Karlsen Termini, a senior pitcher and first baseman, returns to lead Flintridge Prep, but much else is different, most notably the loss of longtime coach Buzz Cook, who is replaced by 24-year-old Guillermo Gonzalez.
Termini is likely to be a major catalyst for the Rebels success, as the four-year starter is one of just three seniors on the 21-player roster.
“He’s putting the whole team on his back,” said Gonzalez, whose team has opened the season with a 2-2 record. “If he’s in the game, we’re all in the game.”
Gonzalez also expects important contributions from junior leadoff hitter Brenden McKiernan, who will start on the mound and play shortstop, while freshman infielder Cole Pilar is set to hit in the third spot.
The Rebels tied for last place in the five-team Prep League a season ago and, new coach or not, have prospects of moving up.
“Our biggest goal is to try to make playoffs,” Gonzalez said.
Funaro also has hopes that Glendale can work its way into the playoffs, but is looking to build up the program more than anything else as him and John Tuttle take over from Jesus Osuna.
“The transition has gone really well, a lot of the boys we knew,” said Funaro, who was the head junior varsity coach a season ago and had previously assisted on the JV level when Tuttle was the head coach prior to being hired as the school’s head football coach. “We brought some of those guys up and we’re gonna give it a shot.”
Funaro said last year’s JV squad was 9-10-1 and had five wins in the Pacific League — a far sight better than a varsity team that went 2-12 in league for seventh place.
Though there’s just one senior on the team, Funaro thinks that’s a plus possibly.
“We’re young, so they’re not, I guess you could say they’re kinda not used to losing,” Funaro said. “For us to be able to call [the season] a success, we’re hoping to play .500.”
Leading the way is likely to be junior Brandon Keen, a first baseman and starting pitcher, and junior center fielder Sean Harris.
“We’re looking for those two to kind of carry us and for the rest of the guys to step into their spots and do their jobs,” Funaro said.
Esquival, who wasn’t officially hired on at Hoover until mid-January, just led the Tornadoes in their first homefield practice on Feb. 22 as the field was getting re sodded.
It’s just one of the many hiccups for a program looking to move up.
“We’re in the process of doing a lot of things from the beginning,” Esquival said. “We’re gonna go out there and compete as best as we can and hopefully some good things come out of it.”
Esquival replaces Joe Cotti, who navigated the Tornadoes to a sixth-place finish in league a season ago, but had proved instrumental in revamping the Hoover ballpark and the field in particular.
Now, however, Esquival inherits a squad that is young, has a few players currently ineligible and has a tough road ahead in hopes of moving up in the Pacific League.
“Our goal is to stay competitive,” said Esquival, who will look to sophomore pitcher and No. 3 hitter Jonathan Ramos, senior pitcher Orlando Marin and sophomore infielder Luis Zamora as his key players. “You see glimpses of what we can be and then you see mistakes.”