If it's snowing on the East Coast, then it must be time for baseball on the West Coast.

Sonora and Summerville high schools kick off their 2003 baseball season when the Wildcats host the Bears on Thursday at Bev Barron Field.

Second-year Sonora coach Mike Silva is counting on a promising junior class to meld with a solid group of returning seniors as the Cats try to improve upon 2002's record of 7-16-1, 3-11 Valley Oak League.

One key, senior shortstop Travis Hendrix, will be out as soon as the basketball season ends. He'll join pitchers Brent McKenzie, Josh Townsend and Justin Hart, third baseman Travis Flosi, leftfielder Mike Taylor, and centerfielder-catcher Karl Waite in the veteran brigade.

Among the juniors are first baseman Casey Ramback, shortstop Colby Jamar, speedy catcher-centerfielder Tommy Grove, outfielder-catcher Greg Pappas, pitcher-catcher Louis McColloch, and pitchers Brian Sipe and Jeff Hess. Sipe is the only left-hander on the staff, and Hess is out for baseball for the first time.

At Summerville, third-year head coach Donnie Wright just hopes he'll be able to fill out a complete lineup card in time for Thursday's opener.

With four players held up by the ongoing basketball season, the Bears (9-13, 5-7 Mother Lode League in 2002) have only eight varsity players available, meaning they'll call up three or four Bearcubs from the frosh-soph team for Thursday's game.

But, when Summerville is up to full strength, Wright expects to have six returning starters on a roster of 15 to 17 players.

Returning starters will be first baseman Adam Artzer (team-leading .382 batting average in 2002), shortstop Quint Gerber (.343 batting average, team-leading nine stolen bases), center fielder-pitcher Ryan Drewery (.467 on-base percentage; 4-1 won-loss record), starting pitcher Travis Ford (3-7 won-loss, team-leading 62 innings pitched and 60 strikeouts), catcher-pitcher Bubba Friested (.441 on-base percentage; 2-1 record) and outfielder Immanuel Ontiveros (.275 batting average).