COACH: Ken Wagner, eighth season
LAST SEASON: 12-14-1; fourth in league at 5-7
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Scorpions have the deepest pitching staff in the league. Five pitchers, including Steve Biggs, a returning all-league right-hander who was 7-4 with a 3.74 ERA, make Camarillo a legitimate contender for the league title. "You never have enough pitching," Wagner said. "But we're fortunate to have five guys coming back who throw hard." Right-handers Matt Tackett, Eric Raba and Vaughn Wechsberg and left-hander Charlie Constantine give Wagner plenty of options. Catcher Chris Johnson (.365) will provide power on offense, as will Tackett, who will play first base when not pitching. Brothers A.J. and Mark Lindbloom will play the outfield. The rest of the defense is not set. Aurelio Flores, who is recovering from knee surgery, and sophomore Mike Muncy will battle at shortstop, as will Bill Lynch and Mitch King, a left-handed hitter, at second. At third, Johnny Barroso, Biggs and Flores will share time.
OUTLOOK: Wagner said that the Scorpions have the pitching and defense, along with the potential to hit well. "I'm pretty encouraged right now," he said, "especially with our pitching and defense. I think we can be right in the thick of it."
COACH: Don Cardinal, 23rd season
LAST SEASON: 10-14; fourth in league at 5-7
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Although it was rumored that John Johnson, Channel Islands' All-American running back, would not play baseball, it was news to Cardinal, who has moved Johnson from second base to shortstop. "He can hit the ball out any time this year," Cardinal said. Juniors Jimmy Davis and Mark Contreras will share catching duties and three players will share time at second base. Junior Richard Tetezano has won the first base job and Patrick Avila, a four-year varsity player, is at third. Sophomore Jacob Cruz, a second-team all-league player as a freshman, is back in center field, with senior Ben Castillo to his right and Manny Padilla to his left. Cruz likely will bat second behind Johnson. The pitching staff is untested. David Lucio, a senior left-hander, has the only varsity experience. Right-handers Padilla and George Alvarado are juniors, and John Bogges and Angel Aragon, a sophomore and freshman, respectively, are also right-handers. Aragon has perhaps the best arm.
OUTLOOK: As usual, Channel Islands will hit well but pitching could be a problem early because of inexperience. "If we wanted to, we could probably start six or seven underclassmen," Cardinal said. "But I think offensively, we'll probably be pretty good."
COACH: Gary Fabricius, third season
LAST SEASON: 13-13; fourth in league at 5-7
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jeremy Dewey and Tim Beal must pick up where Rob Teasdale and Jeff Berman, pitchers who threw nearly 95% of the Panthers' innings last season, left off. Especially in the pitching-rich Marmonte League. Dewey and Beal are senior right-handers. In the wings, juniors Jason Kernan, Andy Moffat and Matt LaBelle will fill in. All are right-handers. "We may be in some high-scoring games," Fabricius said. "But my pitchers are out to prove me wrong." One guy Fabricius would like to see on the mound occasionally is senior Wayne Cook, but he has signed a letter of intent to play quarterback for UCLA, The Bruins would prefer he not pitch, according to Fabricius. Cook, a first-team all-league selection last season when he batted .337, will move from first base to center field and bat third. Junior Brian Smith and senior Geoff Black, a second-team all-league selection, will play left and right fields respectively. Black, a speedy No. 2 hitter, batted .301. In the infield, Jeff O'Brien, a left-handed hitter, will play first, Brad Cleveringa will play second and Eric Greene, an outfielder last season, will be the shortstop. Playing time at third base will be divided among three juniors, although Shane Gallimore appears to have the inside track.
OUTLOOK: Fabricius at first was concerned with what he called the "Charlie Brown things" the Panthers were doing. But the team played better in recent scrimmages and might be able to use its hitting as a security blanket. "We're definitely coming around from earlier," Fabricius said. "You don't make routine plays, you're going to get buried. We should be competitive, but how competitive I don't know."
COACH: Mike McCurdy, fourth season
LAST SEASON: 10-15; seventh in league at 2-10
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Highlanders have only five seniors on their 17-man roster and just one senior pitcher, so success will depend on the maturation of the underclassmen. Senior James Jones, a starter in left field last season, will be counted on to pitch extensively. Left-hander Bill Egan has the staff's best velocity, and McCurdy also will turn to right-handers Shane Hendrixson, Gilbert Renteria, Tim Delmonte and Jim Tosh. Senior Ron Bauer and sophomore Steve Talafuse will handle the young pitching staff at catcher. Egan also will play first base and Sean Swearinger, Dennis Gildehause, Richard Naranjo and Sean Mitchell, a transfer from Newbury Park, will fill in around the infield. Naranjo, a sophomore, likely will bat cleanup. When not pitching, James Jones will play left field. Jason Jones, who hit .333 overall but had a .404 average and all six of his home runs in league games, will be in center field. Jason Jones also had six doubles, 16 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. Junior Robert Campos will be in right field.
