SOUTHERN SECTION BASEBALL PREVIEWS : LIBERTY LEAGUE
COACH: Mike Smith, 4th season
LAST SEASON: 14-4; 2nd in league, 10-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The top five hitters, led by outfielder Nat Perlof (.347, 21 runs batted in, 12 stolen bases), are back from last year’s team, which lost to Mammoth, 7-6, in the second round of the Small Schools Division playoffs. The other returnees are first baseman Cassidy Pope (.333, 15 RBIs), third baseman Gentry Dick (.300), and outfielders Matt Williams (.317) and John Levine (.311, 13 RBIs). Williams (4-1, 0.84 earned-run average), Pope (6-0, 1.67 ERA) and Levine (2-2, 2.96 ERA) also give the Gorillas a solid trio on the mound. Second baseman Joel Goldsmith (12 stolen bases) also returns.
OUTLOOK: The Gorillas appear to have the hitting and pitching to challenge Queen of Angels for the league title. “Our pitching is experienced and deep,” Smith said. “We didn’t walk a lot of people last season and I think we can do even better this season.”
COACH: Yet to be named
LAST SEASON: 10-10; 4th in league, 6-5-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Although a coach has yet to be named to replace Mike Vargas, whoever it is will inherit an experienced team that will have eight returning starters. Hugo Castillo, a shortstop-pitcher and Bret Ferrante, a second baseman, were all-league selections. William Alfonso will start in center field, and brothers Richard and Robert Mena will pitch. Richard is a junior and Robert is a sophomore.
OUTLOOK: The Pioneers, after missing the playoffs by one game last season, could qualify for postseason play this year if their pitching improves.
Queen of Angels
COACH: Tom Murry, 9th season
LAST SEASON: 16-4; 1st in league, 14-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH: After qualifying for the playoffs for the past three years and reaching the quarterfinals in the past two, the Angels are hoping to take another step forward this season. Second baseman Rolando Natareno (.426), first baseman Eric Montijo (.410) and shortstop Felix Renteria (.407) are the returning starters from a team that batted .372. Martin Tansey should round out the infield at third base, and Pat Gomez (left), Mark Velasquez (center) and Miguel Pimientel (right) will form the outfield. Sophomore Luis Garcia will fill in for Tansey or Gomez when they are called upon to pitch. Dug Gutierrez will pitch in relief.
OUTLOOK: “I expect us to hit the ball well again,” Murry said. “We should be strong offensively and defensively. Our pitching is a little inexperienced, but we should be OK.”