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HIGH SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT: OPPOSITE OF SOPHOMORE SLUMP CHATSWORTH SLUGGER EXPANDS ON SUCCESS EXPERIENCED LAST YEAR.

Byline: Heather Gripp Staff Writer

Mike Moustakas spent his freshman year as quarterback of Chatsworth High's football team and shortstop on a baseball team that went undefeated en route to a national championship. That's nothing compared to what he's doing as a sophomore.

Moustakas ranks among area leaders in almost every offensive category and is within reach of the school single-season home run record. He entered the week hitting .539 with eight home runs, 35 RBI, a 1.053 slugging percentage and team-high 41 hits for a team Baseball America ranks 14th in the nation.

``I'd have to say this is the best season I've ever had,'' Moustakas said.

Moustakas batted .321 with two home runs and 19 RBI last season, but usually he was overshadowed in a lineup that possessed a .419 team batting average and averaged more than 10 runs a game. This year, he's the one casting the shadow.

``Obviously, his numbers are off the chart,'' Chatsworth coach Tom Meusborn said. ``But if you watch him every day, he's the type of player capable of doing something like that. I don't think you could ever predict those type of numbers for anyone, but was it something he was capable of? Yeah, he has the ability. He's a great athlete.''

He's quickly moved to the head of the region's deep sophomore class, outshining even teammate Matt Dominguez, who last season was the National High School Coaches Association's National Rookie of the Year after setting a state freshman record with 65 RBI.

Moustakas, 16, is bigger and stronger this year. The 6-foot, 170-pound left-handed hitter feels most comfortable in a leadership position and was eager to take on a greater role after the departure of last season's record-setting seniors.

``He had a good year last year,'' Dominguez said. ``But this winter he really came out and was hitting the ball well and was stronger. I was not surprised at all by what he's doing this year.''

If Moustakas' offensive surge wasn't enough of a boost, he's also taken on the job of closer for the pitching staff. He is 2-0 with three saves and a 1.38 ERA in 20 1/3 innings.

He has a difficult time deciding whether it is more exciting to clinch a victory as a pitcher or a hitter.

The decision on which sport is his favorite isn't any easier. Baseball and football have been a part of Moustakas' life as long as he can remember, and he doesn't plan on choosing one over the other any time soon.

``I love baseball to death,'' said Moustakas, who when he isn't playing serves as a youth-league umpire. ``I can't imagine it ever not being in my life. All my memories are me holding a bat. But I love football, too.''

His involvement in football might have aided his offensive outburst in baseball. Moustakas said he was too sore from his football games the night before to do anything but hit when he attended the Chancellors' Saturday winter-league games.

``The coaches just got me to bear down,'' Moustakas said. ``I have to give a lot of credit to the coaches. The coaches spent countless hours working with all of us. They tinkered with my swing. It turned a weak-hit groundball into a hard-hit line-drive double into the gap.''

Perfecting his swing has long been a passion of Moustakas'. He seeks advice from his uncle, Tom Robson, a major-league hitting coach who has written a book on the subject, and tries to learn from watching other players.

Dominguez, who has grown up playing alongside Moustakas, says his friend always has been a top player. But he can't remember a Moustakas season that compares with this one.

Neither can Moustakas.

``I have to give a lot of the credit to my teammates,'' he said. ``Without Matt batting behind me, I wouldn't see as many good pitches as I do. There's so many guys on our team who can bang it - one through nine, we can hit - so teams can't pitch around anybody, and it makes my job easy. ...

``It's unbelievable right now. I just hope it continues. The main thing is to do whatever I can to help the team win, because I want to be playing there at Dodger Stadium for another City title.''

Heather Gripp, (818) 713-3607

heather.gripp(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

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Chatsworth High sophomore Mike Moustakas had a standout freshman year but is even better this season, hitting .539 with eight home runs, 35 RBI, and a 1.053 slugging percentage.

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer

Box:

MOUSTAKAS FILE
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Apr 26, 2005
Words:768
Previous Article:CHATTER: NEWS AND NOTES FROM LOCAL SPORTS CIF PROPOSES STATE FOOTBALL FINALS IN THREE DIVISIONS.
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