OUTLOOK: "We're awfully young," McCurdy said. "But if our pitchers can keep us in games, I think we have a chance to surprise some people." McCurdy thinks the league is becoming more oriented toward speed and defense, and his team has taken a turn in that direction.
COACH: Mike Scyphers, 11th season
LAST SEASON: 23-6; first in league at 10-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Simi Valley lost Scott Sharts and his Southern Section-record 32 career home runs to the University of Miami, but the Pioneers are unlikely to face a power shortage in their quest for a fourth consecutive league title. "We don't have the one guy like Scott, but up and down the lineup we've got guys capable of hitting three to five home runs," Scyphers said. He expects even more from Jeff Sommer and Terry Hill, who will bat Nos. 3 and 4 in the order. Sommer, a right fielder, set a school record for sophomores last season with seven home runs and also batted .370. Hill, an all-league third baseman, batted .299 with five home runs and hit two in a scrimmage against Rio Mesa last weekend. Second baseman Jesse Anguiano hit three home runs last season and will move to the leadoff spot. Kenny Hood, a junior up from the junior varsity, will supply power at first base. Senior Andy Hodgins will play shortstop and Chadd Johnson will do the catching. Scyphers claims that the strength of the team lies with a pitching corps that is three deep. Senior Rich Langford has 10 varsity wins in two years and senior Mike Jenkins was 4-0 with a 2.80 ERA last season. Hood, a 6-4 left-hander, prompts Scyphers to call this group his strongest rotation in 11 years.
OUTLOOK: Scyphers has a 198-66 record in 10 seasons and is shooting for an unprecedented fourth consecutive league title. The Pioneers are ranked seventh in the Southern Section's preseason Division 5-A poll and enter the season as the league favorite. "It's our title to lose," he said. "Somebody has to come take it away from us and I hope it won't be easy."
COACH: Jim Hansen, 15th season
LAST SEASON: 17-7-1; second in league at 9-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Lancers didn't get 48 hours into their season before losing two of their three best pitchers. Scott Barkman, a junior left-hander and the No. 2 starter, tore ligaments in his ankle Monday and could be out three weeks. On Tuesday, Jim Diehl, the center fielder and No. 3 pitcher, tore ligaments in his left thumb and might miss the season. That puts more pressure on John Bushart, the Lancers' senior left-hander who was 6-2 and All-League last season. "If he has a good year he should get drafted or have an excellent opportunity at some colleges," Hansen said. "He is definitely expected to carry the load for us." In the meantime, seniors Chris Grodell and Brian Higgins and junior Brent Christenson will have to pick up some of the pitching slack. Defensively, Scott Haffner is at first base, David Kuenstle at second, Todd Lang at shortstop and Brian Higgins at third. Junior Lance Martin, who has spent parts of the past two seasons on the varsity, Christensen and Grodell appear to have won outfield positions. Senior Judd Schlimgen will catch.
OUTLOOK: The injuries might take their toll, especially in the early part of the season. Defense--a Lancer weakness last season--is a concern of Hansen's. "If the kids come together and can play with confidence, we can play with anybody," he said. "We're going to work very hard at playing sound defense. If we make a lot of errors it's going to unravel some of our plans."
COACH: Rich Herrera, first season
LAST SEASON: 15-11; third in league at 6-6
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Herrera inherited a young team rich at nearly every position. Nowhere is that more evident than in the outfield where seven players will see time until Herrera settles on a regular threesome, if he does at all. Seniors Bryan Lubash, a left-handed hitter, and Shayne Kline, and juniors Sean Howard, Keenan McAluney and Matt McHenry are in the plans. Still, the Warriors' best players appear to be up the middle, especially at catcher and shortstop. Derek Tamburro (.309, six doubles, three home runs, 20 RBIs) is an adept defensive backstop who probably will bat cleanup. At shortstop, Mike Lieberthal returns from an impressive sophomore season in which he batted .320 and hit three homers. Pairing with Lieberthal on the double play will be junior Tim Falsken. Chuck Foster, a senior who hit .361 last season, is at third base and J.R. Johnson and Steve Susco likely will split time at first. Along with being a good offensive team, the Warriors could have the pitching staff to challenge Camarillo and Simi Valley. Left-hander Mike Eby (6-3, 2.97), a junior with three effective pitches, could be dominant. "He's going to be our guy," Herrera said. Eby is joined by seniors John Brookman (three saves) and John Wandzilak, both right-handers, and junior right-hander Scott Lerner, the junior varsity ace last season.
