Play Ball! : New Coach and a Rocking Upset Over No. 2 Arizona Show Toros Are Ready

In collegiate baseball, the rank and file of the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. has often fallen in behind Cal Poly Pomona. The Broncos have won six of 13 CCAA titles since 1976, including last year's crown.

In 1989, though, there may be changes, especially at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Last year the Toros finished conference play 10 games below .500 after winning back-to-back titles in 1986 and 1987.

A new coach, George Wing, has taken the place of Andy Lopez, who moved to Pepperdine.

This is Wing's first coaching position at a four-year college, but he brings a winning record from the community college ranks. His Cosumnes River College team in Northern California went 30-17 last year.

Wing takes over a team stocked with solid returning talent and top community college transfers. The Toros, off to a 3-4-1 start, could shake up the conference.

CCAA rivals have warning: Dominguez Hills opened the season two weeks ago on the road with a rocking 12-4 upset over Arizona, ranked second nationally, though the following day the Wildcats reversed the blowout, 18-4. The Toros opened the CCAA last weekend by knocking off Pomona, 5-2.

How well the Toros, 19-30 last season and 10-20 in the CCAA, do depends largely on pitching.

An early indicator of success was senior Rick Davis' victory over Arizona. Davis, who was recruited to pitch but had converted to shortstop, threw a complete game, gave up five hits and struck out 11 in his pitching debut. In three starts he has struck out 40 in 29 innings.

Davis got help against Arizona from who figure to be leaders at the plate. Last year third baseman Ruben Jauregui hit .408 to lead the CCAA, and outfielder Lenny Hokanson hit .286 and set a school record and nine triples. In two games at Arizona, Hokanson delivered six RBIs and Jauregui collected five hits.

"We swing the bat well. I don't have to worry about that," Wing said. "The CCAA is usually known for strong hitters, but we have pitching too, if we can stay healthy.

"I feel good, from freshman to senior, about the pitching staff. That's going to be our key."

The Toros' No. 1 pitcher is sophomore right-hander Charlie Plumley, from Palos Verdes High and UC Berkeley. Besides Plumley and Davis, Wing said, the staff has not been firmly established.

Dominguez Hills' top reliever is senior Dave Haggard. The right-hander was 4-4 last year with a 3.13 earned-run average. The top left-handed reliever is John Gutierrez, who was 7-2 last season at Cosumnes River.

Junior lefties Armando Gomez and Ron Veazey figure to pitch in middle relief.

When he isn't pitching, Davis will return to shortstop. "It will be a trial-and-error type of thing," Wing said. "We'll have to wait and see how much he can handle."

Infield starters include two former Leffingwell High players at catcher. The primary duties fall on senior Mike McCarthy, who hit .280 last season for the Toros, but sophomore Dwayne Fowler will also get playing time behind the plate.

Senior Damon Neidlinger returns to first base, his most comfortable position, after filling in most of last season at second when the infield was hit with injuries. Wing said junior Adrian Rodriguez has earned the starting spot at second.

Hokanson will platoon in left field with sophomore Vic Fresca, probably joined by juniors Robert Campbell in center and Bill Keep in right. Campbell is battling with Marty Williams, a transfer from L.A. Valley College.

"What impresses me most about this team is the character they display," Wing said. "They are not going to roll over and die."

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