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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL TOP 10 : Returning Players Put Mira Mesa at Top of Heap

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prospects abound, and college and professional baseball scouts are anticipating a busy spring in San Diego County. To name only a few of the standouts, there’s Benji Gil and Jose Silva in the South, Matt Miller and Rob Plarski in the North, Ryan O’Coyne and Todd Cady in the East and Mike Bovee and Marlon Gardinera in the city.

There are likewise a number of outstanding teams, any one of a dozen or more that could win a section title without raising so much as an eyebrow.

Defending 3-A champion Mira Mesa might be even better than last year, and defending 2-A champion Grossmont appears to have enough left over from last year’s magical team.

No one, however, is going to hand them the banners. There’s a season to be played first and thousands of scouting miles to be logged.

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With that, The Times’ 1991 San Diego Section baseball top 10: 1 MIRA MESA

1990 Record: 22-7

League: City Eastern

Coach: Mike Prosser

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Mira Mesa returns nearly its entire 1990 championship team, making the Marauders not only the easy pick for the top spot in San Diego County but also for one of the top spots in the nation. In its preseason rankings, USA Today had Mira Mesa No. 3. Only one senior is missing from last year’s team that began the season with 13 consecutive victories. A few key injuries at midseason, including Mike Bovee’s broken ankle, caused a slight slip and and Mira Mesa entered the 16-team 3-A playoffs seeded 15th. Seniors Bovee (7-0, 1.71 ERA) and Marc Nielsen and juniors Brendan Hause and Jason Payne provide a solid pitching corps. Each also plays in the field because of their batting, and Nielsen is also a highly-regarded shortstop. Catcher Drew Arnold is among the county’s best. So far this year, the Marauders (5-0) have lived up to their billing. 2 POWAY

1990 Record: 20-7

League: Palomar

Coach: Rudy Casciato

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Poway last year had two players drafted by major league teams, and another is starting at UCLA. Nonetheless, the Titans are experienced, with five position players and three pitchers returning. First baseman Rob Plarski (.313, 20 RBIs) moves to catcher. The left side of the infield is intact with third baseman Brock Marsh (.290, 18 RBIs) and shortstop Eddie Thompson (.295). Returning to the outfield are Phil Portiera (.333) and outfielder/pitcher Miles Kelly (.284, 1-3, 4.20 ERA). Scott Tittrington (5-1, 2.20 ERA) and Frank Vaughan (1-2, 2.52 ERA) also return. 3 GROSSMONT

1990 Record: 29-2

League: Grossmont 2-A

Coach: Jeff Meredith

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In addition to winning the 2-A title last year and setting a number of section records including victories (29) and runs scored (314) Grossmont was No. 2 in the nation in the final USA Today poll. The Foothillers lost some talent--notably John Tatum--but not all. Todd Cady, last year’s player of the year, returns. Cady, a switch-hitting catcher, had 62 RBIs to break the section record of 47 set by Carlsbad’s Jeff Meyers in 1988. Last week, he became the section career RBI leader. He also batted .441, had 10 home runs and 22 stolen bases. Returning pitchers are senior Mike Spears (7-0) and junior Jason Eskridge (4-1). Spears, who added five saves and 69 strikeouts last year, threw a perfect game Tuesday and struck out 10 in a 7-0 victory over Fallbrook. Wynter Phoenix (.417) and Paul Aceves (.368) are two more top returners. 4 MT. CARMEL

1988-89 Record: 20-8

League: Palomar

Coach: Steve Edwards

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Mt. Carmel has four starting position players and two front-line pitchers returning from a team that reached the section 3-A semifinals. Back are catcher Matt Miler (.370, 21 RBIs), first baseman Andy Owen (.257, 28 RBIs), shortstop Armando Sanchez (.349, 19 RBIs) and right fielder Chris Chavez (.372, 24 RBIs). The team’s pitching rotation is anchored by Scott Tebbetts (5-2, 3.99 ERA) and junior Mario Israel (8-3, 1.80 ERA). Although pitching and defense are the Sundevils’ strength, they are batting over .400 so far this season. Edwards is getting his first taste as head coach, replacing Sam Blalock, who built the program into the county’s best before moving on to Rancho Bernardo. 5 MONTGOMERY

