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CLU BASEBALL PREVIEW : Hill Wants Team as Company for Playoffs

February 05, 1989|RALPH NICHOLS | Times Staff Writer

Rich Hill attended the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics District 3 baseball playoffs last year but not in the capacity he would have liked--as coach of the Cal Lutheran baseball team.

Hill was put in the awkward position of having to help administrate a tournament in which his Kingsmen had no involvement. Cal Lutheran failed to qualify for the district playoffs after finishing in a tie for third in the Golden State Athletic Conference.

"Being there without my team was one of the toughest things I have had to deal with as a coach," said Hill, who is beginning his second season with Cal Lutheran. "We had the talent to be there, but we just did not execute in the last 10 games.

"All I kept thinking was that I could not wait until next year."

The Kingsmen will have to improve in several key areas this season if they are going to improve on their 20-23 record and compete with perennial Golden State Athletic Conference powers such as Westmont College. CLU was 13-11 in conference play last season.

Fortunately for Hill, Cal Lutheran has a month of preseason games before opening conference play against Christ College on March 4.

Cal Lutheran will need a month to solidify a pitching staff that is headed by senior right-handed reliever Jay Anderson, the Kingsmen's top returning pitcher. Joining Anderson, who had a 2-3 record and a 4.67 earned-run average last year, will be right-handers Mike Clark from Pierce College, Craig Anderson from Golden West College and Dean Martinez (7-5 at Saddleback College).

The Kingsmen also picked up junior Devon Schutzler, a left-handed pitcher-infielder from Monterey Peninsula College. Returning left-hander pitchers include sophomore Tim Lewis, who batted .327 but pitched in only 1 game last season, and junior Kevin O'Neill. Hill also has Greg Minick, a senior right-hander who compiled a 3-8 record and 5.47 ERA last year and is expected to be ready later this month after having undergone elbow surgery.

Cal Lutheran bolstered its outfield with the addition of Darnell Mitchell, a center fielder from Cuesta College. He will join returning outfielders Henry Campos, who also played third base last year, and first baseman-outfielder Dan Weis.

"We had to get a center fielder to anchor the outfield because we had no speed out there last year," Hill said.

Sophomore second baseman Dave Leonhardt, who hit .420 in GSAC play last year and .311 overall, is Cal Lutheran's top returning infielder. Hill also has Daren Cornell, who is returning at shortstop after missing last season because of academic ineligibility, and junior Jeff Brouelette from Orange Coast College at third base.

Senior Anthony Espitia, who batted .344 last season and was second on the team in home runs with 5, is back at catcher along with sophomore catcher-outfielder Jeff Chalmers. The Kingsmen added junior Leonard Matsumoto, a junior catcher-outfielder from Santa Monica College.

"We have a nucleus of 10 or 11 guys who are going to be playing all year for us," Hill said. "Right now, it depends on which guys are swinging the bat the best."

Hill expects that a tough preseason schedule, which includes 3 Division I opponents and 7 Division II teams, will prepare the Kingsmen for conference play.

"I feel this year that there is a complete turnaround on this team," Hill said. "We have some guys who really want to work hard and win."

CLU, whose season-opening doubleheader against Cal State Northridge was rained out Saturday, will play at The Master's College on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.

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