Horton Hoping to Find a Winning Formula


With college baseball’s regular season down to its final few weeks, Cal State Fullerton Coach George Horton is still shuffling his lineup looking for a winning combination.

Horton revamped the infield again for last weekend’s series against New Mexico State. Jerome Alviso and freshman Ryan Owens switched positions, with Alviso moving to third and Owens to shortstop. Junior Gaby Halcovich started all three games at second base.

Freshman Chris Beck took over for Pete Fukuhara in center field, and Fukuhara moved to designated hitter as a replacement for Scott Seal, who has been in a slump the last three weeks.


Just how much all this contributed is anybody’s guess, but the Titans swept the series.

Owens says he’s certain of one thing: He’s much more comfortable and relaxed now that he’s back at the position he played at Sonora High School, and it apparently showed in his hitting.

Owens was seven for 12 with seven runs batted in for the three games.

“It’s the best series I’ve had this season,” Owens said. “It felt good to be back at shortstop, and I think that probably helped. Before, I’ve been thinking too much at the plate. This weekend, I went up there just swinging the bat.”

Owens says he worked on his swing last week with assistant coach Rick Vanderhook. “We shortened it a little, and that seemed to help,” Owens said.

Owens played second base early in the season, then at third recently. “I think I’m more focused at short,” he said. “I probably did too much thinking at third. You can’t do that at short. There you have to react a lot, and that’s what I like to do.”

Alviso is the team’s second-leading hitter at .356, behind only catcher Mike Lamb (.364), but the Titans haven’t shown enough strength along with Alviso in the bottom four spots of the batting order. Continued improvement by Owens, who is batting .261, could help that problem.

“We know Owens is going to be an outstanding player for us,” Horton said. “It’s just a matter of him continuing to develop.”


Horton likes Halcovich and Beck in the lineup because of their speed. Halcovich, however, could be at less than full strength for this weekend’s series at Nevada because of a knee injury Sunday in a collision at first base.


Track Coach John Elders entered a team in the 4 x 800 relay Saturday at the Mt. SAC Relays at Mt. San Antonio College, but the Titans were the only entry. As it turned out, Elders had no complaint.

“They let us run an 800 race among ourselves, and I’m glad they did,” Elders said. “We had two of our best times of the season.”

Nate Heggenberger ran a season-best 1 minute 52.97 seconds and Dave Picha had a personal-best 1:55.38.

Elders was pleased with several other performances. Stuart Gonzalez had a school-record time of 31:02.58 in the 10,000 meters. Three other athletes had personal bests. Sonia Perez ran 17:33.90 in the 5,000, Omar Anderson ran the 400 hurdles in 54.91, and Crystal Harris was clocked at 58.03 in the 400.

Sarah MacDougall, one of the top distance runners on the women’s team, did not compete because of a respiratory illness and a leg injury.


Titan Notes

Pitcher Brian Tokarse is a candidate for this year’s Smith Award that goes to college baseball’s top player. The list will be reduced to 10 semifinalists on May 2. Tokarse is 8-1 but has been below-par in his last two starts. . . . Outfielder Steve Chatham has 10 hits in his last 17 at-bats. Chatham has homered twice and driven in six runs during that time. . . . Ex-Titan pitcher Mark Chavez has been released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Chavez says he plans to coach this summer in one of the summer collegiate baseball leagues and complete work toward his degree.


Coming Attractions

Here’s a look at upcoming games for Cal State Fullerton:

* Baseball at Nevada 2 p.m. today, 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Nevada (31-13) leads the Big West’s Northern Division and is ranked No. 24.

* Men’s and women’s track at Fullerton Open 2:30 p.m. today. Athletes who have qualified will compete in the California-Nevada Championships at Cal State Northridge Saturday and Sunday.

* Softball against Nevada Las Vegas 1 p.m. Saturday, and against Long Beach State 1 p.m. Sunday, both games at the Titan Softball Complex.