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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE REGIONAL BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : He Keeps Moving Until He Lands in Clover : Baseball: Fullerton College first baseman Jim Short has changed schools--and sports.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It has taken two sports and three colleges, but Jim Short finally has found athletic success.

Short, the starting first baseman for Fullerton College, also has been enrolled at the University of Nevada Reno and Cypress College.

The right-handed hitting Short has had an outstanding season for the Hornets, batting .327 with 12 home runs, 13 doubles and 56 runs batted in. Short and his Fullerton teammates hope to continue their success when they play Moorpark in the Southern California Regional playoffs at 11 a.m. Friday at Riverside College. The playoffs continue Saturday and Sunday.

Short’s travels started after graduation from Esperanza High in 1988. He had excelled as a baseball player in high school and was an All-Empire League selection at designated hitter. However, his first love was football, so he accepted a football scholarship from Nevada Reno.

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But Short’s collegiate football career ended before it started when he suffered a pinched nerve in his neck while in high school. The injury prevented him from passing the basic physical at Reno.

“They told me that if I got hit just right I’d be in a wheelchair,” Short said. “That didn’t sound like too good an option.”

Short, 6-feet-2 and 220 pounds, was offered a partial scholarship and a chance to play baseball at Reno, but decided to return home and attend Cypress.

He started well for Cypress as the designated hitter but eventually slumped. He was removed from the starting lineup and pinch hit occasionally. Short hit .242 (16 for 66) with four home runs and 10 RBIs and struck out 24 times.

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“I was pressing to do too much,” Short said. “It seemed like there was something on the line with every at-bat and I wanted to do too much.”

Tired of being seen as just the designated hitter, Short decided to switch to Fullerton in an effort to change his role.

“Coach (Nick Fuscardo) said that I would be the guy at first,” Short said. “So I decided to come here. Also, the commute was getting too much. It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get there (Cypress). It only takes 15 minutes to get here (Fullerton).”

This season, Short started slowly and was troubled by a familiar problem--chasing breaking pitches below his knees. After 15 games, he was hitting .240 with three home runs and 18 RBIs.

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He continued to work, and things came together during a three-game stretch March 6-10. Short went seven for 11 with four home runs and 15 RBIs, and raised his average to .311.

“He’s an aggressive guy,” Fuscardo said. “It’s just a matter of him making sure he gets a good pitch to hit.”

The streak was reminiscent of one in high school. Short was 16 for 16 in his first four Empire League games and hit .552 with five home runs for the year.

“I’ve always tried to be a consistent hitter,” Short said. “Sometimes I just explode and things just start to go really well.”

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Short proved his steadiness with a 16-game hitting streak in conference. He hit in 21 of 24 Orange Empire games.

Short is being recruited by Loyola Marymount, and also is looking forward to the professional draft, June 4-6.

He hopes to be drafted for the third consecutive season. He was selected in the late rounds by the Astros last June, but the team made no offer to sign him. He was drafted after high school in the 19th round by the Phillies, but had no plans to continue his baseball career, so he ignored the draft.

Now, he’s very interested in the draft. After all, it would give him another chance to move.

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In Friday’s first-round games at Riverside:

Fullerton (26-14) vs. Moorpark (24-12), 11 a.m.--Fullerton has recovered from a mid-season skid to win eight of its past 10. Steve Trachsel (8-3) took two weeks off because of a tired arm, then pitched a complete-game 4-2 victory Friday over College of the Canyons. Maybe the most important news was the performance of pitcher Matt Lipscomb (3-3) Saturday. He allowed five runs in the third but only one hit the rest of the way as Fullerton won, 9-5. Lipscomb now will become the third starter, something Fullerton searched for all season.

Moorpark, a tri-champion in the Western State Conference, is making its first playoff appearance in 15 seasons and the second in the history of the college.

Rancho Santiago (34-10) vs. Riverside (29-15), 3 p.m.--Rancho Santiago defeated Riverside in three of the four conference meetings, but that’s about all the good news for the Dons. Second baseman Rob Reimers was hit by a pitch in practice Monday and has a broken left arm. He’ll be replaced by Wayne Hefft, who hasn’t played for over six weeks. Rancho Santiago also had to replace shortstop Ed Renteria (leg injury) seven games into the season.

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Pitcher Matt Lackie (10-3), who is coming back from a viral infection that sidelined him for three weeks, is strong and should start the first game.

“We’re going to paint a big red cross on our bus,” Rancho Santiago Coach Don Sneddon joked. “We’re a traveling M.A.S.H. unit right now.”

In Friday’s first-round games at Cerritos College:

Golden West (27-12-1) vs. San Bernardino Valley (31-13), 11 a.m.--Golden West was perhaps the most impressive team in the first round of the playoffs. The Rustlers got complete games from Todd Long (8-3) and Jason Hutchins (6-2).

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Long pitched a six-hitter and Golden West won, 4-0, in the first game against Cuesta. Hutchins came back with a five-hitter the next day as Golden West won, 8-2. San Bernardino Valley advanced by beating Los Angeles Mission twice last weekend.

Golden West’s team speed should come in handy at Cerritos, one of the largest parks in California. It’s 365 feet down the lines and nearly 420 in center field. The Rustlers led the Orange Empire Conference in triples with 34.

Los Angeles Harbor (45-6) vs. Rio Hondo (22-17), 3 p.m.--Harbor is the favorite to take the regional, but Rio Hondo already has one upset in the playoffs. Rio Hondo took two of three from second-seeded Cerritos last weekend at Cerritos.


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