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PREP BASEBALL '94: SOUTH COAST LEAGUE : Dana Hills' Etherton Unchanged by Success

March 10, 1994|MELANIE NEFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

DANA POINT — "He portrays the perfect baseball player. He is humble and lets his actions speak for themselves. He just goes out and plays the game."

That's the way Seth Etherton describes his idol, Chicago Cub All-Star second baseman Ryne Sandberg.

"I've never been around anyone who loves baseball like he does. He is very routine and his actions on the mound speak for themselves. He is a quiet and humble individual."

That's the way Dana Hills Coach Bob Canary describes Etherton, his star right-hander.

Etherton, 17, has accomplished a great deal at a young age, yet, like Sandberg, he remains unpretentious.

Two years ago, at age 15, he played in the Mickey Mantle World Series in Waterbury, Conn., opening the series for the Norwalk Cardinals. In the series semifinals, Etherton, who was the series MVP, pitched a one-hitter against a strong team from Puerto Rico.

Last season on the mound for the Dolphins, Etherton was 8-2. He led Orange County with 102 strikeouts in the regular season. His earned-run average was an impressive 1.44. As a designated hitter, he batted .306 and hit six home runs.

Baseball America recently ranked him the 28th-best high school prospect in the country and USC has offered a full scholarship.

Etherton's reaction?

"It's all really nice, but I don't think about those things," he said. "I really thought I was rated too high."

Etherton's low-key attitude might come from his stable family environment. His father, Randy, is a mortgage banker. Laurie, his mother, does not work outside the home. He has three brothers and one sister, ranging from 2 to 21 years old.

"My family has been with me the whole time," Etherton said. "They make things easier for me and they are totally supportive."

Etherton started playing baseball when he was 7. He took the mound for the first time at age 8, but never spent time practicing his pitching until he turned 13.

"I would just go out and throw my games," Etherton said. "I tried to be the best, but I never spent extra time at it.

"Now I have to work. There is always someone better than me, so I have to work really hard."

His main pitching competitor in the league is Capistrano Valley's Pete Zamora. Last season Zamora, a left-hander, was right behind Etherton in every category. Zamora was 8-3 with a 1.45 ERA and struck out 100. He was ranked 35th by Baseball America.

"I think Pete is the second-best left-hander in the nation," Etherton said. "But he may be the best, because I haven't seen the kid from Florida (Doug Million from Sarasota High, Baseball America's No. 2 prospect) pitch."

When the two went head-to-head last season, it might have been the best pitching duel in the Southland.

Etherton pitched a three-hitter with 14 strikeouts; Zamora gave up four hits and struck out 16. The Dolphins won, 1-0.

And though both are seniors, their confrontations might continue beyond high school. Zamora has signed with UCLA.

Etherton hasn't decided what he will do after high school, but college is a high priority.

"I love USC. Everything is great there, the coaches, the players and especially the spirit," Etherton said. "As far as the draft is concerned, we will just have to wait and see if I'm picked and how high."

Now his main concern is the Dana Hills baseball team. Winning the South Coast League title is his No. 1 goal, and doing well in the playoffs is No. 2.

"Everyone on this team has grown up together," Etherton said. "I think we can go all the way."

1993 IN REVIEW

Highlights

Mater Dei won the South Coast League title with a 12-3 record, finished sixth in the Division I rankings and fourth in the Orange County polls. . . . None of the South Coast League's playoff representatives defeated their first opponents. The Monarchs faced Long Beach Wilson in the first round and lost, 6-4. Dana Hills, which surprised a number of people with its second-place finish in a competitive league, was eliminated in Round 1 by Edison, 5-4. Mission Viejo drew a wild-card spot and the Diablos lost to Ocean View, 9-8. The Seahawks advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to top-seeded Crespi. . . . Capistrano Valley, which tied for third with Mission Viejo, missed a playoff berth based on head-to-head play. . . . El Toro finished one game behind Capistrano Valley, while San Clemente struggled under its first-year coach. . . . Mater Dei's Mike McDonald, a pitcher and first baseman, was named the league's most valuable player. He finished with an 8-1 record, a 1.88 earned-run average and 52 strikeouts. . . . Brodie Lefevbre of Capistrano Valley led the league in hitting with a .414 average, and Mission Viejo's Todd Sands had league highs in runs batted in (32) and home runs (seven).

Standings

League Overall School W L W L Mater Dei 12 3 20 6 Dana Hills 10 5 17 10 Mission Viejo 7 8 13 11 Capistrano Valley 7 8 14 10 El Toro 6 9 12 14 San Clemente 3 12 7 15

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