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LEGION BASEBALL / JEFF FLETCHER : Soliz Back in the Win of Things

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Richard Soliz still isn’t exactly sure what a pinched nerve is; he just knows it ruined his senior year.

After a breakthrough junior season at Rio Mesa High, Soliz had high hopes for this spring. But a pinched nerve took out a six-week chunk of his season.

Fortunately for Soliz, American Legion baseball has given him a chance to restore his reputation. Pitching for Camarillo, Soliz has a 9-0 record and a 1.31 earned-run average.

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“I wanted people to see I was still there,” Soliz said. “I wanted the colleges and scouts to see I could still pitch and do well.”

Soliz, a left-hander who was 8-1 with a 1.53 ERA as a junior, said he heard from recruiters at Long Beach State, the San Francisco and San Francisco State early in his senior season.

“It was real weird,” he said. “Right when I got hurt [recruiters] started calling and saying, ‘Hey, when are you going to pitch so we can watch?’ ”

Soliz hesitantly explained his injury, saying his doctor expected him to be back in two weeks. But two weeks became three, and three became four. . . .

Eventually, Ventura College became Soliz’s only option when Division I college coaches and professional scouts all but gave up on him.

But, thanks to his recent performances in American Legion, Soliz hasn’t given up on himself.

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“It lets me know that I really haven’t lost anything,” he said. “[The injury] was a big setback because it was my senior year, but there is always college.”

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When Woodland Hills West Coach Bob Marks looks at his catcher, Mike Glendenning, he is glad he’s not an opposing coach, much less an opposing pitcher.

“It’s kind of scary for the pitcher,” he said. “If he hits a home run it’s OK. If he hits the ball up the middle, it’s frightening.”

Glendenning, a 6-foot, 205-pound right-handed hitter with a bodybuilder’s physique, finished his Legion season last weekend with a flurry: four home runs in three games, including two grand slams on Saturday.

One of the home runs was a shot at El Camino Real High that traveled over the left-field fence and across the street, landing an estimated 440 feet away.

“It was the longest ball I’ve ever seen at El Camino,” Marks said.

Glendenning, a Crespi graduate, played this spring at Pierce College, where he batted .288 with five home runs and 34 runs batted in. In Legion play, he batted .587 average with nine home runs, 37 runs batted in and a 1.190 slugging percentage.

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Glendenning, who has been drafted twice by the St. Louis Cardinals but will likely return to Pierce next spring, attributed the explosion to facing weaker pitching in Legion than he did at Pierce.

“It’s kind of like coming down a level,” he said.

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Another dominant player from the junior college ranks is Westlake-Royal-Oak right-hander Phil Derryman, who is showing some of the potential that enticed the Montreal Expos to draft him twice.

Derryman, who recently completed his freshman year at Moorpark College, has a 7-1 record and a 1.28 ERA for Westlake.

“He’s really learning how to pitch and getting better every game,” Westlake Coach Mike McClure said. “At 6-foot-4 and still growing, with all those arms and legs coming at you, he’s pretty intimidating to high school kids for sure.”

The Expos drafted Derryman out of Royal High last summer, and took him again after his season at Moorpark.

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Ventura is in the best position to gain one of the two Area 6 playoff spots out of District 16. Ventura is one game behind Westlake-Royal-Oak and Camarillo, which are tied for first.

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While Ventura plays the two worst teams in the district--Newbury Park once and Moorpark twice--this weekend, Camarillo and Westlake-Royal-Oak play each other three times. . . .

Mike Schultz, a 6-foot-7 right-hander from Central Valley who is one of the rising stars of the area, has been sidelined with a sore arm.

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