Who's the best hitter in Orange County? A good case could be made for second baseman Ted Savage of Laguna Beach High School.
Savage, who bats left-handed, is hitting .479 with 35 hits in 73 at-bats. The Artists' leadoff hitter, he has scored 27 runs and has hit 12 doubles for a team that has struggled to a 6-14 record. He has a slugging percentage of .725.
"I knew he was something special when he averaged two hits a game last summer for my semipro team, the Orange County Yankees," said Scott Majors, Laguna Beach coach. "And he was getting those hits against Double-A pitchers.
"Ted has one of the sweetest swings you'll ever see. Once he quit trying to pull everything, he became quite a hitter."
Savage is certainly a good player to have batting leadoff. He has opened 13 games with hits, including one in Friday's 6-4 victory over Trabuco Hills. Savage had two hits in the game, bouncing a single between first and second to open the game and then blooping a single over third in the second inning.
"Ted had been slumping until today," Majors said Friday. "He was hitless on Tuesday against Trabuco Hills for the first time this season. He was hitting .560 two weeks ago, but had only three hits in his last 16 at-bats."
Savage has the pleasure of playing his home games in a ballpark where the right-field fence is only 220 feet from home plate. But Majors says Savage has hit the majority of his doubles to the gap in left-center.
"It's very difficult to get a double off the right-field fence here because it's so close," Majors said. "Ted hits a lot of gappers. I score all of our games, and I consider myself a tough scorer. I don't give anybody freebie hits."
Savage is considered to be an average fielder who has improved considerably. He has good range, and he showed he can make the pivot well when he turned a double play that ended the first inning against Trabuco Hills Friday.
"If Ted has a weakness, he's out here working on it," Majors said. "He's really improved his fielding."
Don Munsell, Trabuco Hills coach, had nothing but praise for Savage, although his team held him to two hits in eight plate appearances last week.
"He's one of the better hitters in our league, if not the best," Munsell said. "He's a good contact hitter who's hard to get out. He's a heads-up player on the bases who makes things happen."
Savage figures to make things happen in the Pacific Coast League for some time. He's only a junior.
Lost and Usually Not Found: The baseball field at Laguna Beach High hasn't been too kind to the Artists' athletic budget over the years. The diamond sits on a bluff at the southwest corner of the campus, which makes searching for foul balls an adventure.
A 70-foot cliff covered with shrubs and trees is directly behind the backstop and down the third-base line. The incline leads to Wilson Street, a busy road on which cars are often the targets of foul balls.
"We lose an awful lot of baseballs, and we go on ball hunts after every practice," Majors said. "We'll go through 60 dozen baseballs this season."
Side Out: Jerry Gregg, volleyball coach at Magnolia High, has been selected by the U.S. Volleyball Assn. to participate in a volleyball clinic in the Soviet Union from June 24 to July 10 at the National Institute of Sports Science in Moscow.
Selected coaches from the United States and Canada will study the Soviets' scientific approach to volleyball, including detailed analysis of training methods.