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2003 PREVIEW BASEBALL: BEST JUST GOT BETTER QUARTZ HILL HAS SEVERAL RETURNEES, KEY ADDITIONS.

Byline: Gideon Rubin Staff Writer

QUARTZ HILL - It probably would have been overwhelming favorites anyway.

The Quartz Hill High baseball team returns most of its nucleus from last season's Golden League championship team.

Add to the mix Highland transfer Kent Wulf, an MVP-caliber senior outfielder, and the fact the Rebels believe they're capable of doing some pretty special things this season is certainly understandable.

``Our goal is to win CIF (Southern Section),'' said junior shortstop/pitcher Matt Ware, a first-team league selection in 2002. ``We definitely want to win our league first, but our long-term goal is to win CIF, and we believe we have the team to do it.''

But don't mistake their confidence for arrogance.

Quartz Hill, which was 13-2 in league (17-9 overall) last season, edged out Palmdale (12-3 in league), a team that figures to present a formidable challenge. Other teams, including Highland and Lancaster, are expected to contend as well.

``We know all those guys and we have a lot of respect for them,'' Ware said, ``but we know they're going to be coming after us; they're out to get us, and we're out to do the best we can to defend our title.''

The Rebels are ranked sixth by the Daily News and are as cohesive as they are talented.

Senior pitcher Dan Slaton, Quartz Hill's staff ace, and catcher Alex Massari, also a senior, are returning all-league selections and both have committed to Fresno State.

Ware and junior second baseman Brian Chavez, who also pitches, have been turning double plays together since they were 12-year-olds playing Little League.

``I could shut my eyes and I'd know where he was throwing the ball to me,'' Ware said.

They're both excellent hitters as well. Ware, a first-team all-league selection, batted more than .400 and led the team with five homers. Chavez, a second-team all-league selection, was an alternate on a 16-and-under Olympic development team last summer.

And when one of their star middle infielders pitches, the Rebels don't miss a beat with senior utilityman Joey Becker. An honorable mention who plays second, third, shortstop and right field, Becker batted more than .350 last season.

``He's not your typical utility player,'' Quartz Hill coach Lance Pierson said. ``He's really good at every position.''

Slaton anchors a staff that returns winners of 18 of the team's 19 games last season. Ware, Quartz Hill's No. 2 pitcher, has been clocked in the low-90s and is getting as many looks from Division I scouts as a shortstop as he has a pitcher, Pierson said.

The addition of Wulf, who'll play center field, and junior left fielder Garrison Thompson, the junior varsity team's MVP last season, gives the Rebels an added dimension.

``We had to play a lot of small ball last season, but this year we have a lot more power,'' Ware said.

Wulf led the league with eight homers, batted more than .550 and is also among the team's fastest players. Thompson swings a powerful bat as well.

``We're bigger, stronger and faster,'' Chavez said. ``I think this is the best team I've ever been on. Everybody has another year under their belt, and everybody is stepping it up this year.''

QUARTZ HILL AT A GLANCE

Team: Quartz Hill baseball

Coach: Lance Pierson, second year

2002 record: 19-7, 13-2; first place in Golden League

Playoffs: Lost in first round of Southern Section Division II

Top returnees: Alex Massari (Sr., C), Dan Slaton (Sr., P), Matt Ware (Jr., SS/P), Brian Chavez (Jr. 2B/P), Joey Becker (Sr., INF/OF).

Top newcomers: Kent Wulf (Sr., OF), Garrison Thompson (Jr., OF).

CAPTION(S):

6 photos, box

Photo:

(1) DAN SLATON

All-League and Staff ace

(2) KENT WULF

Former Highland player hit over .550 last year.

(3) MATT WARE

Batted over .400 last year.

(4) BRIAN CHAVEZ

Second-team all-league selection plays second base.

(5) JOEY BECKER

Utiltyman hit over .350 last season.

(6) ALEX MASSARI

Senior catcher was an all-league selection.

Box:

QUARTZ HILL AT A GLANCE (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 5, 2003
Words:668
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