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1998 BASEBALL PREVIEW

Orange League

March 03, 1998

* Anaheim: 14-12, 8-7 in 1997. Coach: David Torres (11th year, 121-143-1). Prospects: The recovery of the Anaheim program is almost complete. The Colonists doubled their victory total in 1997 and just missed their first playoff berth since 1990. To reach the playoffs, Torres, who has only three returning pitchers, will need all-leaguer Dan Millhouse (2-0), Larry Clawson (3-4, 3.81 ERA) and Juston Sanudo (1-0, 3.51) to keep opposing batters in check while the offense manufactures runs.

* Brea Olinda: 12-17, 9-6 in 1997. Coach: Steve Hiskey (22nd year, 223-213-7). Prospects: The Wildcats' season was in peril the first day of practice last season when outfielder Mike Ausman hurt his knee. He was sidelined until league play began. That was the first of a rash of injuries at Brea, but all-league pitcher/third baseman Scott Davis (4-3) helped keep things together until Ausman (.429) returned to lift the offense. The Wildcats were nearly healthy when the playoffs began, so their first-round victory against Foothill surprised few. With eight starters back this season, plus transfers Travis Blood (La Mirada) and Mike Daven (Fullerton), Brea could be the league's dominant team.

* Magnolia: 23-3, 13-2 in 1997. Coach: Manny Rodriguez (fourth year, 60-20). Prospects: For the past three seasons the Orange League has belonged to the Sentinels. No more so than in 1997, when Magnolia had its best overall season in 20 years and came within one run of reaching the Division IV finals. Now, as other league coaches have muttered in passing, it's time to find out how good a coach Rodriguez is. Magnolia has only one returning starter in pitcher Erubey Herrea (2-0, 2.69, three saves) and is restocking with junior varsity and frosh/soph call-ups.

* Savanna: 4-19-1, 2-13 in 1997. Coach: Hack Mitchell (sixth year, 66-68). Prospects: Mitchell is coming back after a two-year absence and doesn't know if he's walked into a blessing or a buzz saw. The Rebels staggered last season, done in by a lethal dose of weak hitting--none of the five returning players batted .300--and generous pitching. But Mitchell is optimistic. He expects to get better performances from catcher Phillip Brocamontes (.280, one home run), infielder Sal Alvarado (.260) and pitcher/first baseman Jeff Klinglesmith (.265, one home run). Mitchell is also impressed with pitcher/outfielder David Beard, who batted .220 but whom Mitchell said "will be a major impact player if he lives up to his potential."

* Valencia: 16-10, 9-6 in 1997. Coach: Mike Scheetz (ninth year, 102-92). Prospects: The Tigers are also ready to get out from under Magnolia's shadow and challenge for the league championship. Scheetz had one of the better hitting teams in the county last season and has several strong batsmen among his five returning starters. Times all-county second-team infielder David Towery (.535, two home runs, 29 RBIs) is a constant threat. Also talented is outfielder Chris Van Camp (.364) and infielder/pitcher Jason Annis. Second-team all-league pitcher Edgar Ivarra (5-5) gets the chance to be the staff ace. Scheetz thinks his Tigers could be the team to beat.

* Western: 10-15-1, 5-10 in 1997. Coach: Robert Harrison (fifth year, 49-56). Prospects: With only three starters returning from a team that finished fifth in league, it would be easy to dismiss Western's playoff chances this season. But it's hard to ignore these three: catcher Alex Taylor (.515, nine RBIs, 27 steals) was an all-league selection, and third baseman Ben Swanson (.382, 18 RBIs) and pitcher Brandon Herbert were second-team picks. The Pioneers are young and may not hit much, but they should be strong on defense. If they can get good pitching, they should be a factor.

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