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CHRIS FOSTER

Finding the Right Mixture

March 28, 1995|CHRIS FOSTER

The answer is simple.

Marc Patino. He's the guy who makes Sonora's baseball team so bloody good.

Now there were some--his coach included--who believed Patino would start at third base this season only if high school teams began using replacement players. So what has been the bigger surprise? Sonora's 8-0-1 record or Patino's .423 batting average?

Hmmm, too close to call.

Patino even had a two-run single to break a scoreless tie against Buena Park last week. If not for him, what would the Raiders do? That is, besides rely on David Haller, David Miller, Tony Governale and Ryan Jones.

OK, so it's not about Patino. But it's about hitting.

The last time people were swinging wood so viciously in this end of Orange County, they were practicing deforestation. Geez, those five guys hitting .360 or better. Haller and Miller are hitting .500. It must look like T-ball out there some days. Don't need much pitching with guys whacking the ball around like that.

Still, it can come in handy on those odd days when the lumber slumbers.

Pitchers Miller, Junior Rodriguez and Ryan Owens haven't exactly let the bats carry them. Life's getting rough when all you have to choose from is three solid pitchers. A coach could do OK just using the eeny-meeny-miny-mo system.

These guys throw strikes. What a concept. Hitting them isn't very easy either. Rodriguez even tamed Canyon's load of free swingers, holding the vaunted Comanches to two runs.

All right, the talent is there.

They got pitching.

They got hitting.

So just fill out the old lineup card, sit back and enjoy. Toss out a couple "atta boys," maybe shout "can o'corn" once in a while, and call it coaching.

Well, Pat Tellers and John Link do bring a carpetbag full of coaching skill with them.

Tellers is energetic, a go-getter. A former Western and Long Beach State infielder, he never got a chance to play professionally. He naturally turned to coaching. Then three consecutive last-place teams had him turning in his sleep.

The Raiders lost their first eight games in the Freeway League last season and players were keeping sharp spikes away from their coach. Sonora then won six of its last seven, climbing from sixth to fifth place. Baby steps.

Then came Link, older than Tellers, and more mellow. He led Sonora to its last league championship in 1986. Tellers looked it up. Not that he needed to, because Link has reminded him once or twice. Link was a linchpin to the Raiders' past, having been involved with the program off and on since 1978.

Gosh, we got a movie of the week here. Crusty old coach, young whippersnapper. I see Cruise as Tellers.

It could have been a problem but it's not. The two fall over each other, trying to point out just how important the other guy is to the program. It's quite a tag team. Link handles the pitchers; Tellers the position players.

So there you have it. They got hitting. They got pitching. They got coaching. What more do you need?

Oh yeah, can't forget the new field. Hard to overlook $80,000 in improvements. Hard to miss that outfield fence. Even harder to miss those gappers that turned singles into home runs in the past. Hard not to play like a real baseball team on a real baseball field.

It's getting tough to distinguish the Raiders from those other distinguished North County powers.

Dinosaurs might remember that the Raiders were once pretty formidable. Then came electricity. Recent years haven't been so bright. But now they're back in the limelight.

So how'd they do it?

The answer is simple. The Raiders are just bloody good.

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