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Spiers Has a Streak in Him

Senior shortstop at Moreno Valley Canyon Springs has hit safely in 42 consecutive games and can tie the state record today.

March 31, 2004|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

The hits haven't always come easily for Joe Spiers. He remembers a weekend youth baseball tournament during which he struck out in every at-bat ... but that was seven years ago. Today, Spiers, the senior shortstop at Moreno Valley Canyon Springs, can tie the state record for the longest hitting streak in an Ivy League game at Moreno Valley Valley View.

He has hits in 42 consecutive games, one shy of the state record set by Pittsburgh Pirate Jason Kendall, from 1990 to 1992 when he was at Torrance.

Spiers tied the second-longest streak Friday with three hits, including his fourth home run of the season, in the Cougars' 13-9 victory over Riverside Arlington.

He's batting .488 and has a team-leading 20 hits for Canyon Springs, ranked No. 20 in the Southland by The Times.

"He's a difference-maker," said Coach Leon Baham, whose Cougars (8-2, 2-1) are looking for their first Ivy League title. "You see a kid like him come around maybe once every 10 years."

Baham said Spiers' discipline at the plate and ability to hit any type of pitch make him a constant threat.

"He has got a good understanding of the strike zone," Baham said. "That's something you usually learn later in life. He knows what pitchers are trying to do. He hits the off-speed pitches so well, and you can't throw the ball by him." Spiers played baseball off and on between the ages of 7 and 14, preferring roller hockey and basketball. When he was 11, he struck out in all 11 plate appearances at a tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y.

"I just did terrible," he said.

Though Spiers walked from the game for a while, it was never far away. His father, Mike Spiers, is an international scout for the Seattle Mariners, coach of the Ecuador national team since 2000 and runs a baseball academy in Moreno Valley, where he specializes in base-running instruction.

Once Spiers decided to return to baseball, he had the resources, physique and attitude to improve quickly.

"I made big strides in a short amount of time," said Spiers, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound right-handed batter.

Spiers played his first two years of high school baseball at Temecula Valley, helping the Golden Bears to a 17-11 record as a sophomore.

That season ended with a 15-0 loss to Fountain Valley in the first round of the Southern Section Division I playoffs. Spiers said he doesn't remember going hitless in the loss as much as the one-sided result.

"They killed us," he said.

He transferred to Redlands Arrowhead Christian Academy after his father was hired as baseball coach.

Spiers, who has signed with Hawaii, hit safely in every game last season and batted .582, leading the Eagles to the Division V semifinals, where they lost, 5-4, in eight innings to Pasadena La Salle. He was set to return to Arrowhead Christian, but a change in administration led to the release of his father.

Spiers decided to move in with his mother and transferred to Canyon Springs for his senior year. He was already familiar with Baham, who had previously coached at San Bernardino Pacific, and had participated in off-season leagues with many of the team's players.

Jacob Taylor, the Cougars' starting shortstop last season, made the transition even easier for Spiers by not sulking when moved to third base.

"It hasn't been as hard as most people would think," Spiers said. "I can adapt well to different environments."

As with most long hitting streaks, Spiers' isn't without controversy.

In a game at Riverside North on March 24, Spiers laid down a bunt. The throw from the third-baseman sailed over the first baseman's head, but it was ruled Spiers would have beaten the throw.

Baham said North Coach Hugo Aguirre agreed with the ruling, but that hasn't stopped questions being raised on Internet message boards.

"That one caused the most controversy," Spiers said. "But I thought I beat it out."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Longest Streaks

Canyon Spring's Joe Spiers, with hits in 42 consecutive games, is one game away from tying the state record for longest hitting streak. Some of baseball's all-time longest streaks:

MAJOR LEAGUES

56 JOE DiMAGGIO 1941

New York Yankees

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MINOR LEAGUES

61 JOE DiMAGGIO 1933

San Francisco Seals (PCL)

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NCAA DIVISION I

58 ROBIN VENTURA 1987

Oklahoma State

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ALL COLLEGES

60 DAMIAN COSTANTINO 2001-03

Salve Regina (R.I.)

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CALIFORNIA HIGH SCHOOL

43 JASON KENDALL 1990-92

Torrance

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