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1997 BASEBALL PREVIEW

Sunset League

March 04, 1997|MIKE TERRY

Edison: 10-15, 6-9 in 1996. Coach: Tom Duggan (second year, 10-15). Prospects: Even though the Chargers were fourth last year, they were three games away from the playoffs. Duggan's crew, featuring 10 returning players, may be able to do something about that. There is good talent in all-league catcher Christian Popoff (.455, four homers, 14 runs batted in) and outfielder Vince Cabani (.415, 10 stolen bases), and second-team selection infielder Jake Roguemore (.313). Tim Huff (2-2, 8.96 ERA) is expected to settle into the role of staff ace.

Esperanza: 14-12, 10-5 in 1996. Coach: Mike Curran (17th year, 269-130-1). Prospects: Like El Dorado and Tustin, Esperanza's consistent success makes 14-10 records feel like major disappointments. The biggest problem last year for Curran was having his most experienced pitchers injured before the season. Health is not an issue now, and 12 returning players give Curran a great foundation. If first-team all-league infielder Tom Nicholson and outfielder Rickey Leach continue last year's standard, if second-team catcher David Parrish and infielder Omar Oreger (.414, one home run, six RBIs) raise their game a notch, and if pitcher Brandon Pack (3-1, 2.58 ERA) can soften the graduation loss of Times' all-county second-team choice Jim Pickel, Esperanza may do more than just challenge Fountain Valley for league supremacy.

Fountain Valley: 24-7, 12-3 in 1996. Coach: Ron La Ruffa (ninth year, 169-70). Prospects: The Barons have had a great run, winning five league titles and two Southern Section Division I championships since 1991. Fountain Valley will be a favorite again this year, but this may also be the season the Barons, who return nine players, come back to the pack. Don't misunderstand, there is excellence in infielders Ryan Clark, Tim Crosby and Brian Janer and catcher Paul De Vries. What isn't readily apparent is whether La Ruffa has any dominant players like Times' all-county first-teamers Kevin Burford (.388 11 home runs, 38 RBIs) and Steve Schenewerk (15-2, 1.48, 92 strikeouts).

Huntington Beach: 12-14, 5-10 in 1996. Coach: Mike Dodd (16th year, 240-144). Prospects: The Oilers may not be ready to slide all the way into the playoff picture but, like Edison, they should be improved enough to be a factor in the league race. Dodd expects returning pitchers Nate Beucler and Jeff Lineberger and Ocean View transfer Andy Plunkett to steady the staff. All-league infielder Luis Santos (.290) is the offensive catalyst.

Los Alamitos: 19-9, 9-6 in 1995-96. Coach: John Bryant (fourth year, 42-35). Prospects: Since moving to the Sunset League three years ago, Los Alamitos has been thought of as a football school. But the boys' basketball team won the league this year, and there are those who think the Griffins, who have 10 returning players, can do the same in baseball. There are some big shoes to fill, with the graduation of Eric Albright, Jason Ball and Kevin Feterik. And the Griffins won't surprise league opponents as they did in 1996, but they may not have to.

Marina: 10-14, 3-12 in 1996. Coach: Paul Renfrow (14th year, 155-178-2). Prospects: Last year the Vikings got off to a 5-0 start, then got blown away by Fountain Valley in the league opener. The Barons so fractured Marina's confidence that the Vikings never recovered. Renfrow is expecting a better finish this season. So are his 10 returning players, led by Times all-county first-team infielder Kenny La Point (.356, six homers, 20 RBIs). Renfrow's first order of business is finding someone to replace Justin Lynch (4-6, 2.07, 91 strikeouts), who graduated.

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