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Oxnard Ready for Toughest Test of Season

May 19, 1988|GARY KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

Jerry White could not have planned it any better.

His Oxnard College baseball team recently put all facets of its game together in a fashion most coaches only dream about. Great pitching, excellent defense and clutch hitting have all been in evidence during the Condors' first- and second-round wins in the junior college state tournament.

On Friday, however, Oxnard will get its toughest test of the season when the Condors travel to Santa Ana to open play in the four-team, double-elimination Southern California regional against top-ranked Rancho Santiago.

The winner of the regional, which also includes Harbor and Palomar, advances to the four-team finals next weekend at UC Irvine.

"We just want to go down there and do as well as we can," said White, who has been at Oxnard for 10 years. "We're good enough to be competitive with the teams we're going to play down there."

Oxnard (27-13) earned its trip to the regional by defeating Orange Coast, 3-2, last Thursday, and Valley, 2-0, Saturday.

Vale Lopez (8-5, 2.16 earned-run average), a sophomore right-hander from Hueneme High, earned the win against Orange Coast, surrendering seven hits over 12 innings.

Freshman catcher Tim Laker, who was 14-for-27 during the final week of the regular season, drove in the game-winning run when he doubled in Heath De La Torre, who had singled and moved to second on a sacrifice by Javier Alcala.

Laker drove in the winning runs against Valley with his ninth home run, a two-run blast in the fourth.

The hero of Saturday's win, however, was sophomore left-hander Don Schwarz (5-2, 4.54 ERA), who pitched the first no-hitter in Oxnard history and struck out 12.

"It's not like the score was 7-0 and he could try to go for a no-hitter," White said. "His concentration was on throwing strikes, not walking people and getting a win. That shows a lot of savvy."

Laker (.356, 34 runs batted in), De La Torre (.337) and Sean Luft (.355, 21 RBIs) will be aided on offense against Rancho Santiago by the return of center fielder Phil White (.369), who missed the first two games of the playoffs with a finger injury.

And with Lopez, Schwarz and sophomore right-hander Glen Evans (8-2, 3.06 ERA), the Condors have enough pitching to give Rancho Santiago trouble.

Rancho Santiago (34-7), champion of the Orange-Empire Conference, is led by a trio of four-year transfers who provide one of the most explosive offensive attacks in the state.

"We try to get people early and take them out of their game," Coach Don Sneddon said.

Left-handed hitting first baseman Bob Hamelin, a transfer from UCLA, is batting .521 with 27 home runs and 94 RBIs. Hamelin, 6 feet, 220 pounds, broke the school's career home run record in one year, but he has made a verbal commitment to attend Texas next year and has been invited to try out for the Olympic team.

Sophomore outfielder Rich Gonzales, who played quarterback at Oregon State, is batting .464 with 4 home runs and 54 RBIs. Sophomore center fielder Kraig Washington, a transfer from USC, is batting .369 with 34 RBIs.

Rancho Santiago also has solid pitching in freshman left-hander Willie Navarette (9-0, 3.74), sophomore right-hander Dave Tellers (10-1, 4.18) and sophomore right-hander Tim MacNeil (5-1, 3.60).

"The days when we've put all three aspects of our game together have been sort of scary," Sneddon said.

The way Oxnard has been playing lately, things figure to be frightfully entertaining.

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