At the start of the Orange Empire Conference baseball season about a month ago, Cypress and Orange Coast colleges were the favorites.
But after a third of the schedule, a couple of surprising teams--Rancho Santiago and Golden West--have joined Cypress and OCC in the chase for the title.
Rancho Santiago (17-9 overall and 7-2 in conference play) leads by a half game over Golden West (12-7-1, 6-2). OCC (18-7-1, 5-4) is third, Cypress (18-9, 4-4) fourth, Saddleback (11-6-1, 3-4-1) fifth, Fullerton (8-14, 3-6) sixth and Riverside (4-15-1, 1-7-1) seventh.
Defending champion Rancho Santiago has been led by sophomore pitcher Jack Bailey, who is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in conference play.
“I’m happy to be where we are, but I’m not content with this team,” Rancho Santiago Coach Don Sneddon said. “We had some questions about this team before the season that I’m not sure have been answered yet.”
Golden West’s performance is more unexpected than Rancho Santiago’s because shortstop Craig Paquette, catcher Dan Villegas and pitcher Toby Foreman were the only returning regulars for the Rustlers.
Golden West faces its most important week so far starting today when the Rustlers play at district rival Orange Coast. Thursday, Golden West plays host to Cypress, then travels to Rancho Santiago Saturday.
“It’s one of those weeks where you don’t get a lot of sleep,” said first-year Coach Bert Villareal. “We’ve got all the teams that are up there with us and we’ll need a big week from some people.”
Rancho Santiago has a bye today, plays at Riverside Thursday and plays host to Golden West Saturday.
“I’m happy to be in front but the problem is there is still a long way to go,” Sneddon said. “It would be nice to have the season over.”
Homer, homer: Golden West shortstop Craig Paquette hit a pair of home runs in a game for the third time this season in the Saddleback tournament last week. Paquette has hit two home runs against Cerritos, Saddleback and Rio Hondo this season. Four of the home runs have come at Saddleback College. Golden West played Rio Hondo in a tournament earlier this season.
Paquette, a sophomore, is tied for the conference lead with eight home runs with Steve Gill of Cypress and Scott Talanoa of OCC.
“I just wish he would spread them out a bit,” Golden West Coach Burt Villareal said, joking. “We will need him to hit a few more down the line.”
Al Carmichael, a running back on the 1949 Santa Ana (now Rancho Santiago) football team that reached the Junior Rose Bowl, will be inducted into the California Community College Football Coaches’ Hall of Fame.
The ceremony will be April 8 at the Red Lion Inn in San Jose. Carmichael, who now lives in Palm Springs, played three seasons for USC (1950-52).
He caught the only touchdown pass in USC’s 7-0 victory over Wisconsin in the 1953 Rose Bowl.
Carmichael was a first-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1953. He still holds the Green Bay record for longest kickoff return, a 106-yarder against the Chicago Bears in 1956.
Carmichael played with the Packers until 1958, then played with the Denver Broncos in 1960 and ’61, retiring after the season. He became a member of the Packers’ hall of fame in 1974.
JoAnne Markling, a sophomore for Fullerton, set a school record with 4,104 points in the heptathlon at the Occidental open meet March 18.
In the meet, she tied the Fullerton record in the high jump (5-5). She bettered her mark of 3,898 points set last season in the state meet when she finished seventh.
The Fullerton women’s track and field team is 4-0 and travels to Riverside (4-0) Friday at 2:30 p.m. to decide the conference title.
Community College Notes
Jason Friedman of Cypress has an 18-game hitting streak and has a hit in 26 of the Chargers’ 27 games this season . . . OCC, normally a power team, has switched to the stolen base this season. Jason Young has stolen eight in eight attempts and Marty Cordova has stolen eight of nine for the Pirates, who have stolen 44 of 48 in 26 games. OCC is 19 of 20 in conference play. . . . Pitcher Colleen Moore of Cypress was voted the most valuable player of the Visalia softball tournament last week. . . . The Fullerton softball team (19-9 overall and 5-0 in the Orange Empire Conference) has had some help from basketball players recently. Debbie Wagner, an all-conference guard, has played in eight games and is hitting .536 (15 for 28). Kelli Johnson, the most valuable player of the Orange Empire Conference, is hitting .333 (six for 18) in six games.