His physical characteristics are that of a typical leadoff hitter. He is small (5-6, 155 pounds), fast, and he has a compact swing. But Gabe Diaz was more to Hueneme High's baseball team than just a good first-place hitter. He led or was tied for the lead in every offensive category but home runs.
Diaz, a shortstop, batted .448, scored 31 runs, had 9 doubles, 4 triples, 24 runs batted in and stole 13 bases. Perhaps just as impressive, he never struck out in 96 at-bats.
"He's a real tough out," said Coach Rich Duran of Channel League rival Rio Mesa. "I mean, it doesn't matter how you pitch him, inside, outside, off-speed, he always seems to put the fat part of the bat on the ball and hit it hard somewhere."
Coach Reg Welker of Hueneme said the senior will be impossible to replace. "I've never had a player quite like him," Welker said. "It's not like he goes up there and punches at it. He's aggressive and he's a first-pitch hitter. He definitely gets his money's worth when he's up there."
Diaz, an All-Channel League defensive back and wide receiver in football, is a three-time all-league choice in baseball. "He plays both games the same way," Welker said. "He loves to get his hits."
Call him 'Spike'?: Steve Dailey, an All-Ventura County linebacker for the Ventura High football team, apparently carried his hard-nosed style of play onto the baseball field.
Dailey twice was ejected from Channel League games this season--both times against Rio Mesa--for his baserunning habits. Once, he was kicked out for running over Rio Mesa's catcher trying to dislodge the ball on a play at the plate. He also was booted for running out of the baseline trying to break up a double play at second base.
Rival coaches, including Rio Mesa's Duran--claim no animosity, however.
"He's a very intense young man," Duran said of Dailey. "He's one of the best competitors you'll ever see. I like the way he plays. But when you play hard and aggressive like he does sometimes you try to play outside of yourself. I don't think he meant to bowl over our catcher like he was a running back. I just think he knew he had to knock the ball loose or he'd be out, so that's what he tried to do.
"I don't think he was trying to hurt the kid. That's just him. That's the way he plays."
Welker of Hueneme said Dailey once took out the Vikings' third baseman on a play that might have earned him an ejection with another umpiring crew.
"He was out by five or 10 feet," Welker said. "I guess he was diving for the base, but he slid awfully high. But that's the way he plays. He's a hard-nosed young man, and a good, aggressive player."
Said Duran: "Let's put it this way, if someone happens to be in the way, he isn't one to shy away. There's nothing wrong with that. I certainly wouldn't mind having him. But when you play like that, it's going to cost you once in a while. The rules have to be enforced."
More Dailey news: Dailey will be terrorizing Big Eight infielders next season playing for Oklahoma State. He signed a letter of intent last week, choosing the Cowboys over UC Santa Barbara.
Oklahoma State spent much of this season ranked No. 1 in the nation before being eliminated from playoff contention this week by Wichita State in the Midwest regional. The Shockers won, 8-5 on Monday and 15-5 on Tuesday.
Trend setters: For the second time in three years, Esperanza knocked a highly regarded Simi Valley High baseball team out of the playoffs. Aztec pitchers Jason Moler and Doug Saunders combined on a five-hitter as Esperanza defeated Simi Valley, 10-1, last week. In addition to pitching exploits, Moler had a home run and Saunders had two.
In 1986, Esperanza defeated Simi Valley, 6-5. On Friday, the Aztecs will make their third consecutive appearance in the Southern Section 4-A Division championship game at Anaheim Stadium.
Add Simi: Pitcher-first baseman Scott Sharts finished with 15 home runs, one short of the Southern Section record for a season. Arnold Garcia had 16 for Channel Islands in 1981.
Too late on Laker: The Kansas City Royals made a last-ditch effort to sign Oxnard College catcher Tim Laker this week but were turned down.
Laker was drafted by the Royals last June and the major league team had until the start of Wednesday's draft to sign him, or lose all rights. The former Simi Valley High standout has signed a letter of intent with Arizona State. He batted .386 with 5 home runs and 34 runs batted in for Oxnard during the past season.
The Islanders: Members of Buena High's girls basketball team were among the many visitors to Santa Catalina Island over the Memorial Day weekend. No, there wasn't a tournament in Avalon, the team was there for pleasure.
"We've done it the last five or six years," Coach Joe Vaughan said. "It's the last time we can get the whole team together as a group in a relaxed atmosphere."