OUTLOOK: Westlake should challenge for the league title, especially if the pitching is as strong as it appears. "I think Simi Valley is going to have a tough team like they normally do and Camarillo will be good," Herrera said. "We'll need timely pitching and timely hitting, and I don't mean separately. I mean at the same time."
DEL REY LEAGUE
COACH: Scott Muckey, third season
LAST SEASON: 17-11; tied for first in league at 8-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The most pressing problem Muckey faces is finding a way to make opposing pitchers throw to John Dempsey. John, the son of Dodger catcher Rick Dempsey and a catcher himself, hit .430 last season with nine doubles and 25 RBIs. A line-drive hitter, Dempsey needs a formidable hitter behind him. The leading candidates are seniors Chad Nichols, Chris Romero and Don Calabria (.324, 15 RBIs). Nichols, probably the Celts' best pitcher, batted .380 with 21 RBIs. When he isn't pitching, Nichols (4-6, 3.94 ERA) will play the outfield. Romero is expected to start at third base and Calabria will be an outfielder. Regardless of where they fit in, the foursome's presence will give Crespi punch in the middle. Left-hander Mark Kurtz will join Nichols on the pitching staff and Dempsey will be used primarily in short relief. Contending for starting positions are Kurtz and junior Scott Barton at first base, junior Pat Bennett at second, junior Mark Maurizi at shortstop and seniors Andy MacDonald and Mark D'Antonio in the outfield. "I think there's probably a little bit of balance in the lineup," Muckey said. "We're going to play the game fairly well and understand the game fairly well."
OUTLOOK: "I think we're going to be tough to beat," Muckey said. "But I don't think we're going to blow anybody out. There will be a lot of close games." In successive seasons, Crespi has struggled early before rallying to win at least a share of the league title. The Celts tied for the championship last season with Notre Dame, which has since departed for the San Fernando Valley League. "It looks like a five-team race," Muckey said. "All the teams seem to be fairly strong."
COACH: Jim Ozella, sixth season
LAST SEASON: 15-11; fourth in league at 6-6
PLAYERS TO WATCH: A couple of weeks ago, Joey Rosselli would have been tops in this category. But the junior left-hander broke his pitching hand in a fall in his home and broke Ozella's heart in the process. "That's not bad news, that's real bad news," Ozella said. "With Joey, I think we can win it. Before his injury, he raised his level. He was throwing bullets. We're talking pro material here." In Rosselli's place, senior right-handers Damon Paikos, Tom Daniels and John Lite will have to pick up a few extra innings of work. Defensively, Mike Sims returns at catcher, as does Jon Beauchemin at third. Sims hit .324 last season and Beauchemin had a good winter after struggling at the plate last year. Lite (.377, 17 RBIs) is learning to play second so Ozella can get his bat in the lineup when Lite isn't pitching. Three different Indians could eventually start at shortstop. Brian Swanson and Leo Tjada are fighting for first base and Ray Cano, Jeff Ordona and Daniels will play the outfield.
OUTLOOK: Bosco Tech has left for the Camino Real League, leaving the Del Rey with five teams. Under a new format, Del Rey teams will play one another three times. "The key now is to win the league series," Ozella said. "Sweep people and you start to run away with it." If Alemany can weather Rosselli's absence, it has a chance to challenge. "I think we're going to score some runs," Ozella said. "Even if Joey's not around, we're still going to score some runs."
