AMAT TOPS FAB 50 NATIONAL BASEBALL RANKINGS

With five NCAA Division I signees and a load of other returning players from a team that went 27-2 and was ranked No. 1 in California last year, the Bishop Amat High baseball team of La Puente, Calif., was an easy choice to start out the 2002 season in the No. 1 spot in the Student Sports FAB 50 national ratings.

The preseason FAB 50 is featured prominently in the March issue of Student Sports Magazine, which just came off the presses. Also included in the magazine is a preseason All-America team for baseball.

"I didn't expect us to be No. 1," said Bishop Amat coach Kenny Kendrena, whose squad is 53-6 over the last two seasons. "I don't think all the attention will go to their heads. They love to play together, which is why they have been able to do so much."

The Lancers have a few holes to fill this year, but there seems to be too much talent on the roster for that to be much of a problem. Adam Simon, a right-hander who has signed with UCLA, will move into the role as the team's No. 1 pitcher. Simon's size (5-foot-11, 173 pounds) might scare away some pro scouts, but there's no questioning his results -- he finished 10-1 last season on the mound and also played centerfield.

Senior shortstop Mike Lange is among the nation's best at that position, and has signed with Santa Clara. Left-hander Mark Esparza, one of new San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn's first recruits, will play first base and pitch, which should offset somewhat the graduation of last year's ace southpaw, Miguel Sanchez. Third baseman David Pierson has signed with St. Mary's of California.

A catcher, Jordan Swaydon, who transferred to Bishop Amat from Damien of La Verne, will add to the mix this year. He's also signed collegiately with San Diego State.

The Lancers' schedule will be highlighted by another appearance in the Toyo National Classic. Bishop Amat won the title last year in the prestigious event.

Simon said he and his teammates consider the national No. 1 ranking an honor, but he's sure that Kendrena won't let it go to their heads.

"It's exciting just to talk about it; everyone wants to be No. 1," Simon said. "It's going to be a challenge and another goal for us. Our coach is always telling us that polls and rankings don't mean anything and that we shouldn't look at them. The only thing that matters in the final poll -- that shows how good you are."

Seven other California teams were able to crack the Student Sports preseason FAB 50, and two of them, Chatsworth and Edison of Huntington Beach, are in the top 10.

Two good reasons why Chatsworth is ranked at No. 4 is that senior pitcher Joe Guntz went 14-0 last year and is 25-0 in his career, and that the Chancellors won their second CIF L.A. City Section title in three years last season with a predominantly young team. They had a final record of 31-2.

Edison checked in at No. 8 with a 22-8-1 mark from last year. Junior pitcher David Huff threw a two-hit shutout in last year's CIF Southern Section Division II title game. The Chargers play in the highly-competitive Sunset League, and so might take some losses, but that tough schedule only helps in the end. A.J. Martinez, the all-state football player who keyed the school's drive to the CIFSS Div. I finals in football, will be one of the state's best in baseball, too.

Central Section power Clovis landed at No. 18 with a 25-11 record from last spring. Only two seniors started for the Cougars in last year's CIF Central Section title game and all of the team's pitching is back. Lefty Evan Bayless (8-2) and football quarterback Jordan Christensen headline that pitching. SS John Torick, who hit two homers in that title game, and C Mike Pierce, signed by Santa Clara, are among the top returning position players.

Chaminade of West Hills, which was 25-4 last season and was ousted in the CIFSS Division IV playoffs by Bishop Amat, was picked at No. 20. Mark down March 1 because on that day the Eagles will face No. 4 Chatsworth in an early season SoCal showdown of top-ranked squads. Cal-Hi Sports State Junior Player of the Year Bobby Paschal is one of three players headed to Div. I colleges. He's bound for USC, while P Sean Clark is going to Arizona State and 3B Cody Haerther to UC Irvine.

Serra of San Mateo has the best returning group of pitchers and position players in the CIF Central Coast Section and is No. 37 nationally to start the year. The Padres (22-10 last season) also will feature soph. pitcher Chuck Lofgren, who is already regarded as a prime prospect.

Right behind Serra at No. 38 is Mater Dei of Santa Ana. The Monarchs (25-5 last year) have two strong returnees in all-American shortstop Sergio Santos and pitcher Warren Chenier.

Rounding out the California contingent at No. 43 is Archbishop Mitty of San Jose. The Monarchs (28-6 last year) return seven starters, led by all-state underclass outfielder Robert Perry.

The Student Sports FAB 50 also had an "Others to Watch" section. California schools on the list are Buchanan of Clovis and Rancho Bernardo of San Diego.

Look for the CalHiSports preseason baseball rankings within the next two weeks.

For more on national spring previews, check out studentsports.com or see the March issue of Student Sports Magazine. Call 1-800-660-1334 to subscribe.


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