* Aliso Niguel: 20-7, 15-0 in 1998. Coach: Mike Chapman (fifth year, 57-43). Prospects: After getting kicked around for three years, the Wolverines overwhelmed league opponents for their first Pacific Coast title last season. The big hammer was Drew Parkin, who slugged nine homers and won a county-high 13 games. It could be a while before Aliso Niguel revisits the penthouse. Chapman's one returning starter is senior pitcher Robert Deven (2-5, 6.62 ERA), who will attract scouts with his 6-5, 215-pound frame but must prove he can win.
* Costa Mesa: 2-21, 1-14 in 1998. Coach: Kirk Bauermeister (second year, 2-21). Prospects: It would be understandable if spirits are sagging at Costa Mesa, which has won only two of its last 29 league games. But Bauermeister is cautiously optimistic the Mustangs can at least compete for a playoff berth. Among the six returning starters are senior infielders Nick Lambert (.305), Chris DeSandro (.365) and Rob Gloster (.263). The player with the most interesting potential, though is senior third baseman Ruben Mancilla, who slugged three home runs in the first four games last season before being ruled ineligible. If Mancilla can stay in the lineup, Costa Mesa could be a threat.
* Estancia: 4-19, 3-12 in 1998. Coach: Tim Green (second year, 4-16). Prospects: This is the situation Green has walked into: The team has gone 9-61-1 the past three seasons in front of dwindling crowds and eroding facilities. Last year's coach, Joe McKettrick, quit after three games in a dispute over field maintenance, and Green was given the job. He has four returning starters, but only one, pitcher Miguel Burciaga, is a senior. Estancia will not field junior varsity or freshman teams because of a lack of players. Green should not have to worry about winning the league title or making the playoffs. If he can win even eight games, he's probably the coach of the year.
* Laguna Beach: 12-12, 7-8 in 1998. Coach: Greg Marshall (fourth year, 34-65). Prospects: When the final out was recorded last season, a cloud of disappointment hung heavily over Laguna Beach. The Artists were sure they had the players to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1964, but finished fourth. Now, with catcher Keith Mulvaney the only returning starter, Marshall and his staff must rebuild again. It won't happen overnight, and it probably won't happen this season.
* Laguna Hills: 14-12, 10-5 in 1998. Coach: Pete Tereschuk (10th year, 148-92-1). Prospects: The Hawks were a classic good-hit, no-pitch team that pounded league opponents, but they had trouble winning outside the Pacific Coast League and exited the playoffs after one game. Still, Laguna Hills should again contend for the league title. All-league picks and senior outfielders Ryan Johnson (.418, eight home runs, 25 RBIs) and Danny Lee (.440, five homers, 34 RBIs) are bona fide hitters. So is second-team all-league senior third baseman Jeff Fischer (.389, 12 RBIs). But if the Hawks don't find some arms to go with their bats, the season could be like last year's--one that ends too quickly.
* University: 16-11, 9-6 in 1998. Coach: Chris Conlin (ninth year, 120-95). Prospects: The Trojans didn't claim third place last season with a batch of big-name players. Instead, they relied on teamwork. That's the formula University has to follow this season. Conlin has a dependable pitcher in junior Matt Gamble (8-5, 58 strikeouts) and a talented double-play tandem in second-team all-league senior shortstop Joe Clayton (.312) and junior Jordan Cumsky (.300) There isn't much power in the lineup, but the Trojans are content to play little ball. If Conlin finds another couple of arms to back Gamble, University won't need the three-run homer.