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One Year Later, Zito Speaking in Sign Language

April 01, 1999| From Staff Reports

Barry Zito intends to sign a professional baseball contract this spring, something he declined to do last season.

The way Zito is pitching, it likely will be for a lot of money.

Zito passed on the pros last June, rejecting a signing offer of $287,500 from the Texas Rangers, who made the former Pierce College left-hander a third-round selection in the amateur draft.

Zito, from El Cajon, transferred to Pierce after an impressive freshman season at UC Santa Barbara specifically for the purpose of becoming eligible for the draft. But when the Rangers failed to meet his demand for $350,000, Zito opted instead to transfer to USC.

Zito is expected to start tonight at USC against Cal State Northridge in the first of a three-tame series that concludes Saturday at Northridge. Zito (5-2) is the Trojans' top pitcher and has been striking out batters by the dozen.

Zito struck out 14 last weekend against Washington State after consecutive 16-strikeout performances against Oregon State and Arizona, both in seven innings. Zito has 82 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings.

His velocity and control have improved, and Zito shows no signs of being hampered by off-season arthroscopic knee surgery. Two weeks ago, Zito was selected national player of the week by Collegiate Baseball.

In June, Zito, 6 feet 4, is likely to be selected again--by a professional ball club. But the outcome, he said, will be different this time.

"I'm going to sign, no matter what," Zito said. "I don't want the scouts to get the impression I won't sign. Last year, I wanted to sign so bad, but unfortunately we just couldn't agree. I was disappointed. I wanted to play pro ball."

Zito said he will handle negotiations this season without the assistance of his father, Joe, who figured heavily last season.

"Having a father that's so involved, the scouts might have gotten the wrong impression," Zito said. "[Scouts] want to see a really naive father who they can bowl over. He has some business background. Maybe the scouts were scared off."

Zito, however, has no regrets.

"In retrospect, it was a very good decision," Zito said. "It was good to get back against Division I hitters. I was a little skeptical [about the competition] at Pierce. Right now, I feel like I'm getting in the season mode."

*

Fourteen losses to open the season isn't even the low point for the Antelope Valley baseball team. In consecutive losses to Rio Hondo last week, the Marauders surrendered 60 runs.

The humiliating Foothill Conference defeats came on the heels of two victories over Barstow that had Antelope Valley (4-21, 4-10 in conference play) believing better days might be on the horizon.

Rio Hondo ended those thoughts, 29-8 and 31-9.

Offensively, there are silver linings amid the rubble.

The team is batting .300 behind Curt Raine (.432), Kevin Brown (.361), Alex Suarez (.355) and Brett Roth (.337, seven home runs and 29 runs batted in).

Antelope Valley's problem is pitching. The team earned-run average is 12.93.

Starters Robert Kostopoulos (1-5, 9.56 ERA) and Chad Spencer (0-7, 11.07) continue to get the ball because six of their seven teammates own higher ERAs.

J.J. Rosati has a 2-2 record with an 8.18 ERA.

The Marauders have reason to believe they'll finish the season on a high note: Their last two games are against Barstow.

*

Another hard-hitting team in the high desert--with a better win-loss record--is the Antelope Valley softball team.

The Marauders are batting .305 en route to a 19-11 record, 4-1 in the Foothill Conference.

Tashie Aguinaga is batting .439 with eight doubles, two triples and two home runs. Four other players are batting over .300 and leadoff batter Kristi DiMarco is batting .298 with 17 stolen bases.

Mikki Goldwater (12-9) and Amber Slaton (7-2) are not overpowering but have kept Antelope Valley in games.

Slaton is batting .354 with three home runs.

*

Staff writers Steve Henson and Vince Kowalick contributed to this notebook.

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