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March 27, 1997

Arms race: The Rainer twins, Matt and Mike, senior pitchers on the Royal High baseball team, had been expected to carry much of the Highlanders' load this season.

However, Royal Coach Dan Maye said the brothers have struggled as they make the transition from soccer to baseball.

After playing only baseball as sophomores and juniors, the Rainers each started for the Highlander soccer team that recently won the Southern Section Division I title.

Maye said that Matt--who normally throws a fastball, changeup, curve and knuckleball--has used only the first two pitches as he gradually regains his form. Friday, he struck out nine batters in a victory over Thousand Oaks.

Maye said Mike Rainer had pitched only three innings entering this week and is further behind.

"Their arms aren't in shape, but we've got two weeks to really push them so they're ready when we come back to league [play]," Maye said.

Maye said he kept quiet when the Rainers, who have signed to play at Cal State Northridge, chose to play soccer. But he feels their decision could have financial consequences.

"[Professional] scouts came out in the winter and they weren't there," Maye said. "With the money being so high these days, are they losing $20,000 or $30,000 because [a scout] only sees them now and says they're not very good?"

Basepath burner: The Marmonte League soccer circuit has long respected Kendall Simmonds' speed. Now Royal's baseball opponents are getting a dose.

Simmonds, a forward who has signed to play at California, is a reserve outfielder this spring.

He proved his value as a pinch-runner Friday in a victory over Thousand Oaks, stealing second and third before scoring on an infield grounder.

"The infield was in and I told him to make sure the ball went through," Maye said. "We hit a grounder to third and he left with the crack of the bat. The kid came up throwing but he'd already scored."

Youth movement: The Simi Valley baseball team's first five victories came with five different pitchers. And only one of them--junior Scott Vermette--was a varsity player last season.

The others were sophomores Mike Causey and Bryan Stephan and seniors Darrin Campbell and Alfonso Rodriguez.

In addition, the Pioneers have a first-year catcher in senior Brett Scott. A part-time outfielder last season, Scott worked hard in the summer to play behind the plate.

"He's the fastest guy on the team and probably has the strongest arm, so I originally had him working out at shortstop," Simi Valley Coach Tom D'Errico said of Scott. "But he really wants to be a catcher."

You don't hear that too often.

Secure at second: Royal senior Matt Pesso, regarded as the Marmonte League's top infielder after not making an error last season, is back at second base after a short-lived switch to shortstop.

Maye, Royal's coach, moved Pesso to shortstop against Camarillo last week after junior Brett Wayne committed eight errors in a 5-4 loss to Burroughs the previous game.

But after Maye conferred with Pesso, he moved him back to second.

"He's more comfortable at second and he's going to be an outstanding college player there, so I'll groom somebody else [at shortstop] and live with the errors," Maye said. "We want our success to be in how our kids match up when they leave here."

In the swing: More than 30 golf teams representing 24 high schools will square off in the 35th annual DeBell golf tournament at DeBell Golf Course in Burbank today in an 8 a.m. shotgun start.

Hart High returns to defend its title, led by Ryan Wyman and Brandon Wallace, who are coming off top-15 finishes in the L.A. City Junior championships.

Flintridge Prep, the 1995 DeBell champion, returns after a year layoff, led by standout junior Russell Surber.

Life at the top: Hart softball Coach Al Weil on his team's potential No. 1 ranking in The Times before it was beaten, 5-0, by La Reina on Tuesday: "You don't have to rank us so high. I think we're playing over our heads."

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