaranteed me a spot on the traveling team as a freshman.”

Until midseason, Shockey was usually easy to spot. He was the player running from the dugout to the outfield fence between innings.

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“I found running was the best thing to keep me in the game when I was the designated hitter,” he said. “When you’re sitting, you get into a lull. Now, playing the outfield, I’m a lot more into the game.

“It doesn’t matter to me where I play. The most important thing is to win the games. The thing that separates this team from others is our consistency. Whenever somebody gets a hit, it gets contagious. Everybody starts hitting, and when we’re playing our game, nobody can beat us.”

MATER DEI’S OUTFIELD

NAME AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG Jim Austin 74 28 34 7 3 9 43 .459 Mike Basse 77 31 33 5 6 1 25 .429 Greg Shockey 77 20 34 6 0 2 19 .442 Larry Sutton 62 22 19 5 0 1 13 306

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Basse and Shockey alternate between DH and left field.


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