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Playoff Journey Starts With Pierce Hitting the Road


Talk about drawing the short straw.

Pierce College is spending today and Saturday in Ridgecrest -- ouch! -- playing Cerro Coso in a Southern California regional best-of-three baseball series.

The teams meet today at 2 and Saturday at 11 , with a third game to follow game two, if necessary.

Besides having to travel 150 miles to that garden spot, the Brahmas (24-12) face a Cerro Coso (24-14) squad that can swing the bat.

The No. 8-seeded Coyotes, winners of the Foothill Conference title for the second consecutive year, have a .380 team batting average. They hit 40 home runs and can be a nightmare for pitchers, especially if the wind is blowing out at their high-altitude field.

Cerro Coso's attack is led by first baseman Sam Christensen, the conference's most valuable player and leader in batting with a .497 average and runs batted in with 75. He has eight home runs and 20 doubles.

No. 9-seeded Pierce, the Western State Conference Southern Division champion, needs strong outings from left-hander Doug Slaten (9-2) and right-hander Jack Cassel (7-2) to cool off Cerro Coso.

They have faced tough hitting before. Pierce pitchers dominated hard-hitting Canyons in WSC play, defeating the Cougars, 10-1, 9-0 and 7-1. Canyons' .349 batting average was second-best in conference games.

"Pitching is the name of the game," Pierce Coach Bob Lofrano said. "But in a short series, if you get a couple of guys swinging the bat, that can carry you."

The Brahmas, batting .310, have to deal with hard-throwing left-hander Jason Mackintosh, who is 12-1 with a 3.97 earned-run average. Mackintosh, drafted by the Chicago Cubs last year, has 149 strikeouts and 34 walks in 112 innings.

But Cerro Coso is vulnerable without Mackintosh. The Coyotes have a 7.08 team ERA.

For Pierce, catcher Kona Sampaio (.392, six home runs, 36 RBIs), right fielder Nick Browne (.341, eight home runs, 46 RBIs), first baseman Traviss Hodge (.331, five home runs, 38 RBIs) and third baseman Kris Dominique (.331, 21 RBIs) are the offensive leaders.

"We had a guy [scout Pierce] against Citrus, but they blew out Citrus that day, so we didn't see much," Cerro Coso Coach Dick Adams said.

Lofrano said he doesn't know much about the Coyotes, except their statistics.

"Coaches try to call other coaches [for information], but I'm not really into that," he said. "We'll just play the games and see what happens."


Lofrano and Adams have known each other for years. Both scout for the Chicago Cubs and work together every summer in a tryout camp in Ridgecrest.

"I know that facility very well," Lofrano said.


The seeds for the men's golf state championship won by Canyons on Monday were planted months before, Coach Gary Peterson said.

"Our conference [Western State] was very competitive," Peterson said. "We never really blew anybody away in conference and that kept our boys sharp and strong."

Canyons shot 739 at Glendora Country Club and cruised past second-place Long Beach City (758) and third-place Saddleback (765) to win its second state title. The Cougars were champions in 1993.

Peterson said the Cougars believed they could win Monday after losing to Long Beach in the Southern California regional at Bakersfield the previous week, 749-751.

"We were kind of bummed we came in second, but we were reassured that we had played our 'B' game and lost by only two shots," Peterson said.

The Cougars took their 'A' game to Glendora, shooting a blazing 366 in the morning round, leading Long Beach by 19 strokes and Saddleback by 26.

Matias Gil led the surge with a morning best of 68 on the par-72, 6,597-yard course. He finished at 147 to tie three others, including teammate Pat Kelly, for third place. Travis Mayte led Canyons at 72-74--146, two shots behind medalist Jeff Greenfield of Golden West.

"Unlike '93, when we won by one shot, this was a unique experience because we could sit back and enjoy it," Peterson said.


Tennis, anyone?

Barry Green, a longtime men's basketball assistant at Antelope Valley, will coach the women's tennis team next spring.

Antelope Valley is bringing back the program after a seven-year layoff to help the school work toward meeting gender-equity guidelines mandated by Title IX.

By adding women's tennis, Antelope Valley will have seven women's and five men's teams.

Green, headed for his 13th season as a basketball assistant, coached the women's tennis team for two seasons before it was disbanded in 1993 because of financial reasons.


Go figure.

Antelope Valley was eliminated in the Southern California softball regional last weekend by an El Camino team the Marauders had defeated four times this season.

The Marauders had outscored El Camino, 18-5, in the four games. But the Warriors returned the favor at Palomar with 9-3 and 6-5 victories in the double-elimination regional.

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