HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL / SOUTHERN SECTION PREVIEWS : FRONTIER LEAGUE
COACHES: Rick Nathanson and Scott Drootin, 2nd season
LAST SEASON: 9-11; fourth in league, 5-7
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Coyotes’ success is linked to that of standout third baseman Josh Morton. Morton was named sophomore player of the year by Cal-Hi Sports after batting .483. He hit safely in every game and had a team-high 12 runs batted in. He was also selected All-Southern Section and all-league. Morton will receive help from smooth-fielding all-league senior shortstop Mehul Taylor (.319) and senior first baseman David Jacobs (.333). Sophomore Jared Dahl (.294) starts at second. Senior right fielder Mark Warshaw batted .321 with a team-high 15 RBIs. Senior left fielder Colin Fields batted .340 with 11 RBIs. Senior catcher Tim Wayne (.292) will handle what should be a strong pitching staff. Senior right-hander Todd Cignarelli (3-1) is the No. 1 starter. Morton also excelled as a closer last season, striking out 25 in 26 2/3 innings, and will perform that role again. Right-hander Bhret Haessig (1-1) and left-hander Tony Kaufman, juniors, are competing for the No. 2 spot.
OUTLOOK: Calabasas finished strong, winning three of its last four league games. The goal this season is a playoff berth. “We’re trying to bring the program along,” Nathanson said. “We’re going to have to scratch and claw to score runs, but hopefully our pitching and defense will carry us.”
COACH: David Rhoades, 4th season
LAST SEASON: 18-5; 1st in Tri-Valley League, 11-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Musketeers dominated the Tri-Valley and are ready for new challenges. Senior right-hander Ken Ditto (7-1, 1.85 earned-run average) and junior left-hander Mike Vasquez (7-2, 1.75 ERA) should be among the league’s elite starting pitchers. Senior right-hander Richard Hernandez (4-1, 1.24 ERA), a three-sport athlete, started and relieved last season but will be primarily used as a closer. Also an All-Southern Section shortstop, Hernandez batted .338 with one home run and 11 RBIs. Senior all-league left fielder Brandon Garrettson batted .365 with 15 RBIs. Sophomore Jason Adamson (.267, 15 RBIs) will play center, and senior Andy Arenas and sophomore Jay Gibbons are battling for the right-field job. Juniors Bill Finnerty and Garrett Prater split time at catcher for the junior varsity and might share the position again. Juniors Craig Weaver and Ricky Collier will start at first and second. Junior third baseman Adam Rauch plays strong defense. Garrettson’s brother, Brian, also will play third and pitch occasionally.
OUTLOOK: “Our strength is that we return our whole pitching staff, and our weakness is that we lost our whole infield except for shortstop,” Rhoades said. “We’re not sure what to expect (in league) because we’re just finding out what everyone has, but we’re looking forward to the competition.”
COACH: Steve Blundell, 3rd season
LAST SEASON: 1-20; last in league, 0-12
PLAYERS TO WATCH: A few league victories would give the Rangers a successful season, but that might be wishful thinking. Nordhoff will field an inexperienced team that probably will feature five sophomores in the starting lineup. Pitching is expected to be the Rangers’ strength with senior Ryan Cuthbert and junior Enrique Beltran, both hard-throwing left-handers. Cuthbert and Beltran will share time at first. Senior shortstop Steve Saum, a three-sport athlete, is a good fielder and team leader. Junior Jason Mounsey and sophomore Charlie Venable are battling to start at catcher. Junior Mike Rodriguez and sophomore Erik Nevron are competing at second, as are juniors Brian Roney and Craig Provata at third.
OUTLOOK: “Our defense might be a problem,” Blundell said. “We are very young, but it’s also kind of exciting.”
COACHES: Tom McConville and John Wood, 2nd season
LAST SEASON: 12-7-1; tied for first in league, 8-3-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: McConville and Wood captured a share of the league championship in their first season. They expect to have Santa Clara in the running again, especially considering the team’s pitching. Senior right-hander Eric Starna (6-3, 2.80 ERA) is the No. 1 starter. He throws hard and thrives on pressure situations. Competing for the No. 2 spot are senior right-hander Armando Maciel, junior right-hander Fernando Garcia, sophomore right-hander Chris Gray and sophomore left-hander Hank Edwards. The group will throw to senior power-hitting catcher Larry Casteneda. All-league second baseman Eric Rios (.391) anchors the infield. McConville and Wood expect Rios and Maciel, who will start at shortstop, to be among the league’s best double-play combinations. Senior third baseman Fernando Garcia completes the Saints’ strong infield defense. Left fielder Drew Levy and right fielder Sergio Harros, seniors, team with sophomore center fielder Andy Maciel, brother of Armando, to form a swift outfield.
OUTLOOK: “We’re going to have to scrap for our runs,” Wood said. “Our defense should be a strong point. We need it to be.”
COACH: Henry Jacinto, 10th season
LAST SEASON: 12-12; 3rd in league, 8-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jacinto is counting on center fielder Rene Jimenez (.392) and third baseman Joe Aguilar (.309), both seniors, to provide offense and leadership. Junior Joseph Jauregui will start at second for the third consecutive season. He is capable at the plate and in the field. Jacinto believes he will develop into the team’s best overall player. Junior first baseman Hector Soltero and senior shortstop Danny Alcantar have excellent range at their respective positions. Senior left fielder Brian Whittaker and junior right fielder Anthony Morales team with Jimenez to give the Cardinals a quality outfield. Pitching should be the Cardinals’ strength. Whittaker, a left-hander, is the No. 1 starter. Alcantar, a right-hander, is competing for the second spot with junior right-hander Raul Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is also a strong reliever. Junior catchers Ralph Reyes and Jeff Shea were backups on the junior varsity. They will probably share the position.
OUTLOOK: Jacinto expects the Cardinals to be successful. However, he is unsure how fast success will come. “We definitely have the talent to be good,” he said. “But it may take us a while to get everything set.