HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL / SOUTHERN SECTION PREVIEWS : CAMINO REAL LEAGUE
COACH: Steve Wahl, 1st season
LAST SEASON: 5-16; tied for 5th in San Fernando League, 1-9
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Only three starters return: senior first baseman Will Barnett, senior center fielder Jose Quintero and sophomore pitcher John Pawlik. Pawlik was the team’s best pitcher last season, but his play was limited because of arm problems, Wahl said. The remainder of the starting positions will be filled by freshmen and sophomores. Sophomore David Quintero, one of the team’s top offensive players, will catch or play outfield. The other catcher is freshman Mark Dodd. “He’s pretty impressive,” Wahl said of the 6-foot Dodd. “He has an extremely strong arm for a freshman. He really swings a good bat.” Sophomore shortstop Jason Plourde is a solid defensive player. “I don’t know if he’ll make the spectacular plays,” Wahl said, “but he’ll make all the routine ones.” Sophomore David Matekell will play third base and pitch. Wahl said Matekell, a right-hander, has a strong enough arm to pitch but needs work on his mechanics. Junior right-hander Joe Garcia is 6-4 and, with mechanical adjustments, has the potential to throw hard, Wahl said.
OUTLOOK: This is another rebuilding year for the Guards, who are now in a less-competitive league than the San Fernando, but Wahl is optimistic. “We’ve got a shot to (finish third) and maybe get a playoff spot,” he said. “If the pitching comes through, we can fool some teams.”
COACH: Mike Wagner, 1st season
LAST SEASON: 6-16; tied for 5th in San Fernando League, 1-9
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Valiants have little experience but Wagner is impressed with the young talent. “Next year, and the year after, I’m just drooling,” he said. The most talented is sophomore right-handed pitcher-infielder Jose Sandoval, who hit .415 with the varsity last year. “I’m already getting letters on him from the colleges,” Wagner said. “His senior year he is going to be one of the better players in the Valley.” Sandoval will be academically ineligible until at least March 30, though. The No. 2 pitcher will be junior right-hander Omar Gutierrez, who also is ineligible until the end of March. An eligible returning player of note is senior shortstop Jeremy Iaccino, an honorable-mention All-San Fernando League selection last year. “He’s kind of got the job of keeping these kids together, but he’s used to that kind of stuff,” Wagner said of Iaccino, who was the point guard for the Valiant basketball team. Junior second baseman Eddie Gutierrez, junior first baseman Alex Muller and senior catcher Ernie Gutierrez also played for the varsity last season. Newcomers who will start are sophomore third baseman Kurt Vangalista, whom Wagner said “hits peas all over the place,” sophomore outfielders Jesse Johnston, Bobby Gonzalez and Marcelo Alvarez. Junior Thomas Oliva and senior Jose Olivas, both right-handers, will do some pitching.
OUTLOOK: “We have no illusions of grandeur,” Wagner said. “We’re not going to go 21-0. This is kind of going to be a play-for-the-future year.” Wagner said the Valiants are hoping to finish third and slip into the playoffs.