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Carralejo Could Be Pick to Click

Baseball: Kennedy left-handed pitcher, who has committed to Cal State Fullerton, could be a jewel among Orange County players this season.

March 04, 1997|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Who is the next Michael Garner?

Who has the best chance to come out of nowhere in 1997 and dazzle county hitters the way Garner did last season, when he led Fullerton to the Freeway League title and was named The Times Orange County player of the year?

Kennedy's George Carralejo will probably give up more than the five earned runs Garner gave up all last season, but he's still the best county pitcher most people have not heard about.

The senior left-hander, who can throw his fastball in the low 90s and complements it with an excellent curve, was only 5-8 last year, but his 2.08 earned-run average and 80 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings impressed the Empire League coaches so much they voted him first-team all-league.

"We faced him two times last year and he was as tough on us as anyone we faced," said Katella Coach Tim McMenamin, whose league-champion team won both games, 2-0 and 2-1.

Carralejo already has signed with Cal State Fullerton. Titan Coach George Horton, who signed Garner last year, thinks Carralejo "can be as good as Garner, and maybe has a little better arm."

Adds Kennedy Coach Chris Pascal: "People will look at him (5-9, 150) and go 'Yeah, right.' But once he's between the lines he's a very intense competitor.

"I feel he can be among the top five pitchers in the county, and he said he wants to be the No. 1 guy on our team. He believes in his ability, and so do we."

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Carralejo is not the only county player who already has picked a college. Others include Mater Dei's Mike Kolbach, Servite's Jim Munroe and Greg Cicero, and Cypress' Phil Seibel (all chose Texas); Esperanza's David Parrish and La Quinta's Morey Aldrup (Michigan); Foothill's Tyler Lang (Duke); El Dorado's Jordan DeJong (Cal State Fullerton); Kennedy's Garrett Sabol (Oregon); Esperanza's Anthony Colacion (Colorado State); Mater Dei's Rod Perry and Capistrano Valley's Rik Currier (USC); Irvine's Jared Flint (Indiana); San Clemente's Corey Tolmasoff (Columbia) and Woodbridge's Jeff Pashalides (Stanford).

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Pashalides is another great story. He had to miss his junior season because of a broken vertebrae in his back. Doctors were divided on whether Pashalides should undergo surgery; instead, he opted to wear a fiberglass brace for three months, beginning last March, then undergo daily therapy through September. He was not allowed to touch a baseball during that time.

In September, the left-handed Pashalides started playing catch with his dad, then resumed pitching for a weekend scout team. He was spotted by several colleges and was offered partial scholarships at Stanford, UCLA, Loyola and Wake Forest. He chose Stanford in November.

"I did not focus on not playing again," said Pashalides, who still cannot swing a bat. "But I wasn't expecting to sign a letter of intent and that was big for me. And now I can be a starting pitcher for Woodbridge. The first pitch of my first game will be big."

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While Canyon has been among the county's better programs the last few years, Coach Mike Najera and staff still weren't prepared for USA Today designating the Comanches as the nation's best team in its preseason poll. It won't be easy for Canyon to maintain the lofty ranking because it faces a tough schedule that includes the Loara and National Classic tournaments.

"You always worry about 'the big head' when something like this happens," Najera said. "But I think the kids have worked hard. I just hope we can live up to the billing.

"If we get through our schedule in good shape, I'll feel good about our chances in the playoffs. That's what you play for anyway. It's an honor for others to say our kids are No. 1, but I hope we know everybody is gunning for us now."

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There was a small but significant rule change this season. When the home plate umpire and head coaches are exchanging lineup cards and going over the ground rules before a game, the teams must remain in their dugouts. That includes starting pitchers. Before it was common for the home pitcher to start throwing on the mound, or for teams to run wind sprints in the outfield during the exchange.

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Though he has this season and next, Heritage Christian's Paul Caffrey will find it difficult to match his 1996 accomplishments.

As a sophomore, The Times all-county first-team designated hitter set county single-season records in batting average (.597, 47 for 77) and RBIs (56) and a section record for triples (13).

Caffrey said he will not worry about trying to equal last year's accomplishments.

"My goal is to go out there and do my best," he said. "I'm not shooting for .650 or anything like that; just to do my best. Usually I run hot and cold, but last year I just started hitting good and didn't stop. I've never had a stretch where I was that good that long.

"I think we have a chance to do well as a team. We have a good pitching staff coming back, and we have some other good hitters like Jerry Jones. I'm really looking forward to the season, to see what we can do."

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Only one county team--Canyon in Division II--is a defending section champion, and the Comanches are after a fourth consecutive Century League title. But there are some other streaks going too.

Mater Dei has won five consecutive South Coast League titles. Going for their fifth consecutive league championships are La Quinta (Garden Grove) and Fountain Valley (Sunset). Katella is shooting for its fourth Empire League title in a row, and Magnolia is seeking its third consecutive Orange League championship.

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