Success came easily for Jeff Liefer in 1993 when, as a Long Beach State freshman, he batted .356 with 12 home runs, was named to the all-tournament team at the College World Series and was selected as a freshman All-American.
Last season, with expectations considerably higher, Liefer struggled and batted only .282 with five homers.
"His transition from high school to college was almost too easy," Long Beach Coach Dave Snow said.
Liefer is re-establishing his identity this season as one of the top offensive players in the country. He began the week batting .429 with three homers, 15 runs batted in and a team-high seven stolen bases.
"Last year, I knew they were going to throw me off-speed pitches but I still wanted fastballs on the inside part of the plate," Liefer said. "This past summer, playing in Alaska, I learned to handle off-speed stuff. This year, 70-80% of my hits have been on off-speed pitches."
He has also probably increased his pro potential by recently moving from the outfield to third base.
"The move is going to help us and help him, too," Snow said. "You don't come across left-hand hitting third basemen with power every day. Every major league club is interested in a guy like that."
After two injury-plagued seasons, USC right-hander Ben Tucker has helped the Trojans to a healthy No. 7 ranking and a 14-6 start.
After showing glimpses of potential as a freshman in 1992, Tucker missed six weeks of his sophomore season because of a rib injury. He broke a bone in his hand during a fight the following summer and missed most of last season when he broke his thumb falling down a staircase during the Northridge earthquake.
Tucker is 2-0 with a 2.41 earned-run average in six starts this season for the Trojans, who took two of three games from UCLA in their Pacific 10 Conference opening series.
"This is pretty far for me to be in the season without being hurt," Tucker said. "It's weird. It's been awhile since I've really been in competition for an extended amount of time."
Cal State Fullerton retained its No. 1 ranking by winning two of three games at No. 9 Texas last weekend.
Outfielder-pitcher Mark Kotsay has been dominant, batting .456 with four homers and 24 runs batted in. He also has six saves and a 0.00 earned-run average in 8 2/3 innings.
In a 17-3 victory over the Longhorns on Saturday, Kotsay had two inside-the-park home runs and a triple.
Outfielder Dave Newhan hit three home runs in a game against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and leads the team in batting with a .344 average, homers with five and stolen bases with 12. He is one of the few bright spots for a team that has committed 38 errors.
College Baseball Notes
USC outfielder Walter Dawkins' 17-game hitting streak ended Monday against UCLA. Dawkins, a senior, was 27 for 68 during the streak. He is batting .345 with four homers and 20 runs batted in. . . . Cal State Fullerton's Ted Silva is 6-0 with a 2.53 earned-run average. He has 46 strikeouts and has given up only eight walks in 46 1/3 innings.