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March 11, 1997|MELANIE NEFF

Capistrano Valley Christian: 11-9, 6-4 in 1996. Coach: Rodger Markum (ninth year, 62-82). Prospects: The Eagles return six starters to their third-place Academy League team, which advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The Eagles will miss Merin Kennedy (.465), who led the team with 27 runs batted in. Seniors Hayley Hall (.443), Elaina Cholas (.360) and Rachel Harvey return.

Connelly: 4-11, 1-9 in 1996. Coach: Kimberly Zavodnick (first year). Prospects: Connelly hopes to improve on last season's lone victory in the Academy League. Many in league feel the Koalas could have a shot at the playoffs.

Fairmont: 2-12, 1-9 in 1996. Coach: Craig Teuben (first year). Prospects: Teuben, a former assistant at Chapman University, takes over with only three starters from last season's Academy League team: junior Katy Barstow at first base, sophomore Melissa Lucia at catcher and sophomore Crystal Page at short. Teuben looks to two freshmen pitchers, Melissa Rab and left-hander Vanessa Burns.

Heritage Christian: 5-8, 5-6 in 1996. Coach: Stuart Chen (first year). Prospects: Chen returns six starters in the Express League after a fourth-place finish last season. First-team all-league catcher Danielle Gonzales (.453), shortstop Nicole Seabern (.375), third baseman Melinda Williams (.305), senior first baseman Krista Coke (.283) and outfielders Emily Wanke (.305) and Krystal Williams (.395) return.

Huntington Beach Claremont: 9-9, 7-5 in 1996. Coach: Greg Snedden (first year). Prospects: The Cougars probably will struggle after losing a majority of starters from last year's third-place team to graduation.

Liberty Christian: 13-6, 9-1 in 1996. Coach: Rudy Sass (10th year, 118-62). Prospects: The Minutemen finished tied for first in the Academy League with St. Margaret's. They advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs before being losing to Boron, 11-0. Liberty also looks to a rebuilding year after losing several seniors.

Orangewood Academy: 8-8, 4-6 in 1996. Coach: Larry Haskins (second year, 9-8). Prospects: Haskins feels a playoff spot is definite, with the return of seven starters from last year's fourth-place Academy League team. First-team all-league sophomore Corri Jo Long (.364, 18 RBIs) returns to first base. Left fielder Crystal Holmes (.317, 18 RBIs) and catcher Jenni Barron (.357, 11 stolen bases) will lead the Spartans.

St. Margaret's: 15-5, 9-1 in 1996. Coach: Nancy Linaweaver (third year, 26-14). Prospects: The Tartans are the favorite to win it all, with seven returning starters from last season's Academy League co-champion, which lost in the second round of the playoffs. Twins Abbey and Amber Arnold return as juniors for their third season. Abbey (.470, .0.29 ERA) was named league MVP, Amber (.444, .0.57 ERA) was a first-team all-league catcher.

Southern California Christian: 14-5, 8-2 in 1996. Coach: Paul Kushner (second year, 14-4). Prospects: Kushner feels his team will win the title in the Arrowhead League after finishing second last season. Seven starters return, including two first-team all-leaguers, center fielder Cami Horvath (.342) and shortstop Claudette Morrell (.321).

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