COACH: Tom Moran, first season
LAST SEASON: 5-12; fifth in league at 4-8
PLAYERS TO WATCH: After assisting for six seasons, Moran takes over a program in need of direction. The Golden Knights should be strong up the middle with returning first-team all-leaguers Gregg Zaun at catcher and Mark Loretta, who is moving from second base to shortstop. Zaun, who Moran calls, "a Division I prospect," batted .410 and has the potential to hit with power. Loretta, a three-year starter, hit .405 in league and is being recruited by Stanford and Notre Dame. In center field, junior Matt Jones is a returning starter. Zaun, a nephew of Rick Dempsey, will be counted on to handle a pitching staff that needs to perform well. Erik Hagge (1-3 in league) is a returning starter and senior Mike Weisenberg was used primarily in relief last season. Also on the staff, juniors Mitch Bowen and Manny Fernandez have been promoted from the junior varsity. "We really need them to step forward and take charge for us to have any chance at all," Moran said. The starter at second base has yet to be found, but Derek Bedell is back at first base, and Bowen and John Knighton are at third. In the outfield, Scott Enriquez, a part-time starter last season, has returned to right. Left field is unsettled.
OUTLOOK: Moran mentioned Crespi, on the basis of consecutive league titles, as a favorite, but not a lock. "The Del Rey League is wide open," he said. "I don't perceive that anybody will come in and take command of the league." For St. Francis to challenge, it will have to find consistent pitching. Said Moran: "I think all the kids have the potential to play at this level."
COACH: Rich Duran, third season
LAST SEASON: 18-6-1; first in league at 11-2-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Dmitri Young returns after one of the finest freshman seasons the Valley-area observers have ever seen. Young, who will play third base, batted .420 (37 for 88), scored 21 runs and had six doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 29 runs batted in. Young, just 15 years old, is also the quickest Spartan, said Duran, who plans to run his team more than in the past. "He has all the tools," Duran said of Young. "We've timed him in 4.1 seconds to first, from the right side. He is so gifted." Young will bat third in the lineup, ahead of Steve Soliz, who batted .355 last season. Soliz is also a talented defensive catcher. "This year, I don't think anyone's going to pitch to Dmitri," Duran said. "I know I wouldn't." Defensively, Carlos Rios is at first base, David Frazier (.320) is at second, Shea Freeman at shortstop, and Daric Dicus, Tom Deardorf and Carlos Cendejas are in the outfield. Somewhere among his pitchers, Duran will have to find an extra 12 wins, which Bobby Ayala took with him when he graduated. Anthony Espinoza, a senior left-hander, and Jon Rust, a senior right-hander, appear to be the best bets. Espinoza, however, has experienced arm problems and might not be available for several weeks. Right-handers David Soliz, Henry Wilson and Frank Tinoco will need to fill in.
OUTLOOK: Buena and Dos Pueblos appear to have the most talent returning and will be the biggest challenges in the Spartans' quest to repeat. "I think down the road, our offense might be one of our strengths," Duran said. "And we have more team speed. We have four or five guys who can run real well." Rio Mesa's pitching, however, will have to come around. "Last year it was our strength," Duran said. "This year it's a question mark."
COACH: Tony Zarrillo, first season
LAST SEASON: 10-13; fifth in league at 5-10
PLAYERS TO WATCH: To hear Zarrillo tell it, if Crescenta Valley's pitching falls in line, the Falcons' time has come. But shaping up the team's pitching staff is no fait accompli . Zarrillo has lost starters Trey Pogue and Dominic Gonzalez so Scott Gleason, a shortstop who was used sparingly on the mound last season, will be called on more often. Gleason is a control pitcher and Zarrillo says his fastball is "good but not blazing." Junior pitcher Eric Berger moves up from the JV team to help and first baseman Shane Cowsill, who hit .390 with 39 RBIs last season, will also pitch. Hyok Chang, who played quarterback on the football team, will move from catcher to second base. Mike Johnson will play shortstop and Dan Sanchez, a part-time starter last year, will play third. Utility infielder Ernie Diaz might have the best hands on the team and Zarrillo hopes to groom him for the second base job. Victor Ramirez, a two-year starter, returns in center field, David Bayles returns in right and Mike Starkey, who was the left fielder and designated hitter last season, completes the outfield.
OUTLOOK: The Falcons return some good players but they might find wins difficult to come by unless their green pitching staff can find the strike zone. "We'll only go as far as our pitching," Zarrillo said. "And that's our greatest area of inexperience."
