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Valley / Ventura County Sports

At A Glance

March 02, 1999|ERIC SONDHEIMER

THE PROVEN: Teams have about a month to take a crack at knocking off Crescenta Valley High, the defending Southern Section Division I champion. As soon as the Falcons settle on a No. 2 pitcher, beware. Right-hander Jordan Olson (11-1, 0.92) is better than ever. The infield is outstanding, with second baseman Mark McCauley, shortstop Bruce McReynolds and third baseman John Barbaro. Establishing a No. 2 pitcher is Coach Phil Torres' major obstacle to another Pacific League title. Hart keeps dominating during the regular season but faltering in the playoffs. This season should be different. The three-man pitching staff of junior Jamie Shields, senior Justin Wiley and sophomore Eric Posthumas is the best in the Foothill League. Shortstop Tim Hutting (.481) and outfielders Marke Horvat and Matt Friedrichsen will supply the hitting. Chatsworth is the City Section title favorite because of experience and talent. Seven seniors will be starting, led by pitcher Mike Kunes, the 1998 City player of the year. The Spector twins, Jason and Jeff, transferred from Taft and will start at second base and third base, respectively. No team has two juniors the caliber of outfielder Matt Cassel (.414, 42 RBIs) and shortstop Matt Fisher (.444, 45 RBIs). Two-time defending City champion El Camino Real has a new coach, Bob Ganssle, who takes over for Mike Maio. There are hitters everywhere in the Conquistadores' lineup, but all-league third baseman Conor Jackson probably will miss the first month after breaking a wrist snowboarding. Key to El Camino Real's chances will be whether Ganssle can find a No. 1 pitcher from at least eight candidates. Seniors Adam Sperling and Dan Williams throw the hardest, but don't count out underrated left-hander Ryan Gunches. Rio Mesa and Camarillo will battle for the Pacific View championship. Rio Mesa returns seven starters from its Channel League championship team, including pitchers Greg Ramirez (8-2) and Ernie Borjas (10-2). Camarillo finally has a healthy Shane Miranda, who couldn't pitch last season because of elbow problems. Sophomore Thomas Wilson was 11-0 on the junior varsity and varsity. Royal is the Marmonte League title favorite because of third baseman Bobby Egan and first baseman Brian Lipman. Thousand Oaks is the Highlanders' primary threat with its effective junior pitching combination of Chris Cordeiro and Tracy Goebel, plus the double-play duo of shortstop Billy Lockin and second baseman Adam Leavitt.

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THE PROMISING: Sylmar lost to El Camino Real in the City semifinals last year when pitcher Ivan Hernandez ran out of gas. Coach Gary Donatella hopes that sophomore left-hander Greg Ramos, the top pitcher for a 22-0 junior varsity team, can become a dependable No. 2. Two years ago, Poly Coach Chuck Schwal took his lumps starting a bunch of sophomores. Now comes payback time. Senior infielders John Manuel, Juan Guerrero and Juan Flores are capable of leading the Parrots to City prominence. Notre Dame will be Crespi's strongest threat in the Mission League. Shortstop John Puccinelli, who signed with Santa Clara, leads a veteran team. Erratic pitching hurt the Knights last season. If pitchers Phil Polanco, Ryan Cowsill and Joel Kirsten can stay healthy, Notre Dame will have a 20-victory season. Paraclete went 19-2 last season but didn't last long in the Division IV playoffs. The Spirits have toughened their schedule and return such quality players as pitcher Matt Parris (7-0), first baseman David Brown (.591) and shortstop Robbie Fockaert. Granada Hills is the North Valley League title favorite. Pitchers Kameron Loe and Peter Tuber, catcher Dan Frisbee and first baseman Jon Bringuier lead the Highlanders. But the key player is sophomore shortstop Eric Hagstrom, who must provide defensive stability. Westlake lost in the Division III final last season and picked up a top transfer from Simi Valley in pitcher Jesse Kozlowski. Shortstop Kevin Howard is considered the region's top professional prospect. How well Howard performs should determine whether the Warriors challenge Royal and Thousand Oaks for the Marmonte title.

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