HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL / SOUTHERN SECTION PREVIEWS : TRI-VALLEY LEAGUE
COACHES: Tom Ecklund, 20th season
LAST SEASON: 15-5-1; tied for first in Frontier League, 8-3-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ecklund believes All-Southern Section senior right-hander Jaime Duran (9-1, 1.03 ERA) again will be outstanding. Duran was often dominating as a junior, striking out 84 in 75 innings. Things were not much easier for the opposition when facing spot starter and reliever Louie Garza (5-2, 1.46 ERA). The senior right-hander will be a full-time starter this season. Also in the pitching mix are junior left-hander Jason Merry and senior right-hander Phillip Chessani. Merry will relieve and occasionally start. Chessani, starting at catcher his fourth consecutive season, also will see some relief duty. When not pitching, Garza (.343, 12 runs batted in, 11 stolen bases) and Duran will split time in center field. Senior left fielder Phillip Hurado and junior right fielder Isaac Jiminez are defensive standouts. Seniors Joe Brant and Raul Ruiz (.277) are competing at second. Senior Jerry Sandoval will play third.
OUTLOOK: Ecklund knows he can count on his pitching. He thinks it is good enough to win a league championship. “I think we’ll definitely be competitive,” he said. “The key for us is how consistent we’ll be able to play.”
COACH: Mike Bolyog, 3rd season
LAST SEASON: 16-10; 2nd in league, 6-6
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior catcher Damin Sterling (.430, 21 RBIs, 18 stolen bases) figures to be among the area’s best at the position again. Sterling is a line-drive hitter who struck out only twice in 97 at-bats. Sterling’s ability to handle a pitching staff will be important this season because the Eagles have few pitchers with varsity experience. Senior right-hander Eric Kane will be the No. 1 starter. He threw only 18 innings as a junior. Kane also will play third. Sophomore right-hander Todd Schultz probably will win the No. 2 spot. Slick-fielding sophomore Kevin Pryor will start at short. He was outstanding last season starting at second, committing only three errors and leading the team with 22 steals. Senior Jeff Jensen and juniors Ryan LaSalle, Todd Christensen and Brian Boginson are battling for the first-base job. Junior Rob Scherwin, a transfer from Agoura, is competing with sophomore Tyler Blondi at second. Power-hitting sophomore Brent Schneider will play left and sophomore Brian McMullen starts in right.
OUTLOOK: “We’re young but we’re good,” Bolyog said. “A lot of the sophomores we have now are going to be something when they’re seniors.”
COACH: Dennis Johnson, 6th season
LAST SEASON: 9-11; fourth in league, 5-7
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Seraphs’ hopes for improvement depend on how much help the rest of the squad can give all-league seniors John McNamara (catcher) and Gino Nucci (second base). McNamara led the league in batting (.500), homers (six) and RBIs (35). Nucci, who has excellent range, hit .422 and was second in RBIs with 17. McNamara’s leadership as a receiver will be needed because the Seraphs do not have an experienced staff. Junior left-hander Brad Burnett, who threw only 16 innings, is the top returner. Hard-throwing senior right-hander Marc Bailey (6-0, 225), junior right-hander Rod Tepesano and sophomore right-hander Jake Brown, who also will start at third, are competing for the No. 2 spot. Left fielder Pat Marasco and center fielder Justin Smiley have speed. Junior Travis Spurgeon, who batted .516 on the junior varsity, will start at second.
OUTLOOK: Johnson is confident St. Bonaventure will be strong. “I think we look pretty good,” he said. “Our pitching is uncertain, but we have people who can hit.”