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San Clemente Sends Preseason Rankings Sailing Out of Park

March 13, 2001|BEN BOLCH

This story is going to require a little reader participation, so bear with us. First, take out your copy of the Orange County preseason baseball rankings. Then wad it up. Now throw it in the trash.

That's where the rankings belong after the first 10 days of the season, in which a few highly ranked teams flopped and several unranked teams cobbled together impressive runs.

But this comes as no surprise, really. Preseason rankings are based on expectations that can be shaky at best.

Take San Clemente, for example. The Tritons finished 13-13 last season and missed the playoffs. Sure, this year's team features 13 seniors, but they were coming off a .500 season. What real reasons were there to expect a breakthrough?

Plenty, it turns out. Less than two weeks into the season, San Clemente is the best story going. The Tritons are 5-0 and off to their best start in at least 20 years after winning the Loara tournament for the first time in school history.

On the other end of the spectrum is Villa Park, The Times' Orange County preseason No. 1 pick. The Spartans have two losses in five games, not exactly reminiscent of the team that last year won the Southern Section Division III championship.

What do these early season developments mean? Perhaps they serve as a sign of hard times or will be a springboard to greatness. Maybe neither.

"You'd like to think it would have impact for the rest of the season," San Clemente Coach Dave Gellatly said. "But it is only five games. Hopefully, it will build momentum, but if nothing else it will build confidence and get us respect among other county teams."

Villa Park Coach Tom Tereschuk said he's not pushing the panic button despite his team's slow start. The Spartans, after all, did lose to El Dorado and Canyon, two quality opponents.

"We'd like our record to be better," Tereschuk said, "but we have a lot of new players, and it's tough to get guys experience early and see where we're at.

"But it's far too early to be disappointed in anything. We feel like we have a very good team. There just are some adjustments that have to be made."

San Clemente's pitching staff looks like it doesn't need any fine-tuning. Starters Steve Schroer, Billy Pinney and Chase Stroupe combined for all five Triton victories and surrendered a total of eight earned runs during the Loara tournament.

Pinney recorded a complete-game victory and struck out seven in San Clemente's 8-1 win over El Dorado in the championship game. He also struck out 13 in six innings during an 11-4 victory over Santa Margarita.

"We do have the talent to have quite a season and compete with and beat anybody on any given day, if we play to our potential," Gellatly said. "That's what we've been doing, playing to our potential."

SOFT DRIBBLERS

La Quinta (5-0) won its fourth consecutive North Orange County tournament championship Friday when it defeated Palos Verdes Peninsula, 2-1. Major league scouts clocked Aztec right-hander Ian Kennedy's pitches as high as 88 mph and consistently in the 85- to 87-mph range. Kennedy, a sophomore, struck out the side in the first and third innings and finished with 11 strikeouts in five innings. . . .

Orange Lutheran's Mark Langston, who spent much of his big-league pitching career with the Angels, recorded his first coaching victory Wednesday when the Lancers defeated L.A. Brentwood, 7-2. Orange Lutheran is 2-2.

LOOKING AHEAD

Seventh-ranked Canyon (4-1), which finished third in the Loara tournament, plays at No. 4 Esperanza (4-1) at 1 today in a doubleheader. Playing the Aztecs will allow the Comanches to gauge the meaning of their early success.

No. 2 San Clemente can get an early leg up in the South Coast League race at 3 p.m. Friday when it travels to play defending league champion Capistrano Valley (4-1).

Also, Fountain Valley and Esperanza play in a Sunset League opener at 3:15 p.m. Friday.

STATISTICS

Baseball statistics, as supplied by county coaches, will be published in Prep Extra each Tuesday, beginning March 20. Coaches must contact The Times' Orange County sports department with cumulative statistics and team records by calling (714) 966-5867 on Sunday, or faxing to (714) 966-5663 or e-mailing to melanie.neff@latimes.com by 10 a.m. Monday.

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Correspondents Mike Haubrich and Mark Alai contributed to this report.

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If you have an item or idea for the high school baseball report, you can call us at (714) 966-7826 or e-mail us at ben.bolch@latimes.com

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BASEBALL TOP 10

Orange County Sportswriters' Poll

*--*

Pos. School League Rec Pts 1. La Quinta (5) G. Grove 5-0 36 2T. San Clemente (NR) S. Coast 5-0 34 2T. Mater Dei (NR) Serra 4-0 34 4. Esperanza (2) Sunset 4-1 23 5. El Dorado (NR) Empire 4-1 22 6. Capo. Valley (3) S. Coast 3-1 21 7. Canyon (NR) Century 4-1 15 8. Irvine (NR) S. View 4-1 13 9. Villa Park (1) Century 3-2 8 10. Cypress (NR) Empire 4-1 6

*--*

*Last week's ranking in parentheses

Others: Costa Mesa, Trabuco Hills, University, Ocean View

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