For most of his college baseball career, Southern California College center fielder Ryan Seidel found himself going through the motions. Last season, Seidel hit .271 with four home runs and 21 runs batted in--typically solid numbers.
This season, he's far beyond solid. It's amazing what a bit of extra effort can do.
"Now I'm trying to create things on the field instead of doing what an average player would do," Seidel said. "It's not like I wasn't trying in the past and now I am. It's having more confidence and being more aggressive. I guess people call it coming into their own."
Others call it an outstanding season. Seidel, the Vanguards' leadoff hitter, is batting .398 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs. He has struck out only three times in 108 at-bats and has stolen 19 bases in 22 attempts. His slugging percentage is .787.
Seidel, a senior from Westlake Village, got his first taste of superior play last summer in a league in Saskatchewan, Canada. Playing for a team in Swift Current, he hit .471 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs in 40 games. He was named the league's most valuable player.
That success has carried through the first part of this season, even though the Vanguards are struggling as a team.
"However Seidel and (pitcher Jeff) Beckley go, we go," SCC Coach Charlie Phillips said. "If they do well, we win. If they don't, we don't have anyone else picking us up right now."
Seidel is especially strong in the clutch. Monday, he hit a grand slam in the eighth inning to tie the score against Linfield (Ore.). He was on deck when the final out was made in the 11th inning of a 7-6 loss.
Beckley, a senior left-hander from Trabuco Hills High, is one of the few bright spots on SCC's pitching staff. Beckley is 5-3 with a 3.52 earned-run average. The team ERA is 5.46.
But Phillips said the rest of the staff has been pitching better lately. If not for mental mistakes and poor clutch hitting, the Vanguards (7-19, 3-8 in the Golden State Athletic Conference) could be in second place instead of last, Phillips said. Six of SCC's conference losses have been by one run and in one of Beckley's losses, 8-4 to first-place Azusa Pacific, he gave up five unearned runs in the first inning.
"It's definitely tough to take knowing we could be on the other side if we had a break here or there," Phillips said.
SCC will play host to a doubleheader with Concordia (12-12, 5-6) at noon Saturday.
Brandon Sparks, Concordia's starting catcher, is also the team's relief pitching ace and last week he started his first game of the season.
Sparks, a right-handed senior from Phoenix, struck out a school-record 18 batters in a 9-1 victory over Massachusetts Dartmouth Friday.
"It was a pretty awesome display," Coach Jackie Schniepp said. "His only problem has been control and he didn't have that problem that day."
Sparks walked two and gave up three hits and one unearned run to lower his ERA to 1.69. He was named the NAIA national pitcher of the week by Collegiate Baseball magazine.
Christy Guidorizzi, a freshman pitcher on Chapman's softball team, had a great week at the Rebel Spring Games in Orlando, Fla.
Guidorizzi won five games and lowered her ERA to 0.75. She had a two-hitter, three one-hitters and a nine-inning no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over Allegheny, ranked No. 3 in NCAA Division III.
"Every time I walked by the snack bar at the tournament," Chapman co-Coach Lisle Lloyd said, "all they were talking about is 'Have you seen that pitcher Chapman's got?' She was the talk of the tournament."
Chapman (17-2) was 9-0 in Florida, beating teams that were all ranked in the top 25 last season. Freshman Jessamine Maiben batted .556 and junior Kathy Donovan batted .400 with a home run, two doubles and six RBIs.
Chapman, which was ranked No. 24 in the first national poll, should make quite a jump in the next one.
Lloyd, who has predicted a national championship, saw nothing to diminish his enthusiasm.
"I think it's the strongest team we've ever had, including when we had scholarships," he said.
Chapman's baseball team, struggling with a 6-14 record, plays host to Azusa Pacific at Hart Park at 2:30 p.m. today. Brad Martin, a redshirt freshman from Katella, leads the team with a .338 batting average and six home runs. Donny Disbro, a senior from Mission Viejo High and Saddleback College, is batting .329 with 18 RBIs. . . . The Chapman women's track team set two school relay records Saturday. Natalie Neat, Christy Carvin, Mary Folino and Makela Theriault ran 51.4 seconds for 400 meters at the Easter Relays in Santa Barbara, beating the previous record by more than a second. They also ran 4 minutes 15.1 seconds for the 1,600 relay, nearly five seconds faster than the former record. SCC high jumpers Brian and Kevin Carlson finished first and second in the meet. Brian won with a mark of 7 feet, matching his personal best. Kevin's mark was 6 feet 10.