SOUTHERN SECTION BASEBALL PREVIEWS : FRONTIER LEAGUE
COACH: John Lorenzana, 10th season
LAST SEASON: 14-7; 2nd in league, 6-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: With Agoura gone to the Marmonte League, Santa Clara would seem a prime candidate for the league title. Lorenzana says his infield is “better than average” and loaded with upperclassmen. Senior Ron Tegland returns at third base, senior Paul Muro returns at first and senior Mark Hardy returns at second. The Saints lost shortstop Kwinn Knight, but look to sophomore Armando Maciel as a potential starter. On the mound, senior left-hander Garth Teron, a returning all-league selection, is likely the No. 1 starter. Other pitchers remain a question. Senior right-hander William Edwards may start, may relieve. When Teron is not pitching, he will play center field. Lorenzana calls Teron “the best all-around player on the team.” Junior Chris Macias, the football team’s quarterback, might start at catcher. Lorenzana is also eagerly awaiting the end of Santa Clara’s basketball season. Infielder-outfielder John Chaparro and pitcher Evan Swanger are sure to add to his team. If the basketball team makes it to the state final, however, he will not have their services until March 16.
OUTLOOK: Santa Clara is tabbed by most coaches to play for the top slot. “Our first four hitters are pretty strong,” Lorenzana said. “We’ll be battling for No. 1.” If there is a weakness, it’s on the mound. “That’s probably our question mark,” Lorenzana said.
COACH: Tom Ecklund, 18th season
LAST SEASON: 19-4; 1st in Tri-Valley League, 13-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ecklund is reluctant to discuss any names other than his proven starters. When that topic is broached, Ecklund points to a solid team up the middle. The Flashes’ No. 1 pitcher is senior right-hander Anthony Chessani, a linebacker from the football team. Chessani went 10-1 with a 2.25 ERA as a junior, striking out 87 in 84 innings. He also drove in 20 runs and stroked seven doubles. The double-play combination is sound. Shortstop Art Sosa (.304, 13 stolen bases) quarterbacked the football team and second baseman Pokey Sanchez (.333, 21 RBIs, 15 stolen bases) is back after a big junior year. Center fielder Juan Duran--another returnee--also will pitch. Right-handed sophomore Phillip Chessani, younger brother of Anthony, also will squeeze into the pitching rotation. After that, Ecklund said, “I really haven’t decided much more. The outfield is wide open, the corners are wide open and the catching position is wide open.”
OUTLOOK: Fillmore comes to the Frontier League from the Tri-Valley with a daunting legacy of success. Under Ecklund, the Flashes have won four Southern Section titles and appeared in six finals. They last won am title in 1988 and lost in the 1989 final. Such tradition makes them an automatic contender, other coaches say. “I don’t know,” Ecklund says of this year’s team. “It’s a new challenge playing in the Frontier League and there are some fine baseball teams. We’ll try.” History shows that Fillmore likely will do more than that.
COACH: Mark Magdaleno, 3rd season
LAST SEASON: 4-13; 6th in league, 2-8
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The past two years, according to Magdaleno, the Cardinals have relied on freshmen and sophomores. So this year they will rely on juniors--with the exception of senior left fielder Dustin Magdaleno, the coach’s nephew. Magdaleno, an all-county selection as a junior and the county’s all-time leading receiver in football, is approaching the school stolen base record and wants to continue his baseball career in college. Junior Joey Ramirez, who scored 22.1 points a game for the basketball team, is “a better baseball player,” according to Magdaleno. Ramirez will bat fourth and play center field. “Those two guys in the outfield are keys for us offensively,” Magdaleno said. Junior Art Marcelo is a second-team all-league shortstop who will bat second and provide a solid glove. “Our strength is our defense,” Magdaleno said. The coach also points to pitching as a strength. Senior right-hander Pete Alamillo has “a big-time arm” and senior left-hander Gabriel Alcantar was 4-0 last year before becoming academically ineligible. Junior right-hander Eddie Rabago might have the best arm of the bunch. Other juniors bucking to pitch include Alex Frutos, Efren Munoz and Patrick Villa. Senior second baseman Patrick Villa will provide proven defense.
OUTLOOK: Santa Paula is looking to improve on a last-place finish, and Magdaleno thinks the team has the arms and defense to do so. The school has not won a playoff game since 1941 and Magdaleno is on a mission to change that. “We’re real young but real talented,” he said. “It’s a matter of teaching the kids how to win.”
COACH: Bob Wade, 4th season
LAST SEASON: 10-10; tied for 3rd in league, 5-5
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Calabasas finished .500 in league play and overall and might be headed for a similar season--or slightly better. They have power in first baseman Paul Schaffer, a senior who batted .381 last year. They have an all-league player in senior center fielder Tom Hoke, who batted .375 last year. Hoke, a left-handed reliever, also will pitch for the Coyotes. Hoke will be joined by a familiar face in the outfield--right fielder Tom Hoover returns after batting .345. Pitching will tell how successful this team will be. Senior right-hander Paul Johnson will be the No. 1 starter after “some ups and downs” in his junior year. Senior right-hander Jeff Ziskin should pitch, but he has a sore shoulder. Up from the junior varsity is right-hander Brian Bruskrud, who threw well in a scrimmage against Canoga Park. “He could slide into the rotation if Jeff’s arm doesn’t come around,” Wade said. “We’ll pitch by committee.” Ron Adelman, the football team’s quarterback, will play third base and senior Keith Slettedahl is back at catcher. He threw out three runners in one inning last year against Santa Clara.
OUTLOOK: Calabasas was battling for the playoffs last year and should do the same again. “We’re going to be scrappers,” Wade said. “We have a couple of kids who can hit the long ball and defensively we’re real solid. The question, as always, will be how the mound people hold up.”
COACH: Steve Blundell, 1st season
LAST SEASON: 7-14; 5th in league, 2-8
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Blundell concedes that this team is as inexperienced as they come. Nordhoff has no returning starters and will start players who have not played baseball in five years. The Rangers have 14 players and just two are seniors. One of the seniors is pitcher Brandon Garnsey, who has not played since his freshman year. Blundell is excited to land the “biggest kid in the school"--6-foot-2, 240-pound first baseman John Gatlin. Gatlin has not played in five years, “but he’s intimidating already,” Blundell said. Another who has not played in some time is shortstop Steve Salm. Junior Chris Breck is “a kid that wants to learn how to pitch, and he shows promise,” Blundell said. Sophomore second baseman Ronnie Schindell is “a real aggressive player,” and junior Troy Rutherford is another who wants to try his hand at pitching.
OUTLOOK: “We’re starting from basics,” Blundell said. “We’re teaching them how to catch flies and how to square up on ground balls in the infield. They know, at this point, they’re not competitive. It’s going to take time.” Blundell hopes to start a new era--the team has new uniforms, has refurbished the playing field and now plays the National Anthem before games.