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Powerful Pair Leading Seahawk Nine Into Tough SCAC Regionals

May 14, 1987|SCOTT ROSENBERG | Times Staff Writer

Higgins and Pedre. Pedre and Higgins.

This is what you hear when you walk around Los Angeles Harbor College.

Out back, behind the left-field fence of Harbor's baseball diamond, stands an enormous concrete oasis, one usually reserved for parked automobiles. The area, known as "G lot," has become a favorite stomping ground for Jorge Pedre.

"Jorge just loves G lot," said Bob Gauci, an assistant coach at Harbor. "He's hit so many home runs there, we still call it G lot--Jorge's lot."

Kevin Higgins smiles. Although he doesn't always hit his home runs to G lot, he does hit his home runs--14 this year to Pedre's 16, as they led the Seahawks to the Southern California Athletic Conference title.

Harbor (34-8 overall, 23-4 in the SCAC) plays host to the regional playoffs this weekend, most likely facing a College of the Canyons team which, like Harbor, is a perennial state power.

Pedre and Higgins are just two of Harbor's talented crew. There are eight hitters with batting averages above .300, but Pedre and Higgins stand out because of all the records they've broken.

Higgins, a 5-11, 170-pound second baseman from Torrance High, surpassed five season records and now holds four career marks for Harbor. He set his season marks for runs scored (69), triples (6) and times on base (106). Higgins also passed the previous highs for home runs and RBIs, but Pedre in turn passed him.

The 6-1, 210-pound catcher hit two more homers than Higgins and had 71 RBIs to Higgins' 55.

Higgins' 108 career hits set the school record, and his 19 career homers and 97 career RBIs are more than any Seahawk has ever produced.

Pedre's 74 hits are a Harbor season-high, as are his 16 home runs, most of which have been high, arching moon shots. His 24-game hitting streak is two short of the school record.

And there are still more numbers: Pedre, a sophomore who played at West Los Angeles College last season, hit .532 this season and was named SCAC player of the year. Higgins, like Pedre, a first-team member of the all-conference squad, hit .461.

Coach Jim O'Brien, who won state titles with his Harbor teams of 1978 and 1984, called Pedre and Higgins "two of the best players I've ever had.

"Pedre is, without a doubt, as fine a hitter as I've ever coached, particularly in the power department. Jorge is going to hit them anywhere, no matter where you pitch him. And Higgins, well, he just eats, sleeps and dreams baseball. Been like that all his life.

"Both guys, in my opinion, are definite pro prospects."

Both players enjoy the high praise and attention that comes with being a star. But they are both quick to point out that they'd be nowhere without their teammates.

"This year has just been unbelievable, but I attribute that to the team," said Higgins, one of four co-captains at Harbor. "When everyone's hitting, that takes the pressure off Jorge and I. You can't pitch around us. We get the ink and the records, but we'd have none of that without the rest of the team."

There is a natural rivalry between Pedre and Higgins, one that spurs each to do better than the other. Because their statistics are almost identical and because they are the team leaders (Pedre is also co-captain), it's become common to mention both names in one sentence. Higgins and Pedre. Pedre and Higgins.

But these two are different in many ways.

Higgins, a raucous type, is an absolute baseball junkie. If they ever started a Baseball Anonymous, Higgins would be a charter member.

As a 3-year-old, his father would throw Wiffle Balls at him. At 6, he said his uncle falsified his birth certificate so he could play in the 8-and-over league. By the time he was 12, Higgins knew that this is what he would do. Someday, he was going to make his living wearing a leather glove and pounding baseballs all over the field.

Higgins was a catcher and shortstop in his four-year varsity career at Torrance. He was All-CIF, Ocean League MVP, the big man on campus. When he got to Harbor, things changed. Not just his position (he was moved to second base), but his production as well.

"I didn't have a great year," he said. "I was out of shape the second half of the season. The bat felt really heavy. Now, I'm in much better condition, which I attribute partly to a weight-training program. I'm stronger now, which I guess helps explain all the home runs."

By his own admission, Higgins is not a home-run hitter. Batting left-handed, he sprays the ball to all fields. He is a contact hitter, much like his hero, Pete Rose.

"Kevin is an all-around player," O'Brien said. "We moved him to the No. 2 spot in the batting order (he hit third last season) so as to better suit his skills. Moving runners along. Getting on base and running the bases well, which he does. We didn't want him to worry about hitting home runs, but they're coming anyway."

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