* Buena Park: 14-12, 8-7 in 1997. Coach: Russ McHale (third year, 24-25-1). Prospects: Last season the Coyotes had the kind of lineup that could hit the best of pitching staffs, but they did not have the arms to keep from getting bombed themselves. This season Buena Park seeks a role reversal, and depend more on pitching and defense. Second-team all-leaguer Daniel Flores (8-3, 4.15, two saves) has promise, and so does Shane Ellison (1-1, 5.53, one save). Shortstop Bryan Cook (.330, 23 RBIs) leads the offense. A player to watch is Matt Treadway, who batted .425 with 12 RBIs on the junior varsity last year and gets the chance to replace the graduated Richie Pohle at third.

* Fullerton: 10-15, 5-10 in 1997. Coach: Marty Berson (third year, 31-21). Prospects: The Indians slipped to fifth in league last year after dominating the Freeway in 1996. But there were only two returning starters in 1997. There is a better foundation this season, with six returnees. Berson will depend on second team all-league catcher Juan Monzon (.370, three home runs, 18 RBI) and first baseman Luke Smude (.375, nine RBIs), for run production. Fullerton also has speed in outfielder Jon Pate (.365, 16 steals).

* La Habra: 18-8, 9-6 in 1997. Coach: Mate Borgogno (second year, 16-8). Prospects: There were no expectations for the Highlanders last year so it was a surprise when Borgogno guided the team to a second-place finish and set a school single-season record for victories. This year La Habra, with seven returning starters, could contend for the league title. The key word is could; it remains to be seen if first team all-league outfielder David Cosato (.410, 31 runs, 17 RBI), second-team all-league shortstop Jesse Delgado (.365) and pitcher Ryan Huff (6-3, 3.27) can duplicate their 1997 seasons. And don't expect other teams to take La Habra lightly this season; they can't afford to do that anymore.

* Sonora: 23-4, 14-1 in 1997. Coach: Pat Tellers (eighth year, 100-80-4). Prospects: Opponents can breathe a little easier when facing Sonora this year. That doesn't mean the Raiders, who have won two of the last three league titles, won't be in the thick of it again. They just won't average 11 runs a game, as they did with Times all-county infielder/pitcher Jeremy Weinberg (.455, 12 homers, 40 RBIs). Among the proven players are catcher/pitcher Clint Patton (3-0, 0.34, .346, three homers), all-league outfielder/pitcher Erik Estrada (8-1, 2.10) and outfielder John Nigbor (.451, 24 RBIs). Tellers would love it if freshman first baseman/pitcher Brett Smith, "who has excellent power," can force his way into the regular lineup.

* Sunny Hills: 8-17, 6-9 in 1997. Coach: Doug Elliott (14th year, 195-149-2). Prospects: Elliott is five victories away from 200 in his career, and the Lancers should get that many. He would be happier if Sunny Hills can return to the Freeway elite. To get there the Lancers need another big year from second team all-league pitcher/outfielder Brad Carmody, one of six returning starters. But the Lancers have enough of a talent base that they should not settle for only eight victories again.

* Troy: 5-20, 3-12 in 1997. Coach: Dane Ilertsen (ninth year, 100-100). Prospects: It's time for the Warriors to catch a break, having gone a combined 14-34-2 the past two seasons. And Troy is not as inept as the record suggests. Second team all-league first baseman Jeff Ahlberg (.343, four home runs, 20 RBIs), infielder Brant Elliott (.377, one home run, 10 RBIs) and catcher Todd Frazier (.372, five home runs, 15 RBIs) can handle the bat. Nor is the defense porous. But lack of pitching the past two seasons has killed the Warriors, and since most of the 1998 staff has not played varsity, there's no telling if the pitching will improve.

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