Avocado League Baseball Preview : Several Teams Seem Ready to Challenge Defending Champion Carlsbad

Carlsbad High School has plunged from the elite to the mediocre.

A year ago, the Lancers finished atop the Avocado League standings with a 13-1 record (20-5 overall). So far this spring, they are 6-6.

And while Carlsbad seems to be falling to the middle of the pack, other teams are displaying upward mobility.

San Pasqual, Escondido, Oceanside and Rancho Buena Vista are poised to wrestle the title from Carlsbad--and Ramona might not be far behind.



Last season: 20-5, 13-1 league (first).

Coach: Joe Pimentel.

Top returners: Buck Taylor (senior, C); Scott Karl (senior, 1B); Jeff Myers (senior, 1B); Larry Griffith (senior, 2B); Bryan Black (junior, CF).


Top newcomers: Bryan Vasey (sophomore, SS); Geoff Stadnyk (sophomore, OF/1B); Jeff Westbay (junior, P); Jeff Jarred (junior, 3B); Chris Greene (junior, RF).

Outlook: Pimentel insists his team has yet to put together “back-to-back games in which we’ve played really well.” The main problem, he says, is a lack of leadership. There is no one yet to fill the shoes of graduated shortstop Tim Granich (Loyola Marymount) and catcher Adrian Lopez (Palomar College).

El Camino

Last season: 5-18, 4-10 league (seventh).

Coach: Adrian Leon.

Top returnees: Ricky Spears (junior, C); Todd Swanson (senior, CF); Scott Hertweck (senior, P); Reggie Carter (senior, 3B/2B).

Top newcomers: Bobby Wamble (junior, 1B); Fred Hernandez (junior, SS); Jerry Almada (sophomore, OF/3B).

Outlook: Last year’s 4-10 league mark might not look great, but it represented an about-face from 1987, when the Wildcats were winless. The Wildcats have won four of 11 so far this season. “I think we’re vastly improved over what we were last year,” Leon said. Hernandez moves from third to shortstop and will anchor the infield. Swanson, point guard for El Camino’s basketball team, also will be a leader here; he has an average over .500. Spears has four home runs, all since being moved to leadoff.



Last season: 15-11, 9-5 league (third).

Coach: Bill Kutzner.

Top returners: Tom Afenir (junior, C); Robert Erp (senior P); Gerald Cabral (senior, SS); Brian Frank (senior, 1B).

Top Newcomers: Robert Chavez (junior, P); Bryan Klungsetter (junior, P); Mike Garcia (junior, P); Brent Reynolds (senior, P).

Outlook: If it’s true that you can’t have enough pitching, Escondido should win the section championship. Reynolds has an ERA of 1.50 in 20-plus innings. Garcia, pitching for the first time in two years, shut out Marian during Mike Morrow/Lions tournament play last week. Strong defense at two positions--Cabral at shortstop and Afenir catching--should help the pitching staff keep its ERA down. “That’s where I like to begin my teams--at catcher and at shortstop,” Kutzner said.


Last season: 8-17, 3-11 (eighth, last).


Coach: Dave Barrett.

Top returnees: Fred Armijo (senior 3B); Angel Torres (junior, SS); Steve Larson (senior 2B); Rico Lopez (senior, DH/C).

Top newcomers: Andrew Acevedo (junior, P); Saul Gutierrez (sophomore, P); Bill Precht (junior, P); Ben Pai (junior, P); Kenya Hunt (junior, P); Sibian Fuimaono (senior, DH).

Outlook: Like Escondido, Oceanside is well-stocked with pitchers. Unlike Escondido, Oceanside does not have a senior pitcher. Hunt--6-feet-5--is the hardest thrower on the staff. Acevedo already has a 13-strikeout performance (against Temecula Valley). Precht is a relief specialist with a 1-0 record and two saves. Lopez should lead at the plate. He batted .350 in league last year, .450 in 1987 and is over .400 this spring. Fuimaono is batting over .350 and has two home runs.


Last season: 10-13, 4-10 league (fifth).

Coach: Giff Asimos.

Top returnees: Chris Gunnett (senior, P/CF); Ty Wilson (senior, 1B); Jason Waite (senior, P).

Top newcomers: Troy Wood (senior, 3B); Jason Gonzales (senior, 2B).

Outlook: The Bulldogs are 5-3 under their first-year coach. Their offense has come from Wilson (three home runs), Wood (three homers), Dart (batting more than .500) and Gonzales (who has some base-stealing potential with 4.5 speed in the 40). Ramona scored in double figures in its first four games of the season.

Rancho Buena Vista

Last season: 8-17, 4-10 league (sixth).

Coach: Steve Hargrave.

Top returnees: Jon Robirds (senior, 1B/P); Robert McLeod (senior, P/LF); Lonny Maniscalco (senior, RF); Greg Anderson (senior, DH); Steve Valencia (junior, 2B); Jason Schmeiser (junior, SS).

Top newcomers: Kevin Lippert (junior, C); James Gore (sophomore, CF).

Outlook: After suffering through the growing pains of a first-year school a year ago, the Longhorns now have a wealth of experience. McLeod is the big star, 4-0 pitching and a top hitter. In the Eldorado tournament in Las Vegas last week, he went nine for 14 with two doubles, six runs and seven RBIs. Gore, a transfer from Washington, has been a pleasant surprise. He hit over .700 in the tournament and scored 12 runs in four games. And he’s the No. 9 hitter. Key statistic: Last year, the Longhorns hit .208. So far this season, they’re at .320.

San Marcos

Last season: 13-9, 8-6 league (fourth).

Coach: Ron Layton.

Top returnees: Gordon Sanchez (senior, C); Toby Lehman (senior P/OF).

Top newcomers: Joe Balardeta (senior, DH/3B); Steve Kundringer (junior, OF/IF); Eric Morton (sophomore, 3B/1B).

Outlook: Since returning from a shoulder injury, Sanchez has gone eight for 15 with two home runs. Kundringer has been on base in his last nine at-bats. The pitching, sporadic thus far, must find itself if the Knights are to finish among the top four.

San Pasqual

Last season: 15-9, 11-3 league (second).

Coach: Bill McAllister.

Top returnees: Kevin Herde (senior, P/3B/C); Mike Escarcega (senior, P/3B); Jim Clayton (senior, SS).

Top newcomers: Tony Medina (senior, C); Dave Vejtasa (junior, 1B); Eric Marsh (junior, LF); Tim Young (junior, P).

Outlook: Escarcega tied a section record at the beginning of the season, hitting safely in 12 consecutive at-bats. Escondido’s Andy Martin set the record three years ago as a sophomore. Thus far, Escarcega is 24 for 37 (.649). Herde, like Escarcega a top college prospect, is 14 for 36. As a team, the Eagles are batting .340. “That’s a real pleasant surprise,” McAllister said. “Because one question I had going into the season was whether or not we could hit the ball.” The pitching, which McAllister had no questions about, has faltered somewhat. The Eagles have scored 57 runs in the past five games, but they have allowed 38.