Roger Salkeld is under the gun.
The speed gun, to be specific. Every time Salkeld, Saugus’ 6-foot-5 senior right-hander takes the mound, an arsenal of barrels point his way. When Salkeld is finished throwing, scouts holster their guns and hit the road.
Salkeld, who was 8-3 with a 1.40 earned-run average and 126 strikeouts in 75 innings last season, is scheduled to pitch today against Gahr in the first round of the El Segundo tournament.
During a recent scrimmage against Hart, Salkeld was clocked at 93 and 94 m.p.h. by guns of different manufacturers, Saugus assistant coach Bill Bolde said.
“It’s safe to say he’s throwing 90,” Bolde said.
Salkeld, who has been selected the No. 3 high school prospect nationwide by Baseball America magazine, has drawn the interest of several major colleges but has narrowed his choices to USC, Arizona and Texas, in that order.
Several major league clubs are gunning for him, too.
“I get an awful lot of calls from people wanting to know when he’s going to throw,” Saugus Coach Doug Worley said. “He’s just a whole level up from last year. He’s getting people out with less pitches.
“He just gets right to it. He’s throwing a changeup on full counts and guys are just swinging when it leaves his hands. It’s for real. He’s gonna be something.”
Net gain: The residents on Lemarsh Street in Chatsworth will finally get their wish when construction begins Monday at Chatsworth High to erect a net that will rise about 35 feet high, nearly 20 feet higher than the existing chain-link left-field fence.
For years, Chatsworth Coach Bob Lofrano said, tenants in the apartment buildings across the street from the field have complained of baseballs flying over the fence. Lofrano agreed that it was high time for a higher fence.
“The question is, why now?” the coach asked.
Lofrano is displeased that work is under way now rather than during the off-season. The net will require five wooden support poles and an eight-foot fence inside the existing fence to protect outfielders from running into the poles. Lofrano has yet to establish ground rules to govern the inside fence.
Construction has forced Chatsworth to reschedule Tuesday’s Westside tournament game against Canyon for Wednesday at Cal State Northridge. Should today’s tournament opener against visiting Notre Dame be rained out, Lofrano said, the game will be played Monday at Granada Hills High.
“We’re dealing with the (L. A. Unified) School District,” Lofrano said. “So, we’re dealing with a lot of red tape. They asked me when I wanted it done and I said June, so that’s why they’re doing it in March.
“Shows the pull I have around here.”
From bad to worse: With only two starters returning from last year’s Santa Fe League champion baseball team, St. Genevieve Coach Kevin Kane had plenty of holes to fill in this year’s lineup.
But Kane’s task became even more difficult when he discovered that two projected starters--with varsity experience from last year--would not play for the Valiants this season.
Ron Nielsen, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound power hitter who played on the Valiants’ offensive line in the football season, opted to concentrate on weight training for next fall’s college football season. In addition, first baseman Javier Garcia was ruled academically ineligible.
Although Neilsen has yet to sign a letter of intent with any school, Kane said he understood the decision to forgo his senior season of baseball, but he was not so kind in his appraisal of Garcia.
“Football is Ron’s No. 1 sport,” Kane said. “Baseball has always been No. 3 on his list behind football and basketball, so I’m not bitter about his decision. But Javier just didn’t do the job in the classroom. And you’ve got to do that before you play sports here.”
The loss of Neilsen and Garcia was an especially big blow to the Valiants’ offense.
“They both had a lot of power and game experience,” Kane said. “Neither one of them hit for great averages, but they’d drive in a lot of runs.”
Helping hand: The renovation of the Simi Valley baseball field received a boost when Coach Mike Scyphers bumped into the father of junior varsity player Jim Dantona in a local restaurant last week.
Scyphers told Jim Dantona Sr. of his plan to re-sod part of the field and convert the outfield fence from metal construction to wood.
But the project had stalled because the team’s fund-raising drive was $3,200 shy.
No problem, said Dantona, who contributed the difference. The team completed the work in time for Simi Valley’s scheduled season opener today against Muir at Pioneer Field.
Staff writers Tim Brown, Steve Elling, John Lynch, John Ortega and Vince Kowalick contributed to this notebook.