For baseball coaches Rick Weber of Bel-Air Prep and Chuck Ice of Crossroads, the basketball season couldn't end soon enough. Both have had a significant portion of their baseball teams masquerading as basketball players and doing a fine job at it.
David Wolfe, a 6-7 basketball center--and also one of Ice's pitchers--led Crossroads with 25 points and 11 rebounds as it captured the CIF-Southern Section 1-A title, 70-61, over Whittier Christian.
It's a good bet that the Crossroads baseball team will go as far. Ice's Roadrunners were 1-A champions last year, crushing Woodcrest Christian, 18-2, for the crown. His team has won 23 straight Delphic League games over the last three years. They could stretch that streak with the return of Jon Drimmer, a senior shortstop who was a first-team all-league selection, and Cliff Hughes, a senior catcher and three-year letterman.
In Weber's first year as Bel-Air coach, he probably feels like a father-to-be: He's been waiting for the basketball team to deliver seven cagers who are also baseball players. His wait ended last week when Bel-Air lost to Whitney, 76-58, in the Small Schools Division final.
Weber delayed the start of league play by rescheduling games. With those seven players, Bel-Air can proceed to defend its Westside League title.
The Roadrunners are counting on sophomore pitchers Sean Lein, a 6-0, 165-pound left-hander, and Bill Terrazos, a 6-0, 175-pound right-hander, and the league's most valuable player, Danny Gustafson, a senior shortstop and pitcher.
A look at Westside CIF teams:
Seven Roadrunners were lost to graduation from the team ranked No. 1 in the CIF and tops in the state by USA Today in the Small Schools Division last year.
Key graduation losses: pitcher Steve Furchner, who is now pitching for Azusa Pacific and was a CIF co-player of the year, and shortstop Doug Pitkin, who is playing for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Ice also lost the other half of the co-MVP in pitcher Noah Rosen, who posted an 11-0 record but has transferred to Choate, a New England prep school.
Shortstop Drimmer and catcher Hughes will be joined by junior third baseman Carl Distefano, an all-league selection as a freshman. Ice said Distefano should be one of the better hitters in the league. Ice sees a balanced league with Providence and Brentwood giving Crossroads a run for the title. "We'll be competitive in league, but we'll need experience, and we're getting that in the preseason," he said.
Bel-Air Prep returns eight players from last year's Westside League championship team. The Bruins finished 8-0 in league and have won 15 league games during the last two years. Weber said he would be disappointed if his team doesn't go undefeated in league this year.
Weber said sophomore pitchers Lein and Terrazos are the key to the Bruins. "They are super ballplayers, and if they work hard and develop, they could play pro ball," Weber said.
Weber said he will rely on speed; his players cover a lot of ground in the outfield and infield and that should make his team strong on defense. Pitching could be the weak spot for the Bruins. Weber said it depends on how well Lein and Terrazos handle pressure.
Newbridge will try to rebound from a disappointing 3-7 record (2-6 in the Westside League) last year. Coach Bill Ruehl looks to second-team all-league Howie Horowitz and honorable-mention performers Franklin Taylor and Nick Adell for leadership on this young team.
First-team all-leaguer Shawn Needelman, a junior shortstop, heads a cast of three freshmen, one sophomore and two juniors. Ruehl said his underclassmen will give the team continuity.
Relief pitching and defense are areas Ruehl said his team needs to work on if it is to challenge Bel-Air Prep, which he sees as the league favorite. But he said that offense is a bright spot: "We don't have a weak spot in our lineup."
Ruehl thinks that his team is one of the top three in the league and that the Voyagers will go as far as pitching will take them.
Clearview finished with a 3-7-1 record (1-6 in the Westside League) last year, and prospects don't look much better.
Coach Brenda Sapp said her goal is to finish at .500. She has first-team all-league pitcher Ron Walden and pitcher-shortstop Fred Hohenfeld, a second-team all-league selection, but misses first-team all-league second baseman Brett Phillips, who batted .400 but has graduated.
Brentwood finished last in the Delphic League with a 1-7 record and was 10-13 overall.
First-year Coach Steve Jesson hopes to turn that around and thinks hard-throwing right-hander Mark Hamilton will be the key.
Jesson also is counting on sophomore reliever Arturo Alvarez, who will be turned into a starting pitcher for league play, to form a strong combination with Hamilton.
He thinks Providence will capture the league because it has many veterans. But he feels that Brentwood has a chance to finish second.