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BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST : Another Season Means New Names for the County’s Who’s Who List

Times Staff Writer

They’re out there, speed guns and stop watches in hand.

Scouts from major league and college teams gather behind backstops across Orange County to watch and judge the finest high school baseball players the county has to offer.

But which players are they watching?

Who are the best players? Who has the best arm? The best legs? Who swings the best bat?

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Here’s a list of some of the county’s top baseball players:

PITCHERS

Rene Arias (Fullerton, senior): He had a 7-1 record with a 2.06 earned-run average while helping Fullerton to a share of the Freeway League title last season. Arias pitched a no-hitter against Leuzinger in the first round of the playoffs last season.

David Goldstein (Irvine, senior): Technically as sound as any pitcher in the county, he has an 85 m.p.h. fastball and is 2-1 this season. Tom House, a former major leaguer, said Goldstein’s mechanics are among the best he has seen among high school players.

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Greg Hansell (Kennedy, senior): The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Hansell was a star on the football and basketball teams. He showed off his baseball talents last season with 72 strikeouts, a 7-2 record and a 1.45 ERA. He’s a key figure in Kennedy’s drive for the Garden Grove League championship. So far, he’s 2-1 with a save.

Monty Jones (Tustin, senior): Jones also plays third base, but he’s best at pitching. Jones was third among county pitchers last season with 89 strikeouts.

Matt Luke (El Dorado, senior): He pitched a no-hitter Saturday, striking out six and walking eight, in a 5-0 victory over Servite. With that kind of start it’s no wonder El Dorado is the favorite to win the always tough Empire League. Luke (2-0) is an imposing figure on the mound at 6-6, 215. The left-hander was a starter on the football and basketball teams. He was co-MVP on the Empire League in basketball.

Tony Pena (Mater Dei, senior): Pena is the only first-team Times’ All-County player back from last season. He is on his way to another fine season with a 2-0 record, two saves and an 0.47 ERA. As a junior, Pena was 10-1 with 63 strikeouts a and 1.47 ERA.

Brian Stubbs (Westminster, senior): Last season, he teamed with Ryan Klesko to form a strong pitching tandem. He’ll be counted on to be the team’s power pitcher this season. He had 80 strikeouts last season and was 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA.

Roger Weems (Esperanza, senior): To opponents it might seem that Weems has been on the mound forever, but this is indeed his last season. After a 8-0 record was a sophomore, Weems tailed off last year to “just” 9-4. Esperanza Coach Mike Curran is waiting to get Weems, who has a sore arm, into the rotation.

Tom Wilson (Troy, senior): Dan Robinson, Troy coach, calls Wilson the best player in the Freeway League. And that’s saying something with the likes of Rene Arias and Steve DePhillips of Fullerton also playing.

Winston Wolf (Los Alamitos, senior): Wolf was 9-1 with a 1.57 ERA last season. He is recovering slowly from shoulder surgery after football season. How he recovers is key to Los Alamitos’ fortunes this season, particularly because catcher Greg Pirkl, The Times’ Player of the Year, has graduated.

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CATCHERS

Steve DePhillips (Fullerton, senior): DePhillips is a 6-2, 215-pound power hitter. Last season, he had six homers and 31 runs batted in. Also a rugged running back on the football team.

Dave Dieter (University, senior): He was the starting point guard on the basketball team, but it’s baseball that has earned him the most attention. He batted .474 last season and is the best University player since Tim Wallach, who now plays third base for the Montreal Expos.

Mark Dodd (Fountain Valley, senior): He showed good power last season and finished with nine home runs, tying for the county lead. He also had 29 RBIs. His hitting is one reason Fountain Valley is one of the challengers in a wide-open Sunset League race.

Mike Helm (Laguna Hills, senior): He is one of three Laguna Hills players who are starting their fourth season on the varsity. He had 35 hits and batted a team-leading .449 last season.

