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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL PREVIEWS : City Central : Crawford Lines Up Ready to Defend Championship

If this season’s nonleague records are any indication, there should be little change from last year when the City Central League begins play today.

The best nonleague mark belongs to Crawford (8-3), followed by San Diego, Hoover, St. Augustine, Christian and Lincoln.

Only Hoover and San Diego are flip-flopped from last year’s final league standings. Crawford won its first baseball league title since 1974 and its first in the seven-year history of the league.

The Colts should repeat in 1989. Every City Central coach picked them, including Crawford’s Roger Engle, dean of the league’s coaches.

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“I would guess we are the favorite,” Engle said of his sixth season. “But with 15 league games, anything can happen.”

Christian

Last season: 3-19, 3-12 league (fifth).

Coach: Tim Meinert.

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Top returners: Merv Hartman (senior, C); Shawn Anderson (senior, CF); Jim Rost (senior, P).

Top newcomer: Jamie Anglin (senior, SS/P).

Outlook: Christian (2-5) has won two more games than it did in 1988 nonleague play, but the Patriots probably do not have enough experience to challenge. Hartman, a first-team all-league selection, is hitting .500 with three home runs and nine RBIs. Anglin, a transfer from Point Loma, is hitting .400 with nine RBIs and Chad Savage (3B/P) is batting .425. Christian will field as many as four sophomores in the starting lineup with infielders Billy Herrera and Jeff Rose, first baseman David Piester and left fielder Kevin Harris.

Crawford

Last season: 18-7, 13-2 league (first).

Coach: Roger Engle.

Top returners: Manny Gagliano (senior, P/Inf.); A.J. Leighton (senior, P); Jeff Thrift (senior, SS/P); Eric Turner (senior, CF); John Edge (senior, Inf./P).

Top newcomer: Chris Townsend (junior, 2B).

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Outlook: Thirteen players, including six starters, return for the defending league champions. Turner, the leadoff hitter, is batting .500 with 10 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. Townsend (3-0), Leighton (2-2) and Thrift (1-0, two saves, 0.78 earned-run average) have helped give the Colts a 3.32 team ERA. Leighton and Gagliano are the school’s first four-year starters (Kansas City Royals catcher Bob Boone was not).

Hoover

Last season: 18-9, 11-4 league (second).

Coach: Chuck Giles.

Top returners: Tyrone Upton (senior, CF); Albert Canedo (senior, Utility); Felipe Preciado (senior, P/3B).

Top newcomers: Tony Banks (sophomore, SS); Roger Blake (sophomore, C).

Outlook: The Cardinals (5-5-1) return only six players (three starters) from a team that reached last season’s quarterfinals. The returning starters also are this season’s top performers: Upton (.410, two home runs, 16 RBIs), Preciado (.400, three home runs) and Canedo (.382, 2-0 pitching). The pitching staff, all right-handers, is suspect. Hoover allowed 54 runs in three Lions tournament games.

Lincoln

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Last season: 3-20, 2-13 league (sixth).

Coach: David Hanula.

Top returners: Ron Jones (senior, SS); James Davis (senior, 3B/P); Monte Smith (senior, 1B/P).

Top newcomers: Lonnie Fields (senior, OF).

Outlook: The Hornets (2-6) are improved, but how much remains to be seen. Fields (.462) has been a tremendous surprise with the bat and has range in the outfield. Jones (.481, 10 stolen bases), Davis (.300, 10 RBIs), Smith (nine RBIs) and Donald Anderson make up a formidable infield. Left-hander Leonard Hill (1-2, 17 strikeouts in 14 innings) is the top pitcher.

St. Augustine

Last season: 11-13, 8-7 league (third, tie).

Coach: Mike Stephenson.

Top returners: Mark Jackson (senior, P); Jim Bitler (senior, 2B); Eric Dent (junior, 3B); Brad Gennaro (senior, P/SS).

Top newcomers: Larry Muraski (junior, OF).

Outlook: League coaches picked the Saints (5-6) as the most improved team and the most likely to upend Crawford. With Jackson, Gennaro, Mike Fuson and Mike Bryant, the Saints have four left-handers and possibly the league’s best pitching staff. Seniors Bitler, Gennaro, Mike Mossuto and Juan Lopez started as sophomores, Dent as a freshman. That experience helped the Saints give perennial 3-A power Mt. Carmel its only loss so far this season, 8-7, in the season opener. Stephenson, a first-year coach, assisted Bill Whitaker in 1988.

San Diego

Last season: 16-9, 8-7 league (third, tie).

Coach: Tom Lopez.

Top returners: Brian Baird (senior, CF); Junior Guzman (senior, 2B); Josh Stepner (junior, P/SS).

Top newcomer: Chino Arreola (sophomore, SS).

Outlook: Baird (last season’s most valuable player), Stepner, Claudio Moreno and Kian Sly all are hitting around .400. Stepner (2-1), Moreno and Ceasar Ochoa (0-2) have been solid pitchers. The problem for the Cavers (5-3-1) has been defense, prompting Lopez to describe San Diego’s forecast as “partly cloudy with scattered showers.” San Diego started the season 4-0-1, then lost to Southwest in the GMC tournament final and went 1-2 in the Lions tournament.


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