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Palomar League Baseball Preview : League Is High on Itself, and No Team Looks Better Than Mt. Carmel

Palomar League coaches know all about the rumblings in East County.

They are well aware that the defending 3-A San Diego Section champion and runner-up reside somewhere east of Interstate 805. But most stand united in the belief that they are part of the county’s strongest league.

“We think we have the best baseball league,” Orange Glen Coach Art Warren said. “From top to bottom, we have the best league in the county, though I know people in the Grossmont League will dispute that.”

What no one can dispute is Mt. Carmel’s 10-2 record, its history as a league powerhouse--eight league titles since 1979--and its nine senior starters.

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“It’s a pretty evenly matched league,” Mt. Carmel Coach Sam Blalock said, “but I still think we’re the best.”

It’s not that clear among two through seven.

“Mt. Carmel for the title,” Fallbrook Coach Dave Heid said. “Everyone else is about even. It’ll come down to pitching matchups.”

Fallbrook

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Last season: 14-10, 6-6 league (fourth).

Coach: Dave Heid.

Top returners: Dirk Fisher (senior, CF); Mike Gainsborough (senior, P/OF); Wade Pearson (senior, 2B); Erik Larsen (senior, SS).

Top newcomers: None.

Outlook: What Fallbrook lacks in power and pitching experience, it could make up for in run production, speed and experience in the infield. In 11 games, the Warriors are 8-3 and have scored 112 runs. Pearson and Larsen help solidify the infield, and Gainsborough (3-1, 2.54 earned-run average last year) is back, but Fallbrook still lacks pitching, particularly a stopper. Fisher is a top talent, “a draftable type kid,” Heid said.

Mt. Carmel

Last season: 20-10, 10-2 league (first, tie).

Coach: Sam Blalock.

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Top returners: John Tejcek (senior, SS); Byron Klemaske (senior, P); Marcus Lee (senior, OF); Mark Van Aelstyn (senior 3B).

Top newcomers: Ed Cornblum (senior, 2B, transfer from Poway).

Outlook: Weakness isn’t the question; strength is. Which is mightier, the Sundevils’ pitching or hitting? “Pitching is usually one of our strong suits,” Blalock said. Wearing those suits are Klemaske (4-1, 1.7 ERA this year), junior Doug Hill (4-0), junior Geoff Blake (0-1, three saves), senior Joe Wallace and sophomore Scott Tebetts, who pitched a no-hitter with no walks in an early-season game. The hitting, featuring Tejcek, Van Aelstyn, Lee and A.J. Forlano, is averaging three or four hits a game. “We have lots of power this year,” Blalock said.

Orange Glen

Last season: 6-21-1, 0-12 league (seventh).

Coach: Art Warren.

Top returners: Shannon Vinje (senior, 2B); Herman Moreno (senior, SS); Gavin Dooley (senior, C); Matt Taylor (senior, P/OF).

Top newcomers: None.

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Outlook: Warren has confidence in the infield duo of Vinje--Orange Glen’s top hitter this year--and Moreno, but has other worries, such as hitting and consistency. “We haven’t been able to get the big play, the big hit,” Warren said. “We’ve played well, but in spurts.” Orange Glen lacks star-quality pitching but has Taylor, junior Scott Coleman, Jim Roby and David Silva for depth.

Poway

Last season: 16-7, 10-2 league (first, tie).

Coach: Rudy Casciato.

Top returners: Mike Beam (senior, C); John Uglow (senior, P/RF); Pat Vanoni (senior, OF); Greg Sorrell (junior, OF).

Top newcomers: Brock Marsh (sophomore, 3B).

Outlook: Five returning starters and pure athletic talents such as all-league football receiver Doug Schwenke and Sorrell--a center on the basketball team--should help the Titans. Poway is young in the infield--"We had the same early problems last year,” Casciato said--but has a strong outfield and experienced pitching; Danny Miller and Uglow (1-1, .70 ERA this year) return. Beam will split time with Matt Schwenke at catcher. Newcomer Marsh is the team’s leading hitter (.355) so far.

San Dieguito

Last season: 14-5, 3-9 league (sixth).

Coach: Darold Nogle.

Top returners: Mike Henry (junior, CF); Bryan Thistle (junior, SS); Danny Monreal (senior, OF); Justin Machado (senior, 1B).

Top newcomers: None.

Outlook: Nate Fleck (.333 this year) joins Henry, Thistle (.320), Monreal and Machado as the backbone of the Mustangs (8-4-1), who are especially strong defensively. “We make the plays when we have to,” Nogle said, “the ground-ball outs, the double plays.” Offensively, Nogle says, his players will apply pressure and battle pitchers but need to use better judgment on the bases. Jeff Gold and Erik Luna are returning pitchers.

Torrey Pines

Last season: 21-4, 8-4 league (third).

Coach: Frank Chambliss.

Top returners: John Lynch (senior, P/3B); Preston Bynes (junior, SS/CF); Brian Hochleutner (sophomore, P); John Finley (senior, P/LF).

Top newcomers: Eric Applefield (senior, C).

Outlook: Chambliss has a number of seniors (10) and six returners, but many are rusty. “The returners didn’t play a lot of winter baseball,” Chambliss said. The Falcons are batting .305 and have good speed, but defense and pitching needs to come around. Lynch is 15 for 31 for the season with six doubles and one home run. Torrey Pines is 5-5-1, and Hochleutner has the four victories. Senior pitcher Mike Hochleutner, Brian’s brother, was 6-0 last year, but is struggling at 0-2.

Vista

Last season: 11-14-1,, 5-7 league (fifth).

Coach: Butch Smith.

Top returners: John Land (senior, P/SS); Brian Fleming (senior, 3B/C); Scott Collins (senior, OF/SS); Reggie De Leon (senior, P/IF).

Top newcomers: Rodney De Leon (sophomore, P/1B).

Outlook: Smith, in his first year, has led the Panthers to an early 7-3-1 record with two returning starters, Land and Fleming. Vista has established itself as a hitting team and one that won’t be deflated by a large deficit. Vista doesn’t have great depth but is strong up the middle and will emphasis “pitching defense,” Smith said. “We have to keep runners on, keep them tight, not giving them too big a lead.” Land, the De Leon brothers, Herbie Weston and Bryan Tamburrino make up the pitching staff.


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