Rob Ickes (Mater Dei, senior): He’s got great mechanics behind the plate. So far, he has thrown out five of seven runners attempting to steal on him. A switch-hitter, Ickes has improved his hitting since last season and is batting .387.

Julio Vargas (Santa Ana, senior): Vargas was on The Times’ All-County second team last season. “He’s as good as there is,” Santa Ana Coach Bill Ross said. Vargas has six RBIs and is five for 10 in the Saints’ first four games this season.

Scott Vollmer (Irvine, senior): He is a wiry, 6-1, 160-pounder Irvine Coach Bob Flint calls a baseball junkie. He’s a hard worker who is very good defensively. He’s hitting an impressive .412 so far this season.

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INFIELDERS

Kevin Ashworth (Pacifica, senior): He was sixth in the county in batting last season with a .500 average. Ashworth, a 6-1 first baseman, also had 28 RBIs to lead an upstart Pacifica team to second place in the Garden Grove League.

Jason Bates (Esperanza, senior): Bates, a transfer from Whittier Christian, is a slick-fielding shortstop. He’s very quick on his feet and has a strong arm, according to Mike Curran. Bates is hitting .380 with a triple and two doubles for the Aztecs.

Gary Christopherson (Ocean View, senior): He hit .380 with five home runs to lead Ocean View to the Sunset League championship last year. New Ocean View Coach Steve Barrett calls Christopherson, a third baseman, the best player in the league. He has been named to the all-league team the past two seasons.

Sean Drinkwater (El Toro, senior): Great hands and range at his shortstop position. He also was a standout wide receiver on the Charger football team.

Eric Ekdahl (Mission Viejo, senior): A versatile athlete, Ekdahl, a shortstop, has committed to play at Pepperdine. He was a star running back on the Diablo football team and played on the soccer team last year, but is concentrating on baseball this season. Ekdahl is hitting .500.

Bo Haley (El Toro, senior): Haley played left field last season as the Chargers advanced to the Southern Section 3-A championship game. This season, he has moved to third base. Haley was named the most valuable defensive player in the Loara tournament.

Ryan Klesko (Westminster, senior): A 6-3, 220-pound first baseman, he is considered one of the top prospects in the country by one national baseball magazine. He hit .467 with six home runs and 32 RBIs last season. He also pitches, but a sore elbow has kept him at first this season. He was 5-2 with 68 strikeouts and a 1.84 ERA last year.

Troy Kopp (Mission Viejo, senior): A first baseman/pitcher, Kopp has committed to the University of the Pacific, where he will try to play baseball and football. This season, he is five of 12 with four RBIs and a home run.

Phil Nevin (El Dorado, senior): He hit two home runs in a game Monday night against Ocean View at Cal State Fullerton, where he’ll play next season. Nevin, who hit .413 last season, heads an impressive lineup for the Golden Hawks. He is a three-year starter as third base.

Terry Rahmatulla (Irvine, senior): A four-year starter, Rahmatulla anchors the team from his shortstop position. He’s a left-handed leadoff hitter, batting .313 so far this season.

Rob Milo (Laguna Hills): Milo is a four-year varsity player. This season he’s playing first base. He has been suffering from back spasms and has only pitched one innning this season.

OUTFIELDERS

Ed Garcia (Brea-Olinda, senior): A center fielder, Garcia is hitting .400 with three home runs and 12 RBIs so far. He hit only two homers all of last season.

Keef Leasure (Valencia, senior): Leasure played in the shadow of Mike Edwards, an all-county performer now at the University of Utah, last season, but is ready to emerge this year. He hit .473 with six home runs and 31 RBIs.

Lance Marks (Dana Hills, senior): Marks led a heavy-hitting Dana Hills attack last season. He had eight home runs, second most in the county last season, and 31 RBIs as Dana Hills finished second in the South Coast League.

Chris Sheff (Laguna Hills, senior): Sheff, a center fielder, was a .440 hitter (37 for 84). Sheff also scored 31 runs. He’ll be counted on to lead the Hawks’ playoff chances this season. Sheff is hitting .418 this season.


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