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He's Bigger, He's Better, He's Rivera

March 31, 1993

On May 24, 1991, a scrawny, wide-eyed sophomore right-hander named Raymond Rivera strode to the mound at Dodger Stadium and helped San Fernando High win its first City baseball title.

Rivera pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief, earning the victory as San Fernando scored in the bottom of the seventh to defeat top-seeded Banning, 3-2.

Two years later, Rivera is better. And bigger.

Now 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Rivera might be the best pitcher in the Northwest Valley Conference. He entered the week with a 4-0 record, an earned-run average of 3.17, and all of his team's victories. Last week he threw a two-hitter in a 4-1 victory over Reseda.

"He would have beaten anybody," San Fernando Coach Steve Marden said. "Now we have Chatsworth and El Camino Real coming up, and I think he can beat both of them."

The rest of Marden's staff--expected to be as strong as any in the conference--isn't doing as well. Seniors Jorge Gonzales and John Romero haven't found the groove.

The left-handed Gonzales also pitched in that 1991 final and was expected to be a solid starter this season. Romero was 4-3 with a staff-best ERA of 2.77 a year ago. During last week's rains, Gonzales and Romero spent time throwing in the school gym under the watchful tutelage of Marden.

The pair looked good. However. . . . "You've gotta get it done between the white lines," Marden said. "That white line is the Great Wall of China to some; it's just a small line to others. As far as I know, (scouts) don't sign anybody out of the bullpen."



Justin Balser, who spent his first two years at El Camino Real behind the plate, is playing third base this season, and it seems more to his liking--especially offensively.

A year ago, during which he batted .290, Balser drove in 15 runs with five doubles and a homer.

He already has matched or eclipsed those marks after eight games. Balser, a senior, entered the week 15 for 29 with three home runs, five doubles and 16 RBIs.

Teammate Dan Cey, 1992 All-City Section 4-A Division shortstop who has driven in a conference-high 19 RBIs, has also eclipsed his total from last year (16).

Through eight games, El Camino Real is 106 for 241 (.439) as a team and has scored 104 runs. . . .

Cleveland outfielder Scott Foli comes from well-established athletic bloodlines. His father, Ernie Foli, played triple-A baseball and was once the boys' basketball coach at North Hollywood. Scott's uncle, Tim Foli, starred at Notre Dame High and played in the major leagues for 16 seasons with the New York Mets, Montreal Expos, Pittsburgh Pirates, Angels and New York Yankees. Scott, a senior outfielder, entered the week 10 for 24 (.417).



Look for the Simi Valley baseball team to score 17 runs today against visiting Camarillo.

Consider: Simi Valley has crushed four league opponents--Newbury Park, Channel Islands, Westlake and Thousand Oaks--by scores of 13-1, 14-5, 15-0 and 16-1.

"It was just one of those mathematical quirks, and it just had to have happened against us," Thousand Oaks Coach Jim Hansen said. . . .

Senior Clint Harris of Thousand Oaks, a first baseman and pitcher with a team-high .643 (18 for 28) batting average, will be sidelined for one to three weeks with a separated right shoulder. Harris, a right-hander who is 1-0 and has not allowed an earned run in five innings, stumbled across first base last week against Camarillo and suffered a mild separation, Hansen said.



Crespi right-hander Jeff Suppan's fastball is about 80 m.p.h., hardly enough to make scouts drool. But there must be some reason he pitches in front of almost as many note pads and radar guns as fans these days.

Consider: Suppan has 31 strikeouts and one walk in 28 innings this season. In his high school and American Legion careers, he has 390 strikeouts and 126 walks in 396 innings, but he's improved. Since the start of the 1992 high school season, Suppan has 233 strikeouts and 31 walks.

Suppan, who has signed to pitch at UCLA, is 3-1 with an 0.75 ERA. Suppan's next outing is scheduled against Notre Dame's Chris Leveque on Saturday at Notre Dame. Leveque is 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA. . . .

Notre Dame's other starting pitcher, Chris Garza, has improved his control. Garza's weakness last year was walks--78 in 72 2/3 innings. But so far this season, he has issued just three in 16 1/3 innings.

"My mechanics are pretty much the same, I've just gotten mentally tougher," Garza said. "I've forgotten about walks and trying to strike people out.". . .

Crespi was scheduled to play Notre Dame today at Valley College, but the game was postponed until next Wednesday because a film crew is shooting a movie on the football practice field, next to the baseball diamond. A television movie, "Against the Grain," is about high school football in Texas. The crew was shooting at nearby Grant High on Monday and Tuesday. . . .

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