1990 Record: 21-9

League: Metro

Coach: Manuel Hermosillo

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Virtually out of nowhere, a young and scrappy 1990 Aztec team took on the persona of upbeat and optimistic Hermosillo to win the Metro Conference, arguably the county’s toughest league. This year, with all eight position starters back, a couple of top-notch returning pitchers and a key transfer, Montgomery won’t be sneaking up on anyone. The Aztecs are already highly-regarded and 4-0 this season. Pitcher David Silvas (9-2, 1.42 ERA), second baseman Saul Rodriguez (.363), shortstop Jose Lorenzana (.323) and sophomore catcher Carlos Acuna are the top returners. Talented pitcher/outfielder Mike Wazal transferred from Bonita Vista. Sophomore pitchers Eduardo Duarte and Pedro Ramirez add to a solid rotation. 6 HILLTOP

1990 Record: 2-25, 18 forfeits

League: Metro

Coach: John Baumgarten

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Jose Silva may be reason enough to rank the Lancers (3-0-1). Silva, a 6-5 senior right-hander who struck out 15 in a 4-2 victory Tuesday, is regarded as one of the best professional prospects in the nation and has signed a national letter of intent with San Diego State. Last year, he was 9-4 with a 1.24 ERA and 116 strikeouts. No. 2 starter Jose Gallegos (6-1 last year) is academically ineligible, but he will help upon return. Infielder Sergio Guzman finished 10th in the county and second in the Metro in 1990 with a .455 batting average. Hilltop had to forfeit 18 victories last year because of an ineligible player. The Lancers still made the playoffs but were knocked out, 1-0, in the first round by eventual finalist Monte Vista. 7 SAN MARCOS

1990 Record: 14-11

League: Avocado

Coach: Ron Layton

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Layton is calling this year’s team one of his best ever. Experience up the middle and an extremely deep pitching staff are two of the main reasons Layton is so excited. Senior shortstop Brian Calloway and junior second baseman Eric Morton (.330 last year) are both three-year starters and junior center fielder Matt Lentz is coming off a .420 year. Right-hander Ryan Dunne (4-7, 2.35 ERA), who has not allowed a hit in nine innings this season, is one of the top juniors in the county. Seniors Aaron Cassidy (7-4) and Chris Young and junior Denny McAdams should also pitch plenty of innings. So far this year, the Knights are 3-1, including a 16-4 rout of USDHS on Tuesday. 8 GRANITE HILLS

1990 Record: 18-10-1

League: Grossmont 3-A

Coach: Gordon Thompson

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Though he hasn’t won a section title since 1977, Thompson always manages to put together something special in the East. This might be his best club since 1987, a team centered around a powerful offense. This year, the Eagles figure to win this year with pitching. Ryan O’Coyne and Tom Fordham, two left-handers, are two of the best in the league. O’Coyne, a senior and three-year starter, had 85 strikeouts. From the other end, he hit .396 and had 33 RBIs. Fordham, a junior, was the more consistent starter last year. Infielder Jason Braun hit .390 in 1990. 9 USDHS

1990 Record: 24-4

League: City Western

Coach: Dick Serrano

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The Dons are the defending league champions and return with some key players. Eight of 15 players are back, including David Sanchez, who hit .500 last year, third highest in the county. He also had the county’s second-highest RBI total at 42. USDHS (3-1) also returns three pitchers with varsity experience: Ryan Walker and David Withers, both senior right-handers, and Kevin McDonald, a junior lefty. Gavin Millay, who was 7-1 on the mound in 1990, is coming off shoulder surgery and will be relegated to outfield and designated hitter duty. Millay (.383, 30 RBI in 1990) will carry a big bat, as will returning catcher Doug Abts, who is off to a fast start this season. 10 VALHALLA

1990 Record: 14-14-1

League: Grossmont 2-A

Coach: Terry Love

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Veteran- and pitching-rich Valhalla is 6-2 this year, including impressive victories over Mt. Carmel, Castle Park, San Dieguito and Vista. Eric Nielsen is 3-0 with a 0.47 ERA. Tom Giglio is 2-0. Ray Neder is 1-2, but the victory was a one-hitter in a 2-1 win over Mt. Carmel. The Norsemen return their entire starting infield of senior Greg Woodard at first, senior Tony Carrasco at second, junior Rod Reid at short and senior Brian Bell at third. Carrasco has already signed a letter of intent with UCLA. Love called catcher Tavo Carrillo one of the best in the county. Sophomore Courtney Arrollado, who will platoon at short and outfield, is the grandson of Ray Boone. Center fielder Jim May is a speedy leadoff hitter. “We’re not a real power team,” Love said. “We just play solid defense and have good pitching.”


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