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Mahalic pitches football to put focus on baseball

Wilson High's Joey Mahalic will be throwing baseballs only, and not footballs, from now on. Mahalic, who won four state playoff games in leading the Trojans to the state baseball title this season, has decided not to play football his senior season at Wilson.

The choice comes more from his head than his heart, he says.

'I'm going to miss it,' says Mahalic, who started at quarterback as a junior and also was one of the Portland Interscholastic League's top defensive backs. 'I've always liked football more. I used to see myself playing football. But I've got to go with what works.'

The 6-4 Mahalic has emerged as a bona fide major college pitching prospect, with pro baseball possibilities. College recruiters have taken serious notice of him.

'I'd like to go to USC,' he says, 'but Oregon State's kind of jumped in the picture. They've been talking to me a lot, and I saw them play UCLA a couple of weekends ago.'

Mahalic attended a football camp at OSU last week. 'I wanted to try it out, to see what college football is like,' he says. After that, he made his decision to concentrate on baseball.

'I would have had to be the strong safety-linebacker next season, make all the plays on defense and quarterback the team, so there would have been a lot on my plate,' he says.

Now, he can focus on pitching this summer for Alpenrose Dairy, Wilson's American Legion team, and compete in the Area Code Games, an event for top prep baseball prospects Aug. 5 through Aug. 10 in Long Beach, Calif.

'I'll work out real hard in the offseason, have more time to lift weights, and try to gain some weight,' he says. 'I'm about 200 pounds right now. Next season, I want to be 212 to 215.

'I don't want to be anywhere near the same, either - I want to be a completely different pitcher, especially if I'm giving up football for it. I should be throwing harder, my stuff should be better. I'll be able now to work more on my secondary pitches.

'I feel like I should look like a college or pro player.'

nBilly Hefflinger, a former Cleveland baseball star, has been named head coach at College of the Siskiyous in Weed, Calif. Hefflinger, 29, spent the last three years as head coach at Western Texas College. He played for the College of the Siskiyous in 1996 and 1997.

The Eagles finished 8-26 this season after an 0-14 start. 'They have a good nucleus coming back,' Hefflinger says, 'and if I can bring in the right kids, I think we can turn this thing around.'

Another former Cleveland player, utility man Jimmy Heiberg, is transfering to the Siskiyous from Western Oregon, and Hefflinger is trying to recruit some players from Wilson and Clackamas.

One player he won't get is his brother, Ricky Hefflinger, a shortstop who is headed for North Dakota State.