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Spring Sports Notebook : Fillmore Supplements Traditional Ace With Full Deck of Talent

May 05, 1988|STEVE HENSON | Times Staff Writer

Coaches at the large Marmonte and Channel league schools look on in dismay. Coaches in the Frontier League look skyward in thanks that the team remains in Tri-Valley League. Coaches in the Tri-Valley just look out.

Fillmore, it seems, always has a pitcher so dominant that Coach Tom Ecklund can chalk up a win whenever he sends his ace to the mound. This year's model is the Big W himself, left-hander Willie Leighton, who is 9-0 with an earned-run average of 1.72.

The Flashes won consecutive Southern Section 1-A Division titles from 1975-77 behind Rick Stewart, who was 1-A Player of the Year all three seasons. In 1979, Kevin Gross led Fillmore to the 1-A final. Gross has shown he was no Flash in the pan--the right-hander is in the Philadelphia Phillies' starting rotation.

Fillmore, the No. 1-ranked team in the 1-A with a 14-2 record, 8-1 in league play, may have what it takes to win another Southern Section title this season. But Ecklund, who has coached Fillmore since 1973, won't discuss the possibility just yet.

"I hate to compare teams," he said. "The ballclub this year is very solid. When we play to our potential, we can be excellent."

Leighton, who is batting .485, is one of eight Flashes batting .333 or better. The team, which has outscored its opponents, 168-51, is getting considerable leadership from three-year starters Jaime Sandoval and Jamie Alamillo.

Sandoval, a 5-foot, 9-inch shortstop, is batting .540 and has scored 24 runs. Alamillo, who plays third base and pitches, is 4-2 with a 1.40 ERA and is batting .376. In two games last week, Alamillo had two home runs, a triple, a double and drove in 11 runs.

"Sandoval is a nugget on the ballclub," Ecklund said. "Alamillo is really getting hot."

Another key is senior catcher Manuel Galindo, who is batting .438.

"He's our spark plug," Ecklund said. "He handles the pitchers real well."

Which isn't difficult when, more often than not, Leighton is firing the strikes.

Add Fillmore: The Flashes have defeated Moorpark, 25-8 and 25-7, this season.

"I can't explain it because Moorpark isn't that bad a club," Ecklund said. "It just seemed like everything we hit was hit hard."

Fabulous freshmen: Surrounded by the nucleus of seniors at Fillmore, freshman Anthony Chessani is hitting very well. Chessani, a 5-11, 195-pound first baseman, is batting .400 from the No. 5 spot in the lineup.

Chessani, who also pitches, is one of three Ventura County freshmen pounding varsity pitching.

With a .370 batting average and 12 extra-base hits, Rio Mesa freshman outfielder Dmitri Young has proven as talented as Coach Rich Duran advertised before the season.

Freshman Jacob Cruz of Channel Islands bats fourth in the lineup and boasts a .343 average and 17 RBIs.

"He's already got scouts looking at him," Coach Don Cardinal said. "He has great speed and a great arm."

Cruz is the Raider center fielder for the present, but Cardinal would like to put that live arm to use on the mound.

"Jacob isn't sure about pitching because he sees a long career as a position player," Cardinal said. "But I'd like him to try it next season. We'll take it slow."

Are Young and Cruz prospects? Asked about the talent of seniors in the county, Oxnard College Coach Jerry White replied: "Not bad, but how about those freshmen at Rio Mesa and Channel Islands?"

No relief needed: Pitchers Richard Mendez and Mike Teron have 11 starts and 11 complete-game victories between them for Santa Clara, which leads the Frontier League with a record of 9-0 and is 14-2 overall.

Mendez has given up only 5 runs in 42 innings and has 2 shutouts. Teron, who has allowed eight runs in 35 innings, is also batting .500.

Remember that name: Two brothers with a common name--Smith--are making uncommon names for themselves at Newbury Park High. Shortstop Dan Smith and center fielder Don Smith have provided excellent defense for the Panthers as well as solid bats in the lineup.

Dan has a team-leading 36 hits and is batting .414 with 9 doubles and 21 runs batted in. Don is batting .319 with a team-leading 11 stolen bases. Both Smiths have four home runs.

Add Panthers: Junior first baseman Wayne Cook is excelling in his third sport of the school year. Cook, the quarterback on the football team and leading scorer on the basketball team, is batting .347 and has scored a team-leading 25 runs.

Also enjoying a fine season at the plate is Chris Fick, who is batting .333.

Stockton's up: Pat Stockton, who feared he had sustained an injury to his rotator cuff in the third game of the season, returned to Santa Paula's rotation last week against Santa Clara and pitched a complete game. He struck out 10 and came within an eyelash of pulling off a major upset of the Frontier League-leading Saints.

Santa Clara won, 3-2, as Mendez, the winning pitcher, drove in all three runs.

Milestone: Ventura's 4-3 win over San Marcos on Friday was the 100th career victory for Coach Dan Smith.

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