COACH: Chris Axelgard, second season
LAST SEASON: 14-8; first in league at 12-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Axelgard, The Times' All-Glendale coach of the year last season, will have a tough time coming up with an encore thanks to graduation. "I walked into kind of an nice situation last year," Axelgard said, "(but) everybody loses players." Not everybody loses a pitcher like Bob Moser (6-3, 1.28 ERA) and Jeff Sofro, who hit .397 in Pacific League play, though. Axelgard will look to all-league shortstop Swain Wukelich who led the Dynamiters with 28 RBIs. Ian Somerville, used sparingly last season, will replace Sofro at third base. Junior John Strauss, who was slated to catch last year but was bumped after a bad case of the sophomore jitters, will get another chance. Danny Gray and Curtis Jung will vie for the starting job at first. Glendale returns its entire outfield, led by all-league player Brent Overfelt and including center fielder Felipe Perez and Marco Rivas. Axelgard hopes oft-injured pitcher Robert DeTolve can fill Moser's cleats. DeTolve played center on the basketball team but spent much of the season nursing an injured knee.
OUTLOOK: The Glendale roster isn't deep and, according to Axelgard, "there isn't a left-hander in the whole school. . . This year I'll have to earn my money."
COACH: Bob Cooper, 14th season
LAST SEASON: 12-12; third in league at 8-7
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cooper says David Berkey should fill the void left by the departure of Sean Regan, last season's standout pitcher who posted a 7-5 record and now pitches at College of the Canyons. "With him pitching I have no question mark," Cooper said of Berkey, who will split time at shortstop. "He probably throws as hard as Sean. Maybe even harder. He's got a live arm." Questions arise, however, with the rest of the inexperienced staff: Eric Asselin, Paul Derrick and Bryan Day. "They have got to prove they can play at this level," Cooper said. Berkey, who batted .431 last season and led the team in doubles (nine), home runs (three) and steals (11), has proved himself, as has first baseman Mickey Moreno, who hit .414 last season and had a team-high 12 RBIs. Peter Kim returns for his third season at catcher and should contribute offensively. Junior Jose Robles will play third and Mike Regan, Sean's brother, will start at second. Reggie Marcado, Adam Wiggins and Asselin make up the outfield. Cooper's expectations are fairly modest. "They can hit it out of any park," he said. "But I don't expect them to hit it out too much. If they can hit two or three (home runs) that's big production.
OUTLOOK: Cooper says he is not sure about the team's ability to overcome adversity. "We could have a fairly good team but anything that happens to hinder the team will hinder our win-loss record," he said. But Cooper was impressed with the Tornadoes' 14-3 win over La Canada last Saturday. "We were in midseason form," he said.
COACH: Rich Montanio, second season
LAST SEASON: 5-15; fifth in league at 4-11
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior right-hander Sean Nichols, who was 3-4 with a 3.46 ERA last season, is the best of a battered pitching staff. Junior Don Moody (0-2, 5.67) recently underwent surgery on his right shoulder and is likely to be out for six weeks. Senior Rod Baltau, the school's quarterback, decided to throw fastballs this spring. "He looked real good, he was around the plate," Montanio said. Baltau, however, broke his right thumb in practice and also is lost for six weeks. Junior righthander Ben Ely begins the season academically ineligible, but should be eligible next week, Montanio said. Three-year starter Jason Stanley, who moves from third base to first, batted .306 but had only five RBIs. Second baseman Tim Rorick (.300), another three-year starter, and senior third baseman Cory Byars, who batted .423 with a team-high three home runs and 16 RBIs, add to "a good-looking infield," Montanio said. Senior shortstop Chris Flecher is unproven. Center fielder Kevin Backes (six RBIs) is a returning starter. Senior Ric Gombos returns at catcher. Sophomores Chris Stark (left field) and Roy Djorklund (right field) have earned starting positions.
OUTLOOK: Wanted: One starting pitcher, righty or lefty. "We need to come up with another starter real quick," Montanio said. The Cowboys also need to replace the offensive output of Gary Morgan, who batted .508 with 13 doubles last year before graduating. "We'll be in the hunt for second or third place if we get the pitching," Montanio said.
COACH: Doug Worley, 14th season
LAST SEASON: 18-8; second in league at 11-4.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior right-hander Roger Salkeld (6-foot-5, 210) might be the best high school pitcher in the state. Salkeld's career record: 17-7 with 212 strikeouts in 151 2/3 innings. "He's going to be outstanding," Worley said. Sizable senior right-handers Glenn Terry (6-foot-3, 200), who was 1-0 last year, and Chad Keene (6-foot-4, 220) also throw hard. Senior left-hander Scott Warr (2-0, 2.39) is the probable No. 2 pitcher and will also start in left field. "We're pretty good on the mound, not just with Roger," Worley said. Junior power-hitting catcher J.B. Johnson (6-0, 210) will bat cleanup. "This kid's gonna be heard from," Worley said. Senior center fielder Darrell Davis, who runs from home to first in 3.9 seconds, stole a school-record 29 bases in 32 attempts last year while batting .373 in the leadoff position. Senior second baseman Tom Burges has quick hands and junior Walter White "is the shortstop we've been waiting for," Worley said. Senior Trevor Rice replaces slugger Tom Dodson at third base. Senior first baseman George Lopata (.325, six doubles, three home runs) also returns. Twins Jeff and John Albert, both juniors, are battling for outfield postions. Returning senior Matt Tull will play right field.
