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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | WESTERN STATE CONFERENCE
BASEBALL PREVIEW

Oxnard Hopes That Sticking Together Will Translate Into Winning Together

Junior college: Team chemistry makes Condors among Southern California's best.

January 30, 1998|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OXNARD — Familiarity figures to breed solid defense this season for the Oxnard College baseball team, particularly around the horn.

Oxnard's infield--Brent Egan at third base, Jack Wilson at shortstop, Matt Pesso at second, and Matt Pitstick and Jess Sanchez alternating at first--unquestionably is the team's strength and among the best in Southern California.

It's also a study in chemistry.

"This is the most interesting team I've ever been on," Wilson said. "We've played so much together, we all know what each other is thinking. It's like we read each other's minds. It's weird."

The ties that bind began in Little League and strengthened in high school.

Wilson, who played second last season, and Egan, who split time between short and second, are returning starters for the Condors.

Egan is reunited with former Royal High teammates Pitstick, a sophomore, and Pesso, a freshman. Pitstick transferred from Cal State Northridge, after the program was dropped last fall and before its subsequent reinstatement.

Wilson, who attended Thousand Oaks High, is another former Marmonte League player. He batted .308 with a school-record 21 doubles. Sanchez, who batted .305 last season at Hueneme High, was the Channel League's most valuable player.

"I've known Jack and Jess all through high school and I've known [Pesso] and Pitstick, gosh, probably seven or eight years," Egan said.

"I think this year's team has a different kind of bond because we all know each other. Last year--I don't want to say that we didn't like each other--but it wasn't there."

Oxnard, which slipped to third in the Western State Conference North Division after winning a conference title in 1996, has seven starters among nine returning players.

"This group of guys really plays well together and they know execution," said Pat Woods, Oxnard's coach. "By far, our infield is our strongest part."

Here's a rundown of teams in the region:

ANTELOPE VALLEY

* Coach: Joe Watts, sixth season.

* Last Season: 11-27; third in Foothill Conference Northern Division at 7-9.

Six starters return, including right-hander Tyler Kincaid, who was 5-3 and led the staff in victories. Shortstop David Fischenich, who started in 1996 but sat out last season, also will pitch. Left-hander Roy Johnston from Palmdale High will start. Third baseman Eric Torrez had five home runs and 21 runs batted in. First baseman Charlie Cooke became a starter at midseason.

CANYONS

* Coach: Len Mohney, 12th season.

* Last Season: 35-15, first in WSC South Division at 18-8.

Third baseman David Soto batted .389 with a school-record 75 hits, seven home runs and 46 RBIs. Catcher Jesse Daggett batted .392 with 12 home runs and a school-record 67 RBIs. Both were all-conference selections. Switch-hitting shortstop Nick Katzenstein, a transfer from Santa Barbara, was an all-WSC selection. The pitching staff is bolstered by the return of right-hander Chris Baker, all-conference as a freshman but academically ineligible last season. Right-handers Wayne Mahaffey (6-3, 3.96 ERA) and Kevin Hyde (5-2, 4.45) were major contributors in the Cougars' drive to the Southern California Regional finals. Sophomore Doug Segraves (.313) and freshman Cory Briggs from Palmdale are competing at second base. Sophomore Kris Yeaman (.324) and freshman Chris Coash from Canyon are competing at first. Freshman Chris Mayberry from Saugus is the projected designated hitter.

GLENDALE

* Coach: Denny Barrett, second season.

* Last Season: 28-15; third in WSC South Division at 16-10.

Barrett, who reversed a string of five consecutive losing seasons last year, has 10 returning players, including three starters in the field. Freddy Sanchez, who moves from third to short, batted .380. Second baseman Jesse Mitchell and catcher Brian Eggleston also return. Left-hander Bryan Chan and right-hander Dan Sereno, a combined 3-4 last season, head an improved staff. Outfielder John Campanella, a Crespi graduate, transferred from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Freshman right-hander Wes Hutchison transferred from CSUN.

MOORPARK

* Coach: Ken Wagner, ninth season.

* Last Season: 14-28; fifth in WSC North Division at 9-17.

Right-hander Erik Devine is the Raiders' only returning pitcher. Newcomers include freshmen right-handers Gabe Gapol from Royal and Andrew Corona of St. Bonaventure. Catcher Steve Yeager and outfielders Pat Rizzotti and Robert Gonzales are the only other returning players. Third baseman Zack Gordon transferred from Pepperdine. Freshmen projected to start include Andy Kroneberger (shortstop) from Camarillo and Joe Tillmon from Chatsworth (second base) and Anthony Barton (outfield) from Antelope Valley. Outfielder Brian Fatur batted .529 and had 38 stolen bases last season for Calabasas.

OXNARD

* Coach: Pat Woods, third season.

* Last Season: 19-21; third in WSC North Division at 12-14.

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