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West Torrance Becomes National Power

Baseball preview: Section finalist becomes a favorite.

March 08, 2001|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

West Torrance High's success last season earned the Warriors an invitation to the National Classic baseball tournament next month in Anaheim.

The tournament will feature several teams regarded as among the best in the nation--a status West Torrance also has attained as the season begins.

"We're pretty strong physically," West Torrance Coach Harry Jenkins said. "We're playing a very fun schedule and very challenging one."

West Torrance is playing in the Redondo, El Segundo and National Classic tournaments. The Warriors play defending City Section champion Granada Hills Kennedy next Saturday.

Here is a look at 10 teams to watch:

1. WEST TORRANCE (2000 record: 29-2): The Warriors, who lost to Villa Park in the Southern Section III final last season, feature catcher Nelson Caraballo, a Pepperdine-signee regarded as one of the top prospects in the Southland. Caraballo, 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, was 20-2 as a pitcher the last few seasons, but he will be behind the plate exclusively this season.

Six starters from last year's team are back, among them infielder/pitcher Tony Cabral, infielders Elliott Salcedo and Tony Mora and outfielder Chris Caraballo.

Cabral is expected to be the ace of a staff that also features left-hander Pawny Mentenhs

2. MISSION VIEJO CAPISTRANO VALLEY (23-8): The defending Southern Section Division I champions are regarded as a contender to repeat because they have a lineup that includes outfielder Travis Becktel, who hit nine homers, and catcher Brad Davis, who has signed with Long Beach State.

Frank McLaughlin, who was 7-0 with a 1.52 earned-run average last season, leads a staff that also includes Brennan Jackson (3-2, 1.14 earned-run average) and Derek Acosta (3-0, 3.88 ERA).

3. WESTLAKE (24-4): The Warriors, who play Granada Hills Kennedy tonight, could challenge for the Division III title if they get big seasons from infielder/pitcher Tyler Adamczyk and catcher Mike Nickeas, both of whom are considered top prospects.

Westlake showed its prowess on offense last Saturday when it scored 13 runs in the sixth inning of a 14-5 victory over Valencia.

Outfielder Luke Riordan hit a grand slam and shortstop Tyler Carr had two hits in the inning.

4. DIAMOND BAR (19-6): The Brahmas have seven starters back from last season and a pitching staff that features 6-foot-7 Mark Jecman, who has signed with Stanford, and Dustin Miller, who has signed with Cal State Fullerton.

5. GRANADA HILLS KENNEDY (23-11-1): The defending City Section champions have almost their entire starting lineup back.

Catcher Phil Avlas, the City's co-player of the year, will handle a staff that includes Adam Geery and Eric Moore.

The Golden Cougars will play a challenging nonleague schedule with games against Westlake, Chatsworth and West Torrance.

6. CHATSWORTH (25-2-1): The Chancellors lost to Kennedy in last year's City semifinals and are considered a favorite to return to the championship game.

Junior Joe Guntz, senior Sean Richards, sophomore Justin Cassel and freshman Jason Dominguez are the team's top pitchers and second baseman Gregg Wallis is the top threat on offense.

7. LA PUENTE BISHOP AMAT (25-4): The Lancers have not fared as well in the playoffs as their regular-season play would indicate, but this could be the year Coach Ken Kendrena's Lancers break through.

Bishop Amat is regarded as the favorite for the Del Rey League championship.

8. CAMARILLO (24-7): Pitchers Jim Alstot and Delmon Young make the Scorpions a contender for the Southern Section Division I title.

Young, a sophomore, is the younger brother of major leaguer Dmitri Young.

9. NEWHALL HART (23-6): The Indians are led by UCLA-bound outfielder Bill Susdorf.

They also feature pitchers Eric Posthumus, who was 8-0 last season, and Chris Burrows.

10. WILMINGTON BANNING (26-8): The Pilots lost to Kennedy in the City quarterfinals in 1999 and in the semifinals last season.

They could reach the final and break the Valley-area's stranglehold on the title if senior Rafael Sixtos has another big season, Sixtos was 13-2 last season.

Staff writers Eric Sondheimer and Ben Bolch contributed to this story.

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