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1997 BASEBALL PREVIEW

Sea View League

March 04, 1997|MIKE TERRY

Corona del Mar: 13-11, 7-8 in 1996. Coach: Joe Koh (third year, 26-21-1). Prospects: The Sea Kings were on the verge making the playoffs last year when they were swept by Irvine the final week of the season, allowing Santa Margarita to sneak in. The task is more difficult this year because Koh plans to play several sophomores and the pitching will have to mature as the season progresses. "There are six quality arms but six unproven arms," Koh said. The core group of returning players includes outfielders Ryan Achterberg (.413, two home runs, 13 RBI), Royal McMackin (.330, four home runs, 19 RBI) and pitcher Paul MacMillan (1-2).

El Toro: 20-8-1, 10-4-1 in 1996. Coach: Tom McCaffrey (ninth year, 227-141). Prospects: Last year, El Toro and Irvine shared the league title. This year, the Chargers could have the Sea View League all to themselves. McCaffrey, who will only say "we should be in the race," has to replace seven starters. Headlining the eight returning players are all-league infielder Clemente Bonilla (.374, 20 stolen bases), and sturdy right-hander Darrin MacLeod (8-2, 2.97, 56 strikeouts). Catcher Matt Steinau (.313) was an all-league second-team pick. Whatever problems El Toro has, McCaffrey should have them solved by the time league play begins.

Irvine: 17-10-1, 10-4-1 in 1996. Coach: Bob Flint (18th year, 292-150). Prospects: Every coach in the Sea View League will say never underestimate a Flint-coached team. That was never more true last year, when the Vaqueros overachieved to share the league title. But Irvine, with only four returning players, will have enough difficulty making the playoffs. The lineup features outfielder Ryan Brucker (.484, one homer, 16 RBI, 28 stolen bases), infielder Jared Flint and catcher Greg Zachan, but not much else. Irvine's pitchers have no varsity experience.

Newport Harbor: 8-16, 2-13 in 1996. Coach: Jim Kiefer (second year, 8-16). Prospects: The Sailors were awash in injuries last year before the season started, so no one was surprised that they struggled all year. No one should be surprised this time if Newport Harbor, which has seven returning players, wins the league title. Kiefer has a genuine slugger in all-league infielder Joe Urban (seven home runs), but he will need to find another big hitter to protect him. On the mound, Kiefer believes Garrett Nuzum (66 strikeouts) is ready to blossom into a top pitcher. Normally two great players are not enough to carry a team to the title, but if the league is as balanced as the coaches say, Newport Harbor might have the edge.

Santa Margarita: 15-11, 8-7 in 1996. Coach: Tip Lefebvre (seventh year, 76-70). Prospects: On the surface the Eagles--with only four returning players--have too many parts to replace to be a factor in the league race. But those returning, including infielder/designated hitter Matt Strickroth (.394, six home runs) and infielder Randall Shelley (.416, one home run) can play. Lefebvre also is bringing up a junior varsity squad that went 24-2 last year.

Woodbridge: 11-14, 7-8 in 1996. Coach: David Madrid (first year. Prospects: Two years ago, Sam Favata took over the Woodbridge program, promising to return it to prominence. The progress must not have been fast enough--the Warriors finished fifth and fourth the past two years--so it's Madrid's turn. Eight players, including Chad Harris (.300), Jake Herald (.325) and pitcher Kevin Beavers (3-2) are back.

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