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March 24, 1994|ROB FERNAS

MILESTONE

When you've been a baseball coach as long as Harry Jenkins has, you learn to take the good with the bad.

Jenkins approaches his 400th career victory with the same outlook.

"It makes me feel good," he said, "and a little old."

In his 23rd season, Jenkins can get victory No. 400 when his West Torrance High team plays Carson at 4 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Redondo tournament. Reaching the milestone in a game at Redondo would be appropriate.

Jenkins enjoyed his greatest success at Redondo, both as an athlete and a coach. He was a standout basketball and baseball player at the school, then coached the Sea Hawk baseball team to a 339-179-4 record from 1970-88.

After taking two years off, he returned to coaching at West in 1990 and has guided the Warriors to a 60-31-1 record in four seasons.

West is off to a 5-2 start this season and boasts a talented lineup that includes five starters batting .400 or higher, and a fast-improving pitching staff. The only blemishes on the Warriors' record are one-run losses to Simi Valley and Cerritos.

"It's a real good group, a younger group," Jenkins said. "The pitching staff was a question mark, but they've been doing an excellent job."

West has gotten a big boost from Kirk Bolling, a junior right-hander who is 3-0 with a 1.94 earned-run average. In his last game on March 15, Bolling had 11 strikeouts and no walks in a complete-game victory over Leuzinger, 6-2. An all-around athlete--he was West's quarterback in football--Bolling plays third base when not pitching.

ADD WEST

It's no surprise that Jenkins says hitting is the Warriors' strength. The team returns perhaps the area's finest offensive player in senior infielder Derek Nicholson, The Times' 1993 South Bay Player of the Year when he batted .520 and led the area with 37 runs batted in.

Nicholson picked up where he left off in West's opener March 4, hitting a home run in his first at-bat in an 8-6 victory over Pasadena Muir. It came three days after he had a cast removed from his right hand for a hairline fracture suffered in practice. Nicholson bats left-handed.

After a fast start, Nicholson has one hit in his last six at-bats, bringing his average down to .500 (11 for 22). He has two home runs and seven RBIs.

Others batting .400 or higher for West are senior designated hitter Joe Intermill (.529), who has eight consecutive hits in the past three games; Bolling (.480), who leads the team with three home runs and 12 RBIs; freshman catcher Tony Cosentino (.412), who has filled in for an injured starter; and junior center fielder Jim Yates (.400), a South Bay all-star last season.

"When we hit, we can play with anybody," Jenkins said.

THE YARDSTICK

Reaching 400 victories is no small feat, but Jenkins still has a long way to go to catch El Segundo Coach John Stevenson.

The dean of South Bay coaches is virtually out of sight with a 35-year record of 737-264, the winningest mark in state history.

Stevenson and Jenkins will renew their rivalry when El Segundo and West meet in Pioneer League games April 27 and 29. And there's a possibility the teams could meet before that in the Redondo tournament.

WOUNDED EAGLES

Injury and illness have reduced El Segundo's baseball team to a skeleton crew, a handicap that didn't stop the Eagles (6-2) from beating Culver City, 8-4, Monday in the first round of the Redondo tournament.

Still, Stevenson said it was difficult to make out a proper lineup.

"We're down to barely being able to field a lineup without hitting our pitchers," Stevenson said. "Every position player was in (Monday's) lineup."

Ryan McCloskey, El Segundo's standout second baseman, is out indefinitely with a torn knee ligament, and several other players have been sick.

Fortunately for the Eagles, the pitching staff has remained healthy. The team has five capable pitchers in senior left-hander David Reed (2-1), a returning All-Southern Section pick; junior left-hander Derek Fowler (2-0), and senior right-handers Dan Croxall (1-1), Phil Costello (1-0) and Bill Brown.

It's rare for a high school team to have that much pitching depth, but Stevenson doesn't know how much it will help.

"If we played (more games) it would really mean something, but we don't have the innings for five pitchers," Stevenson said. "I don't know how much better it is to have five pitchers than three. We're trying to split the innings as much as possible."

El Segundo's pitching depth could pay off when it plays four games in the San Luis Obispo tournament during Easter break.

LONG BALL

Since becoming eligible midway through last season, Redondo third baseman Steve Rawson has averaged a home run every two games.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior hit his fourth home run of the season Saturday in a 6-2 victory over North Torrance in a Redondo tournament opener as the Sea Hawks improved to 6-3. He also homered Friday in a 9-8 victory over Beverly Hills in an Ocean League opener.

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