Lions' Den Could Be Stripped of Talent : College baseball: Several top players have used up their eligibility and others could be selected in pro draft.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After seeing his team hustle to 45 victories and a berth in the NCAA West II Regional, Loyola Marymount baseball Coach Chris Smith might have to do some hustling of his own to fill holes left by graduation and some that might be created Monday in the pro draft.

Loyola Marymount (45-17) had enough hitting to win the West Coast Conference title, but the Lions gave up 24 runs in losing to Washington State and host Arizona State at the regional.

"I thought this team had a chance to go to the College World Series," Smith said. "We got some tough (NCAA) draws and under different circumstances we might've gone farther, but we had a great year."

Smith, who has led the Lions to two NCAA appearances in his two years as coach, is waiting for Monday's draft to determine exactly how many spots on the roster he will have to fill.

Smith knows he will lose pitchers Darryl Scott and Steve Surico, three-year, all-conference catcher Miah Bradbury and outfielder Tony Kounas, the team's leading home-run hitters, and all-conference second baseman Kevin Van de Brake. All have used up their eligibility.

The pros could tempt junior outfielders Tim Williams and Rick Mediavilla and junior left-hander Jon Willard, the Lions' most dependable pitcher at 13-4.

Their loss would weaken the traditionally powerful offense and leave the pitching staff with only two experienced returners--right-handers Joe Caruso (8-3) and Chris Spears (5-0).

Redshirt junior right-hander Mike McNary, who won nine games as a freshman, is being counted on to fill a starting spot. Smith has already signed four pitchers and said if Willard returns, "We'll be a lot better off on the mound" than this season.

Key players who are expected to return:

--First baseman Joe Ciccarella, who hit .339 with 40 runs batted in despite a midseason injury. He was 4 of 8 with two walks in the regional;

--Freshman shortstop Chris Gomez, considered an Olympic prospect after he hit .373 with 24 doubles and 62 RBIs;

--Freshman third baseman Bobby Hughes, who hit .348 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs. He might see action at catcher;

--Infielder-designated hitter Darrel Deak, who batted .292. He'll probably replace Van de Brake at second;

--Utility man Joe Testa, who batted .333 in 27 games.

Smith is excited about the returning players. "Ciccarella, Deak, Gomez and Hughes would be about as good an infield as you'll find in college," he said.

He also expects some of this year's freshmen to blossom if spots open up.

"It's tough to lose Bradbury and Kounas, but it's time for the younger guys to take their turn," Smith said. "If we lose the whole outfield in the draft then we might have some problems. Then it's time for the kids nobody knows about to show what they can do.

"I think (infielder) Darren Sugiyama can be a real fine hitter. (Infielder) Chris Intlekofer has a chance to be a very fine player. (Infielder) Marc Howard, (catcher) Rob Ickes, I think they can all be players."

Smith still has scholarships to give, but he will know more after the draft.

"Who knows, I may have a whole lot of (scholarship) money to give," he said. "I may be Santa Claus in a week."

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