Montclair Prep

COACH: Walt Steele, 6th season

LAST SEASON: 18-5-1; 1st in Alpha League, 10-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Because the Mounties lost their top three pitchers from last season--all three are pitching in college now--they will need plenty of support from the likes of senior Brad Fullmer, who will play second or third base. Fullmer, who has signed to play at Stanford, was among the area’s leading hitters last season, posting a .538 batting average. Fullmer tied for the area lead with 10 home runs and drove in 40 runs. Senior Justin Paperny (.474, 22 runs batted in) will play second or third base, whichever position Fullmer isn’t playing. Senior shortstop Jeff Shapiro hit .383 with 19 RBIs. Sophomore Darrell Dent (.371, 16 stolen bases), the leadoff hitter and center fielder last year, returns in both roles. Steele hopes his catcher will be senior Mike Gursey, but Gursey has been limited by shoulder problems that began last season. Last season he batted .354 with 17 RBIs, mostly as the designated hitter. The pitching is a major question mark. Senior left-hander Justin Sampley and sophomore left-hander Jarred Sandler, both junior varsity pitchers last season, are the top candidates for the primary starting jobs. “After that, we are hoping we can find some people who can take charge and consistently throw the ball over the plate,” Steele said. “If they can hold teams to four or five runs, we should be all right with the offense we have.”

OUTLOOK: No longer in the Alpha League, the Mounties will need to finish .500 or better for playoff consideration as a freelance team. A winning record isn’t a lock for a team with such shallow pitching and a tough schedule that includes Channel Islands, Chatsworth, Agoura, Hart and Canyon.