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1997 BASEBALL PREVIEW

Orange League

March 04, 1997|MIKE TERRY

Anaheim: 7-19, 5-10 in 1996. Coach: David Torres (10th year, 100-125-1). Prospects: Torres has to believe reaching his 200th career victory will not be the struggle reaching his 100th victory was last year. With 10 returning players, the Colonists expect to be improved but they are thin. "We lose a couple to injury and we're really hurting," Torres said. Those who must stay healthy include pitcher/infielder Edgar Macedo (2-3, 4.00, 22 strikeouts), outfielder Joe Rodriguez (.385, six steals, 11 RBIs)--who must finish the wrestling season before joining the team--and catcher Enrique Saldivar (.267, seven runs batted in).

Brea Olinda: 14-12, 10-5 in 1996. Coach: Steve Hiskey (21st year, 211-196-7). Prospects: This will be a rare year at Brea--a rebuilding year. Hiskey has six returning players but only two starters; infielder/pitcher Scott Davis (.298, nine RBIs) and outfielder Mike Ausman (.256, four RBIs). Hiskey also has to develop a pitching staff that can keep the Wildcats out of slugfests. Brea could come together by league time, but right now they don't have the look of a contender.

Magnolia: 18-5, 13-2 in 1996. Coach: Manny Rodriguez (third year, 37-17). Prospects: This is the season Rodriguez has been pointing to since taking the job in 1995. Most of his nine returnees have been with him two years and understand his style of play. Coming back on the mound are all-league pitchers Dennis Loza and Greg Young (league MVP); all-leaguers infielders Art Garland (.407, 18 RBIs) and Justin Reding, and oufielder Brian Morris (.407, 13 RBIs) highlight the lineup. The Sentinels, who have won or shared the past two league titles, have the ability to do more than win their third title in a row.

Savanna: 4-16, 3-12 in 1996. Coach: Dave Sepe (first year). Prospects: It would not be unkind or untrue to say the Rebels' 1996 season was a mess. "There's no doubt the chemistry was bad here," Sepe said. "But right now, this team likes each other." Still Sepe, who inherits five returning starters, will need more than one season to make repairs. Joshua Hudson (2-6, 2.75) and Ben McLaughlin give him a couple of experienced pitchers. But hitters such as infielder Salvador Alvarado (.315, 12 RBIs), utility player Jacob Box (.295, eight RBIs) and outfielder/pitcher Robert Hoium (one homer, 10 RBIs) are more of the contact variety, so Savanna will not outmuscle opponents. Sepe said the team will play an aggressive style that leans heavily on running.

Valencia: 9-15, 6-9 in 1995-96. Coach: Mike Scheetz (eighth year, 86-82). Prospects: The Tigers were a disappointment last season, never rounding into the form expected of a squad with 12 seniors. This year Valencia won't be weighted by expectations, but Sheetz and his staff have work to do if the Tigers are to make the playoffs. Six players are back, led by infielder/pitcher Mark Swanson (.303) and infielder Lucas Spatles (.258). There is little experience on the mound, though; more won't be known about Valencia until league play starts.

Western: 14-13, 8-7 in 1996. Coach: Robert Harrison (fourth year, 31-47). Prospects: Yet another Orange League team starting over. Harrison got to the playoffs for the first time as Western's coach last year, and hopes it will not take another three years to return. Harrison admits he will need some luck this year. Only two starters return: outfielder Anthony Ortiz (.305, one homer, 10 RBIs) and infielder Ben Swanson. An added bonus is getting back infielder Garrett Bridges, who missed last year because of a knee injury. But this is not a squad of thumpers, like last year's team ,which hit 25 homers. "We will play little ball and we have to stay healthy," Harrison said.

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