OUTLOOK: The Centurions committed 96 errors last season, so defensive improvement is a must. A lot will depend on the play of Rice and Walters, both newcomers to the left side of the infield. Saugus is pitching-rich, but Worley insists the Centurions are more than a Salkeld fastball. "I think we'll be at least a good team, maybe a real good team," he said. "We may do something special this year."
COACH: Bud Murray, third season
LAST SEASON: 26-1; first in league at 15-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Although the Indians lost center fielder Joe DeShryver, who hit .470, and pitcher Chris Matkin (9-1), they return eight starters. All-Southern Section pitcher Jason Edwards (11-0) returns to head a staff which includes left-handers Andrew Lorraine and David Margraves and right-handed reliever Keith Halcovich, a sophomore. First baseman Ray Gardocki, who hit .376 and had a team-high 38 RBIs, should make a big contribution to the already powerful offensive arsenal. All-league second baseman Darin Tsukashima (.321), who stole a team-high 13 bases, and catcher Casey Burrill (.392), who hit six home runs and had 30 RBIs are part of that arsenal. Murray says senior third baseman David Toledo is probably the team's most improved player. Center fielder Jay Sanford hit .367 and stole six bases in limited play last season and might be the fastest player. Junior Lance Migita hit .403 and will start in left. Right fielder Chris Vasquez is also solid.
OUTLOOK: Murray says the disappointment of last season's loss to Fullerton in the second round of the playoffs could aid this year's team. "I think it was a good lesson for us," Murray said. "We wanted to win the CIF championship and we weren't tough enough to get it done." Though he cannot point to a reason why there might be a letdown from last season, Murray isn't expecting a command performance. "We're not going to do what we did last year," he vowed. "That just doesn't happen."
COACH: John Downum and Ray Moore, first season
LAST SEASON: 7-16; fifth in league at 2-13
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Downum and Moore, who took over for Gabe Margve, will have a tough time rebuilding Burbank in the difficult Foothill League. They are, however, starting with a solid pitching staff led by left-handed senior Steve Trainor. Junior Brian Gordon, a defensive end on the football team, and Anthony Valento, the Bulldogs' quarterback, will also pitch. Kevin Kruse returns in center field and adds some bat strength, as does left fielder Jim Cafferty. When he's not pitching, Gordon will play right field. Sophomore William Rivera starts at shortstop and though Rivera has no varsity experience, Downum says he has potential. "He's not a great shortstop but he's got good lateral movement and great hands," Downum said. "He's just a workaholic." Even better hands belong to third baseman David Fabienke, who returns at the hot corner. Jess Richardson will probably start at second base and junior Steve Kelly will take over at catcher.
OUTLOOK: "It's not like a total reconstruction year for us," Downum said. "I know that we're not a last-place team. Really, I think we can contend for a playoff spot." Because of the Bulldogs' inexperience, however, other league coaches might disagree.
COACH: Ed Knaggs, second seasons
LAST SEASON: 7-16; fifth in league at 2-13
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Burroughs was hit hard by graduation, but the Indians do have five returning players and a strong pitching staff. Senior Brian Forth was 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA last season. "We will not be totally out of games with our pitchers," Knaggs said. Chris Westbury will split time between the mound and third base and Knaggs calls southpaw Mitch Megas, "Our primary stud out of the pen." The team's best infielder is probably Mario Joy, who moved from second to shortstop. Joy, batted .318 last season, will have to fill the void left by E. J. Pape, now playing at Valley College, who led Burroughs with a .420 average, four home runs and 17 RBIs. Among those returning is center fielder Rob Arroyo, who will probably be the leadoff batter, and Tom Phillips, a catcher and outfielder.
OUTLOOK: "Our ballclub is not real strong," Knaggs said. "We're pretty much starting from scratch." Knaggs says if the pitching fares as well as he expects, his team's chances of making the playoffs are good but adds Hart should dominate league competition. "If I were sitting there in practice telling (the team) we are going to win league, I wouldn't be too up front," he said.