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Alviso Finally Gets Steady Role

Baseball: Titan infielder is glad to know that no matter where he plays in field, he's always in the lineup.

May 22, 1997|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

STANFORD — Last season had its frustrations for Jerome Alviso, and it wasn't just the agonizing finish when Cal State Fullerton won only seven of its last 19 games.

Alviso was shifted back and forth between shortstop and second base, depending on whether three-year regular shortstop Jack Jones was injured. There also were periods when he was in and out of the lineup.

"This year my role has been more defined, and I know that no matter where I'm playing, I'll be in the lineup every day," Alviso said. "The coaches also asked me to step up and be a leader, and I've tried to do that."

Alviso is leading by example. Going into the NCAA West Regional, which begins today at Stanford's Sunken Diamond, Alviso is batting a team-high .400 with 42 runs batted in.

Alviso has been one of the leaders in Fullerton's late-season surge and was selected most valuable player in last weekend's Big West Conference tournament. In the last 26 games, Alviso is hitting .464 with 25 RBIs. He was 12 for 24 with six RBIs in the tournament.

Coach George Horton believes Alviso has matured as a player in his senior year.

"We went through some philosophical battles with him last year," Horton said. "He has good instincts for the game, and he also has his own opinions about things."

And sometimes they were different from former coach Augie Garrido's.

"Jerome has a certain flair and a way of doing things when he's fielding, and it wasn't the way we taught it," Horton said. "That's not as important to me as it was to Augie. Jerome didn't do everything by the book, but a lot of major leaguers don't either. As far as I'm concerned, as long as he's getting his outs and throwing to the right base, he can field the ball standing on his head."

Alviso didn't feel as comfortable at second base as he did on the other side of the infield, but when Jones wasn't hurt, it was either second base or the bench. It was the bench more often than Alviso liked, though he was in the starting lineup in 43 of 61 games.

"It was a learning process for me," said Alviso, who played two seasons at Canada College before joining the Titans. "I had enjoyed some success going down a different path than he preached, and I questioned some of it at first. But I learned a great deal from Coach Garrido too, and I have great respect for his system and what he's done."

Alviso made the decision to come back for his senior year before Garrido resigned to become head coach at Texas.

"I had considered some other options, but Coach Garrido called me on the first day of the draft and told me he wanted me back and that I would be an important player this season."

It has turned out that way.

When the Titans were only 23-19-1 this season and struggling on defense in the infield, Horton asked Alviso to shift from shortstop to third base in an attempt to solidify that position. Alviso did it willingly.

"That was another sign of his maturity," Horton said. "A lot of last year was about what was best for him. I think he's more comfortable about where he is now as a player, and that's made a difference." Since that move, the Titans have won 15 of their last 18 games.

Alviso says Horton has helped him become a better hitter this year. "I bought into a lot of Coach Horton's theories," Alviso said. "He's helped me become a more patient hitter, and be able to take the scouting information we get and use it to my advantage."

The Titans will face a big test in today's 3 p.m. first-round game against fifth-seeded Santa Clara (39-18), the West Coast Conference champion.

The Broncos have been on an even bigger roll than Fullerton, winning 23 of their last 25 games. Included are four victories over WCC-rival Pepperdine, which won three of four games this season against Fullerton.

Santa Clara's probable starting pitcher, Tobin Lanzetta, is 7-3 for the season, but is 6-0 with a 1.28 ERA in his last eight starts. He has given up only one run in his last three starts.

Matt Wise (5-7, 3.36) is the scheduled starter for the Titans, with Brian Tokarse (10-2, 3.63) set to pitch in the Titans' second game Friday in the double-elimination tournament. Stanford, ranked No. 6 nationally, is seeded No. 1.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

NCAA Baseball West Regional

* FORMAT: Double-elimination tournament

* WHERE: Sunken Diamond, Stanford

* WHEN: Today-Sunday, if necessary

* FIRST-ROUND GAMES: Texas A & M (39-20) vs. Fresno State (37-26), 11 a.m.; Cal State Fullerton (38-22-1) vs. Santa Clara (39-18), 3 p.m.; Northeastern (33-17) vs. Stanford (39-18), 7 p.m.

* TV: Titan Cable Channel (audio only) for Cal State Fullerton's games.

* WEBSITE: sports.fullerton.edu will provide links to audio only broadcasts of Cal State Fullerton's games.

* WHAT'S NEXT: Regional winner qualifies for College World Series, May 30-June 7, Omaha, Neb.

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