Two of the better hitting community college teams in the Southland will meet this afternoon in the opening game of their best-of-three series in the Southern California regional playoffs.
Western State Conference champion College of the Canyons (30-7-1) travels to Wilmington to play L.A. Harbor College (35-8), winner of the American Division of the Southern California Conference.
A year ago, Canyons won two straight from Harbor in the regionals to advance to the state playoffs, which Canyons eventually won. But Harbor Coach Jim O'Brien downplays the revenge factor in this series.
"That's not a word I like to use," O'Brien said. "It's a whole different team. But the guys will have no problem getting up for the games. It's a very intense rivalry."
Leading the Canyons offense is catcher Mike Bible, who hit 12 home runs while flirting with a .500 batting average most of the season. Roger Nix and Andy Cutchall are batting better than .400.
Similarly, Harbor boasts a trio of players with impressive offensive statistics. Catcher George Pedre has 15 home runs and a .532 conference average. Second baseman Kevin Higgins has 14 home runs and a .461 conference mark, and outfielder Jack Hollis is batting .404.
Each team will send its ace to the mound today. Canyons' Fred Riscen (8-3, 2.17 earned average average) will oppose Harbor's Jim Hudson. In Sunday's Game 2, Jeff Ward of Canyons (7-1, 2.49 ERA) and Harbor's Dave Haggard are scheduled to start. A third game, if necessary, will follow.
"In the end it will probably come down to execution," O'Brien said. "These are two very similar, power-hitting teams. If the games are close, the little things will become so important. Pitching and defense will be the keys."