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Pitcher Delivers 1-Liners : Shane Bowers Is Court Jester of Loyola Marymount

March 25, 1993|MITCH POLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CHARTER OAK — Loyola Marymount pitcher Shane Bowers does not take himself too seriously.

Between starts, Bowers can often be found pulling a prank on an unsuspecting freshman, giving his best imitation of a teammate or finding a way to get a laugh.

"He's good for our morale," infielder Greg Carl said. "He's always doing something to stir things up. When he's got a smile on his face, you know he's up to something."

Coach Jody Robinson said Bowers always seems to have a prank in the works.

"He's always making sarcastic remarks to our younger players and they never know if he's pulling their leg or not," he said. "I have to keep an eye on him because he's always got them doing something unusual. Then I'll ask them why they're doing that and they'll say, 'Shane told us to do it.' "

As much as he enjoys playing the role of court jester, Bowers manages to keep his pranks in perspective. Once he steps onto the diamond, Bowers is all business.

At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, Bowers has the size to be intimidating.

He leads the West Coast Conference in strikeouts with 58 and also in innings pitched at 64 2/3. He has four wins and is tied for first in shutouts with one. He is second in complete games with four. The junior has a 2.03 earned-run average and has held opponents to a .151 batting average in league play.

"He's got a pretty live arm," Robinson said. "His pitches are usually in the mid to high 80s and he's got a good fastball. When it's on and he's got it in the right gear, he can take charge of a game."

Bowers has also worked diligently at improving other aspects of his game.

"I'm just trying to become a more complete pitcher," Bowers said. "I've been working on fielding my position better, holding runners on, my off-speed pitches and using weights to improve my strength."

He hopes the end result will be an opportunity to play professionally. Bowers, who has one more year of athletic eligibility remaining but is a senior academically, is regarded as a good candidate to be selected in the free-agent draft in June.

"I think with what he's accomplished and with his size, he's certainly got a good chance," Robinson said. "He's probably not going to be a real high draft choice, but I think he'll be drafted."

Bowers didn't take baseball seriously at Covina Charter Oak High.

"I played mostly basketball in high school," Bowers said. "That was always my main sport. I played baseball all throughout high school, but my main interest was basketball. I didn't really start playing basketball until high school, but in those four years it became a more dominant sport."

As a senior forward with the Chargers, Bowers averaged a team-leading 20 points and 10 rebounds, made three all-tournament teams and was named to The Times' All-San Gabriel Valley team.

But after failing to earn a basketball scholarship, he turned his attention to baseball.

"After basketball season, I didn't get letters from anyone," Bowers said. "I guess they felt I didn't have the size and quickness to play in college, but I wanted to play some sport in college."

But Bowers went unnoticed as a senior on the baseball team, so he had to devise a way to sell himself to Division I schools.

"The only way I got noticed was I put together a letter describing myself and sent it out to schools that I was interested in attending," he said. "I just felt I had to do something to get the scouts out to our games."

Bowers sent letters to USC, UC Irvine and Loyola--but after all three declined to offer him a scholarship, he settled on the Lions. He pitched only 5 2/3 innings as a freshman in 1990.

"I didn't get a chance to play much at first," he said. "But I knew that once I got my chance, I'd make the most of it. Last year was my third year here, but it was like my freshman season because it was the first time I got any playing time."

Although he finished with a 3-5 record and a 5.36 earned-run average last season, Bowers made a big enough impression to be selected to the All-WCC second team.

"I think a lot of people don't realize how well he pitched last year," infielder Darren Sugiyama said. "He was kind of a hard-luck pitcher and he didn't always get a lot of support from his defense, but he always pitched well."

Bowers showed signs of emerging as the team's ace toward the end of last season, when he turned in solid efforts against national powers Cal State Fullerton and Pepperdine. He pitched the Lions to an 8-2 win over Fullerton, which lost to Pepperdine in the NCAA title game.

He continued to improve last summer in the Alaska League and the Central Illinois Collegiate League.

"I worked on becoming a more consistent pitcher because last year I had too many rough outings," Bowers said.

Bowers has combined with Shawn Hammett to give the Lions one of the best one-two pitching combinations in the conference.

"It kind of started when we were together at Danville last summer and it continued when we played winter ball," he said. "This season, we've just taken off."

Bowers turned in perhaps his best effort March 8 at the University of San Francisco, limiting the Dons to four hits and no earned runs and striking out 11 in Loyola's 7-1 win.

"I always think there's room for improvement," Bowers said. "There's always something you can do better in every game. Maybe you didn't field a bunt right or you need to work on your move to first base. I'm the hardest critic on myself."

Bowers has few complaints about the direction of his baseball career.

"All I ever wanted when I came here was a chance to show what I could do and right now I'm just trying to make the most of it," he said.

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