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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL PREVIEWS : CHANNEL LEAGUE : Rio Mesa Comes of Age With Talented Freshman

March 17, 1988|STEVE HENSON | Times Staff Writer

Dmitri Young.

Rich Duran wants everyone to remember that name. He isn't worried--he figures everyone will know it soon enough, anyway.

Duran is beginning his second season as baseball coach at Rio Mesa. Young is beginning his first season of high school baseball. A 14-year-old Rio Mesa freshman, he won't be able to drive a car until 1989, but he sure can drive a baseball.

"I've never seen a kid swing the bat like this kid," Duran said. "This is something special."

Young (6-2, 220), a left fielder, moved to Oxnard last year from Montgomery, Ala. He's dug right into California pitching, banging out 3 triples, 2 doubles and 7 RBIs in the Spartans' first 4 games.

The presence of Young elevates Rio Mesa near the level of Ventura, the defending league champion and prohibitive favorite to repeat.

Plenty of offense is expected from the Ventura outfield, which consists of three players who also were football standouts. Steve Dailey, the center fielder, batted .500 last season. Lawrence Cottrell, the left fielder, is the leadoff batter and has 2 home runs already. David Eggert, the right fielder, is 7 for 14 and possesses one of the strongest arms in the county, according to Coach Dan Smith.

The entire Cougar infield also returns, including Eddie Garcia, whom Smith believes is the best defensive first baseman in the league. Second baseman B. J. Barron and shortstop Mike Tafoya have played on the same teams for eight years and have already turned 4 double plays. Third baseman Darrell McMillin, who is also 7 for 14, may develop into the team's closer from the bullpen.

McMillin's twin, Dean, is Ventura's top pitcher. A hard-throwing left-hander, Dean McMillin was 4-2 last season. "He's being scouted," Smith said. "He's got that tailing fastball and throws consistently in the mid-80s."

Rio Mesa, which finished 6-8 in league play and 12-11-1 overall last season, may pester Ventura. Besides Young, the Spartans have a strong left side of the infield with Brian Beltramo at shortstop and Juan Cuellar at third.

The Spartans boast a solid pitching staff with Darren Spiller and Robert Ayala.

Perhaps the most improved team in the league is Oxnard, where second-year Coach Tony Diaz has injected previously unknown enthusiasm.

Returning starters Jack Sexton, the center fielder, and Lupe Carrillo, the second baseman, are the leaders. Carrillo batted .383 last season and has hit 2 home runs already. Sexton, who batted .310 last year, has 1 home run and is also the team's hardest thrower.

James Waldroup and Mike Terrill, both right-handers, also are off to good starts.

It would be a relief to Buena Coach Stan Hedegard if shortstop Tommy Lunsford, a junior who batted .486 last season, continues to improve. Lunsford also slugged 4 home runs and drove in 36 runs.

Other returning starters for Buena, which was 9-5 in league play and 16-9-1 overall last season, include left fielder Warren Hall and first baseman Al Sanderson. Hall batted .350 with 3 home runs and 7 doubles last season.

Hueneme was 9-5 in league play and 14-12 overall last year, but has only four returning starters. Shortstop Gabe Diaz, who batted .358 last year, and catcher Joel Gaxiola, who batted .295 with 3 home runs, are the only nonpitchers returning.

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