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2001 Baseball Preview

Empire League

February 20, 2001

Century

Coach: Nate Guerriero

2000 record: 4-22

League record: 0-15

The Centurions fell to four victories after winning 12 the year before. Century will be strong up the middle, where shortstop Alex Gutierrez and second baseman Oscar Ramirez, both three-year starters, return. Right-handers Phillip Alves and Ernie Alvarez and lefty Freddie Medina are key pitchers.

*

Cypress

Coach: Dave Lewis

2000 record: 15-11

League record: 7-8

Seven starters return from a team that won 15 games but finished tied for fourth in league and missed the playoffs. The entire pitching staff comes back, including Paul Mezzetta, who finished 6-3 and was named first-team all-league. Chad Halbert (three wins, 3.69 ERA) and Rusty Murray (4-0) will also contribute on the mound. Lewis begins his first year as coach--former Coach Mark Steinert is now Lewis' top assistant--and will benefit from a strong offense led by first baseman J.J. Lovejoy, second baseman Sean Zarate and shortstop Scott Moore.

*

El Dorado

Coach: Matt Stine

2000 record: 17-11

League record: 11-4

Stine begins his first season as coach after seven years as an assistant to Steve Gullotti, who left after 20 seasons to reevaluate his future. Three first-team all-leaguers return--second baseman Joe Turgeon, catcher Brian Zerhellen and shortstop Cory D'Arrigo. Turgeon, who batted .464 with six home runs, 30 runs and 24 RBIs, was also named to the Times' all-county second team. The Golden Hawks are young, but should be aggressive on the basepaths and play solid defense. Pitchers Nick McMillan and Jeff Flaig will be counted on to contribute.

*

Katella

Coach: Tim McMenamin

2000 record: 15-11

League record: 7-8

Like Cypress, Katella won 15 games last season but missed the playoffs. Five starters return to a senior-laden squad, along with a good crop of younger players from a JV team that won a league title. The entire infield is back, but pitcher Jonathan Lorenzen, a Times' Orange County first-team selection who was drafted by the Dodgers, graduated. Robbie Tisthammer and Phil Tyson will lead an inexperienced pitching staff, and third baseman David Alcantar, who batted .361, heads the offense.

*

Kennedy

Coach: Chris Pascal

2000 record: 18-8-1

League record: 11-3-1

A year after winning one league game, the Irish captured the league title last season and Chris Pascal, who enters his 16th season as coach, was named the Times' Orange County Coach of the Year. The Irish return seven starters from that squad, but won't sneak up on anybody this year. Three-year starters Robby Legro (.438, 28 runs) and Shawn Benavente will be factors again. Legro and Ricky Steik, who recorded fives saves and four wins, will be top pitchers. Catcher/outfielder Alex Vasquez and infielders Matt Monahan and John Cross will also contribute.

*

Loara

Coach: Dave Lappin

2000 record: 14-11-1

League record: 8-6-1

Lappin hasn't won a league title in nine years as coach of Loara, but may have his best chance with this season's team. Pitcher/infielder David Ortiz, who was named co-MVP of the Empire League, batted .482 with six home runs, 32 RBIs and 30 runs scored, and was 8-4 on the mound with a 2.39 ERA and 70 strikeouts. Four other first-team all-league selections return--infielders Bryon Kungl (.419, 31 RBIs) and Ryan Gusman (.365, 25 runs, 25 RBIs), outfielder Rudy Acosta (.370, 31 runs, 14 stolen bases) and catcher/designated hitter Chris Smith (.373). Outfielder Billy Chavez (.353) and infielder Paco Garcia (.342) also return.

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