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JETHAWKS NOTEBOOK: AFTER ROUGH START, SIKARAS GETS BACK ON HORSE.

Byline: Gideon Rubin and Chris Cocoles Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Earlier this season, with JetHawks starters consistently going deep into games, relievers were seeing limited action, and a struggling Pete Sikaras wasn't getting much work.

But Sikaras slowly regained the coaching staff's confidence and lately has become a workhorse.

Going into Tuesday's game, Sikaras appeared in three games in four days and four games in six days. That's nothing new for a JetHawks club enduring a brutal stretch during a California League schedule that has drawn the ire of players, managers and coaches. By the time there is a day off at the All-Star break, the JetHawks will have played 35 games in 34 days.

``I like getting out there as much as I can; the more innings the better,'' Sikaras said. ``You can throw your sides and work on your stuff, but it's a lot different when you get in the game, you've got the pressure, you've got the crowds, there's just a lot of things that make it different.''

Sikaras was especially impressive earlier this week, when he struck out three batters and allowed on hit and no walks in 1 1/3 innings of shutout ball to preserve a 5-3 victory over Inland Empire on Monday.

He came back Wednesday to earn save No. 9 when the JetHawks held off Inland Empire, again by a 5-3 final margin.

``He's stepping up, there's no doubt about it,'' manager Mike Aldrete said. ``What he's done the last couple of weeks, it's probably not fair, but with the stuff he has, that's what we expected of him (in the beginning of the season).''

--Outburst: The JetHawks' 24-hit performance in Tuesday's 15-4 victory over Inland Empire was a season high for the California League and four short of tying a franchise record.

Chris Snyder was 4 for 4 with a double and two RBI, Josh Kroeger was 4 for 4 and Jay Garthwaite was 4 for 6.

Kyle Nichols was 2 for 4 including a grand slam for his league-leading 14th homer. Mayobanex Santana was 3 for 5 with a double and three RBI.

--Cardinal rules: Aldrete's alma mater, Stanford, is making its fifth consecutive appearance in the College World Series and plays South Carolina today in the opening game at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium.

Aldrete played in the College World Series twice (1982, 1983) during a four-year career that saw the first baseman compile a career batting average of .356, which recently ranked in the Top 5 all-time in the school's rich baseball history.

Aldrete went on to play 930 games in the big-leagues and said he he learned a lot from his college coach Mark Marquess, now in his 27th season at Stanford.

``I think his philosophy, which is a good one, has made him very successful,'' Aldrete said. ``It's one that you should do at every level. They catch the ball, they throw the ball and they pitch and they execute. He's relentless and that's a formula for success. And when you've got these kids for four years, with his reputation and his success, there's a great level of success. The kids that he has, they listen.''

Aldrete listened well enough to be a valuable player on seven major- league franchises. His teammates at Stanford included future big-leaguers Jeff Ballard, Paul Zuvella, Dave Meier and Steve Buechele. Another thrived on the professional level. But John Elway made a name for himself throwing footballs rather than baseballs.

``He was a lot better baseball player than I was,'' Aldrete said.

--Odds and ends: The JetHawks are eight games over .500, the most since they became an Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate in 2001. Their previous best was 9-4 in 2001.

Through 66 games in 2002, Lancaster was 24 games under .500 (21-45). ...

Reliever Charlie Griffin was sent to short-season Yakima after appearing in two games without allowing run. He replaced pitcher Corbey Medlin when he went home to South Bend, Ind., for the birth of his daughter. Medlin returned to the team Tuesday. ...

The Zooperstars mascots will perform at tonight's game against the Blaze. Little League bats will be handed out Saturday.

Chris Cocoles, (818)713-3607

chris.cocoles(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 13, 2003
Words:697
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