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1998 BASEBALL PREVIEW

Garden Grove League

March 03, 1998

* Bolsa Grande: 20-7, 9-3 in 1997. Coach: Doug Euper (first year, 0-0). Prospects: Euper probably won't have much of a break-in period. Retiring coach Vern Nelson left with 233 career victories, but he made the league race closer than it should have been, finishing second by a game. Euper will have three returning starters to lean on: second-team all-league infielder/pitcher Sam Baeder (.448, four home runs, 23 RBIs), outfielder Isaac Cisneros (.318, 22 RBIs) and catcher Doug Baughman (.310).

* Garden Grove: 8-17, 6-6 in 1997. Coach: Jim Rawls (15th year, 196-165). Prospects: Inconsistent pitching wrecked the Argonauts' chances of rising higher than fourth last season. Rawls needs experienced hurlers Justin Clarkson (3-8) and Jeff Colton (5-7) to take charge, and enough offensive support from shortstop Danny Delatorre (.316) and outfielder Phil Marquez (.273). Rawls said the Argonauts could grab third, but that still seems like a stretch.

* La Quinta: 25-5, 10-2 in 1997. Coach: Dave Demarest (25th year, 478-180). Prospects: Of the several great things that could happen for Demarest--his 500th career victory, a sixth consecutive league championship--the best would be a return to the section title game. The past two seasons, in Division III and IV, the Aztecs were knocked out in the quarterfinals. La Quinta is loaded again this year. Start with catcher Gerald Laird (.505, 14 home runs, 46 RBIs), who was The Times Orange County player of the year in 1997. He's joined by all-league outfielder Jose Pena (.455, 19 RBIs), 12-game winning pitchers Jason Garcia and Steve Lee, and two solid transfers in shortstop Bobby Crosby (Pacifica) and second baseman Ryan Mattern (Mater Dei). The list goes on, and so should La Quinta.

* Los Amigos: 8-15, 4-8 in 1997. Coach: Dave Austin (third year, 17-29). Prospects: When it comes to all-league pitcher Adam Shaeffer (3-2, 1.21), Austin can't stop raving. "He is the real deal," Austin said. "He should lead the team in all categories. I haven't had an all-county player candidate for some time, but he is legitimate." The Lobos' chances of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1984 would be better if Shaeffer gets help from the other three returning starters: infielder/pitcher Alex Keleman (.305, 10 RBIs), shortstop Jesus Rodarte (.310) and catcher Robert Chavez (.300, one home run, eight RBIs).

* Pacifica: 14-13, 8-4 in 1997. Coach: Jeff Davidson (first year, 0-0). Prospects: The Mariners may have the best chance to upset La Quinta. Davidson, who replaces Mike Willey, has four returning starters led by all-league outfielder Brian Barre and second-team shortstop Jeff Davidson. Coach Davidson also said "our strong junior class" is ready to handle varsity responsibility.

* Rancho Alamitos: 6-12, 3-9 in 1997. Coach: Garland McMillan (first year, 0-0). Prospects: Someone should tell McMillan to get some of the football players to leave spring practice and join his team, if for nothing else to pass along some positive vibes. The Vaqueros, having won only 11 games the past two seasons, need a lift. McMillan hopes to get it from his four returning starters, including second-team all-league catcher Tony Serna, pitcher Bobby Campbell and outfielder/pitcher Kyle Leopard.

* Santiago: 4-21, 2-10 in 1997. Coach: Paul Allen (first year, 0-0). Prospects: Allen is one of four new coaches in the league this season, and his team figures to struggle the most. The only returning starter is shortstop Mike Lopez. But that might also be a blessing. If Santiago is going to be down again, Allen can start teaching his style of play immediately, even if the Cavaliers will probably need a couple of seasons to reap the dividends.

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