For 1985, the Cypress College baseball team has a new coach, new uniforms (home and away), a new field and a new attitude.
Now, that's what you call rebuilding.
But will the rebuilding job be successful? Will all those changes be enough to move the Chargers up in the standings of the competitive South Coast Conference, which many believe to be the toughest community college baseball conference in the nation?
Not even Cypress' new coach, Scott Pickler, and optimist by nature, is sure.
"This is really going to be a challenge, playing in the best conference in the country," said Pickler, who comes to Cypress from Loara High School, where he compiled a five-year record of 105-36. "How well we'll do, I can't say. This isn't the Empire League."
Cypress was a miserable 9-25-1 last season under Gene Lambdin, but you can count on the Chargers to improve with Pickler. But whether Cypress can become a contender for the conference title is another question, because the obstacles are numerous and imposing.
Cerritos, the top-ranked team in Southern California, is the consensus favorite to win the SCC, based on the Falcons' strong pitching staff and their experienced lineup. But Orange Coast, Golden West, Fullerton, Santa Ana and Mt. San Antonio seem to have the talent to finish first, too.
And just to make the conference a little tougher, Saddleback has left the Pacific Coast Conference, which it won the last two seasons, to join the SCC, prompting conference coaches to expect a closer race.
As usual, the SCC's Orange County teams will showcase some of the best community college players in the nation. Outfielder Corby Oakes (Fullerton), catcher Shane Flores (Golden West), shortstop Larry Cratsenberg (Orange Coast) and shortstop Vince Shinholster (Santa Ana) are just a few of the local players who will be getting a lot of attention from the scouts.
Top Returners--Brian Flatten (6-0, 185), C; Bob Goodall (6-0, 180), RHP; Tom Chavez (6-0, 190), OF and Jim Patterson (6-2, 195), SS-C.
Top Newcomers--Jim Bennet (6-2, 185), LHP; John Morin (6-3, 215), 1B; Chris Kocman (6-1, 200), 3B; Bert Lizarraga (5-10, 202), OF; Jeff Nicks (5-9, 145), 2B; Ed Evans (5-9, 142), SS and James Jackle (6-2, 190), SS-2B.
Outlook--Pickler has done some housecleaning at Cypress, where 23 of the 28 players on the roster are newcomers. In the first month of the season, during which Cypress was 7-5, Pickler experimented by using several players at different positions in order to find the best lineup. "We've spent a lot of time evaluating this team," Pickler said. "We have OK power and OK pitching, but no speed at all, and a lot of freshmen. But the new attitude we're taking here will be a big plus."
Top Returners--Pat Simms (6-3, 180), RHP; Dave Stotereau (6-0, 165), OF; Darren Nelson (6-2, 180), 2B and Kyle Olson (5-10, 165), OF.
Top Newcomers--Corby Oakes (5-11, 180), OF; Rob DeYoung (6-0, 175), RHP; Bob Hernandez (6-3, 165), LHP; Tony Tubbs (6-4, 185), Mike Alvarez (5-9, 175), OF; Rodney Clark (6-3, 210), 1B; Tim Speakman (6-3, 210), C; Craig Repoz (6-3, 165), SS; Jeff Oberdank (5-8, 165), 3B and Mitch Smalley (6-3, 180), OF.
Outlook--Coach Mike Sgobba's goal is to avoid a repeat of last season, when the Hornets finished a disappointing fifth after winning the SCC in 1983. But if Fullerton's 12-4 nonconference start is any indication, the Hornets should move up in the standings this year. Fullerton has a number of good players, including Cal State Fullerton transfer Oakes, outfielder Stotereau, designated hitter Alvarez and shortstop Repoz. Sgobba's concern is the Hornets' lack of experience, especially among the pitching staff, where Simms is the only returner.
Top Returners--Shane Flores (5-11, 187), C; John Martin (6-3, 204), RHP; Gary Buckels (5-11, 180), RHP and Steve Overeem (6-4, 193), OF-RHP.
Top Newcomers--Todd Nash (6-1, 170), OF; Andy Mota (5-10, 170), 2B; Keith Kaub (6-4, 210), 1B; Larry Salaets (5-10, 170), RHP and Tom Kilpatrick (6-0, 175), RHP.
Outlook--Coach Fred Hoover's Rustler teams have not finished below third place in 15 years, but that streak may be in jeopardy. Although Golden West has gotten off to a 6-1-1 nonconference start, it is too early to tell if the Rustlers' small pitching staff can survive the rigors of the offense-dominant SCC. "We usually score a lot of runs, and I think we will again this year," Hoover said. "But the pitching is a concern. We have only eight pitchers on the roster." Buckles, who has a 23-inning scoreless streak dating to last season, will have to continue his superb relief work if Golden West is going to contend. Flores, perhaps the best catcher in the conference, Kaub, Nash and Mota will lead the Rustler attack.
Top Returners--Larry Cratsenberg (6-0, 165), SS; Mark Stomp (5-11, 170), LHP; Jeff Goettsch (5-11, 165), RHP; Dave Rolland (6-2, 170), CF; Steve Kraiss (6-2, 220), 1B; Gene Roumimper (6-3, 195), INF and Fred Tuttle (6-2, 170), OF.