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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

The Last Wind-Up

Pro Prospect Canale Nears End of Sterling Cal Lutheran Career

May 18, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

THOUSAND OAKS — Sure looks like it's coming to an end for Tom Canale at Cal Lutheran.

Not the victories. Not if Canale can help it--and he insists he can, despite losing consecutive starts for the first time in memory.

The impressive college pitching career.

Canale, a 6-foot-3 junior right-hander, already is among the school's career leaders in several statistical categories and needs two victories to tie the Kingsmen career mark of 26. Through three seasons, Canale clearly has established himself among the school's all-time best.

With a masterful slider, good control and multiple complete-game gems to his credit, including a no-hitter, Canale is expected to be selected next month in baseball's amateur draft and likely will say good-bye to Cal Lutheran.

He doesn't expect to be an early round selection, nor a late one. Truth is, like many would-be draftees, Canale doesn't know what to expect.

But he knows one thing.

"I've pretty much decided I'm going to play," Canale said. "It would have to be a pretty bad situation not to go. It's exciting to think that I have a chance to play at the next level. A lot of people never get that opportunity. I don't want to let it pass."

Although the end may be near, it figures to be climactic.

Canale (10-2) will start today when Cal Lutheran (26-12-2) plays George Fox of Newberg, Ore., in the opening round of the NCAA Division III West Regional at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. The winner of the four-team regional will advance to the Division III World Series from May 26-30 at Wisconsin Oshkosh.

For Canale, who established a school record this season with his 12th consecutive victory dating to last year, it won't just be a start but a chance to stop.

A losing streak, that is.

Canale has dropped his last two decisions, including a 7-2 loss at Cal State Northridge. To the best of his recollection, Canale said he had never before lost consecutive starts, at any level.

But the three-time all-state pitcher for Payson (Ariz.) High is characteristically confident.

"I'm going to win [today]," he said. "The two losses aren't anything that's going to bother me."

Canale takes pride in his ability, and pitching is his favorite subject. He explains his success by pointing to the lengthy hours devoted to developing his slider and, more recently, his change.

Canale is keenly aware that pitching at the next level will require significant development.

"The main thing with me is, there is never a day when I can't throw my slider awesome and where I want it," Canale said. "That's what makes me, I think, good."

As for the losses, "The thing is, you're going to lose games," he said. "Even sometimes when you pitch awesome, you're going to lose, 1-0. When I got to 10-0, I really didn't notice because I've struggled really bad sometimes. I had a few games I should have lost, but my team came back and won it for me."

Canale has been the Cal Lutheran ace for two seasons. After a 4-5 freshman season--"The first losing season in my life," Canale said--he was 10-5 last season with a 1.94 earned-run average and a school-record 133 strikeouts. He also set a school record with 125 1/3 innings.

His no-hitter last season against UC San Diego included 12 strikeouts. He had a season-high 15 strikeouts against 1998 Division III runner-up Montclair State.

Canale had two postseason victories, including a 7-2 victory over Cortland State in the first round of the World Series. He was selected most outstanding player of the West Regional.

Coach Marty Slimak of Cal Lutheran said he would welcome Canale's return for a senior season that surely would establish him as the Kingsmen's career leader in virtually every pitching category.

But he is resigned to losing Canale, no longer a gem in the rough.

"We recruited him straight out," Slimak said. "He wasn't getting a lot of looks from scouts in high school."

Canale, originally from Orange, had never heard of Cal Lutheran when Slimak first approached him. But he has made the school his home and didn't rule out a return.

"Coming back is always an option," Canale said. "I love the school and I love the team. It's going to be hard."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

NCAA Division III Baseball

West Regional Tournament at Georgetown, Texas

Today

Game 1--Cal Lutheran (26-12-2) vs. George Fox (31-8), 1 p.m.

Game 2--Chapman (28-10-1) vs. Southwestern (36-10), 5 p.m.

Friday

Game 3--Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 9 a.m.

Game 4--Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 1 p.m.

Game 5--Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 5 p.m.

Saturday

Game 6--Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 11 a.m.

Game 7--If necessary.

Champion advances to NCAA Division III World Series May 26-30 in Appleton, Wis.

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