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Community College State Baseball Tournament

Larkin Likes the Swing Shift

May 29, 1999|STEVE KRESAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shaun Larkin likes to hit so much that sometimes it affects his hearing.

Such was the case during batting practice recently. The Chargers were preparing for their state tournament opener against Santa Rosa at 7 tonight in Fresno.

Coach Scott Pickler asked for a sacrifice bunt and Larkin, a sophomore second baseman, instead lined the pitch to left-center field.

Pickler again said, "sacrifice," and another line drive followed.

Pickler then sternly said, "sacrifice," and Larkin bunted.

"That was a misunderstanding," Larkin later joked. But the understanding is clear. Larkin, who is from La Quinta High, doesn't want to miss one chance to take a full swing. He takes extra batting practice as often as he can find someone to pitch to him.

His determination has helped him to a .399 average with 22 doubles, nine home runs and 49 runs batted in. He was also selected as the Orange Empire Conference's most valuable player this season.

"He has a natural swing," Pickler said. "Plus, he has a game plan for every at-bat. I credit that to his high school coach [Dave Demarest]."

Hitting is something Larkin has always been able to do. It's what drew him to the game when he was only 6.

Larkin played second base in high school but switched to third last season because the Chargers already had a second baseman and no one to play third base.

He struggled at times defensively and was happy to move back to second when he played in a wood bat league last summer in New Hampshire.

Larkin, 19, returned to Cypress with a determination to improve his defensive skills. His goal was to make himself a more complete player. He also took a degree of stress out of his sophomore year by signing early with Texas Tech.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted to sign early," Larkin said, "but I'm glad I did. It took the pressure off trying to prove myself to people."

Larkin is still working with assistant coach Sergio Brown on his defensive skills, and the extra effort is paying off. In a recent playoff game against Cerritos, Larkin went well up the middle to grab a grounder then made a strong throw to first for an out.

"I could make the routine play," Larkin said, "but I wanted to make the play in the hole every time. That [play against Cerritos] shows just how far I've come."

Cypress Notes

This is the fifth time this decade the Chargers have reached the state tournament. Cypress won titles in 1991, '94 and '97 and lost in the title game in '96. . . . Sophomore center field Cory Sullivan leads the regulars in hitting at .433 and has 40 RBIs. Freshman catcher Gerald Laird is at .397 with 19 doubles, six triples, eight home runs and 46 RBIs as the leadoff hitter. Sophomore outfielder Brandon Pack leads in home runs (11) and RBIs (50). Adam Spiker, another sophomore outfielder, has nine home runs and 45 RBIs. . . . Coach Scott Pickler said freshman left-hander Garrett Estabrook (5-2, 4.84 earned-run average) is the likely starter in the opening game. Sophomore right-hander Ron Corona (10-4) has a team-high 127 strikeouts, two shy of the school's record set by Jeff Patterson (1989).

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Baseball Playoffs

* What: 50th annual California Community College Baseball Championships

* When: Today-Monday

* Where: Fresno College

* Today's first round: Santa Ana (32-18) vs. Sacramento (38-6-1), 1 p.m.; Cypress (35-12-1) vs. Santa Rosa (42-5), 7 p.m.

* Championship: Title game is Monday at 11 a.m.; second game, if necessary, will follow 30 minutes after conclusion of first.

* Tickets: $5 adults, $3 children; $12 tournament pass

* Information: (209) 442-8229

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