The CIF Southern Section moved up the spring season for sports, and baseball was included in that move, as the area teams opened their 2019 campaigns last weekend.
Along with the early start, the three local programs — Burroughs, Burbank and Providence — have had to deal with the repercussions of a rainy last couple of weeks, which has prompted the cancellation and rescheduling of games and practices.
All three programs lost key athletes from a year ago to graduation, but go into the campaign with their share of talent and high expectations for success.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
The Indians are coming off a season in which they went 13-16 and placed fourth in the Pacific League at 7-7.
In the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, Burroughs fell in first round to Downey, 5-2.
“The early start of the season really didn’t affect us,” Burroughs coach Craig Sherwood said. “We started really Oct. 1 and to be honest, we were good to go after January. We played a 30-game winter schedule, so we should be good to go.
“The February start is fine and I have no problem with it; it will be good in the fact that the kids will still be in school when the season ends. It used to be you could still be in the playoffs and you’re out of school.”
One of the key returners for the Indians is junior Brian Garcia, who will play shortstop and bat lead-off. Last season, Garcia was an all-league second-team selection after hitting .315 with 29 hits, 23 runs, 16 walks and eight runs batted in.
Junior Jorge Gutierrez could also see time at shortstop.
Another returner is junior pitcher and submarine specialist Xavier Dubon (4-1 with a 3.57 earned-run average with 26 strikeouts over 22 1/3 innings), who was all-league honorable-mention.
Also seeing time on the mound will be three-year starter Nicco Chuidian, as well as seniors Josh Hooker, Brandon Aguilar, Nathaniel Metz, Andres Salazar, Julian Jaramillo and Michael Le and juniors Tobey Ho, Johnny Angel, Colgan Martin and Matthew Ziegler.
“We will have 12 pitchers on our staff this season, so that is going to be one of our strengths,” Sherwood said. “They have all been tested and they are all ready.
“A lot of guys are pretty equal, and I could actually play five games in one week with the depth we have with our pitching.”
At catcher, sophomore James Turner has worked hard all summer and winter and will handle the duties, along with junior Albert Prado.
Senior Collin Johnson will be the starter at first base, while Chris Magoon will be backing him up. Senior transfer from Arizona, Preston Lemus, along with junior Devon Esquivel, will be battling it out at second base. When he’s not pitching, Jaramillo will patrol third base, with junior Hyatt Entz seeing time at the position as well.
In the outfield, Chuidian will anchor center with Salazar and Le both filling in as needed. Seniors Dylan Rolando, Rio Lopez, junior Kevin Gutierrez and Ho will also man the outfield.
Senior Daniel Roman and Hoover transfer Christian Morales, a senior, could see time in utility roles, along with junior Johnny Angel.
“[We] will battle some of the toughest teams in the Pacific League, Crescenta Valley, Arcadia and Burbank,” Sherwood said. “Pasadena was a playoff team in 2018 and should remain strong. Glendale continues to improve, as well as Muir.”
Last season, the Bulldogs went 8-13 and 6-8 in the Pacific League, tying for fifth place. The team did not qualify for the CIF playoffs.
Burbank will be without one of its top pitchers from a year ago, senior Matthew Porras, who decided to concentrate on football and will be playing at the collegiate level next season.
In addition, all-league first-team Matthew Shaugabay, who hit .327 (.400 in league), had 17 hits, scored 10 runs with four doubles, graduated.
“It is really a solid group of character guys who are also hard workers,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said. “We just need them to be a little bit more verbal because they’re really not rah-rah guys.
“But they are competitors and they want to be successful … There is a good vibe with this group and there is good team chemistry.”
The Bulldogs have a key returning second-team all-league player in senior Davis Mieliwocki, who will pitch, play first base and third base. Last season, he hit .310 with 13 hits, nine runs and four doubles.
“Davis is a really solid player and I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the area,” Hart said. “He just has a huge upside, he’s a hard worker and just a driven kid.”
Other pitchers who will be counted on to contribute are seniors Joey Clark and Andrew De La Torre, juniors Jakob Duarte and Troy Lee and sophomore Ryan King.
Handling the catching duties will be juniors Dominick Severo and Alberto Ayala.
In the infield, Clark will see time at first base, as will Duarte, King could play shortstop, De La Torre will be at third as well as in the outfield and Lee can play several positions. Other infielders will be seniors Daniel Ruiz and Kenny Won and junior Tyler Lamarsna.
Outfielders for the Bulldogs will be senors Cody Winters, Gevork Leklyan, Trent Anderson and Vincent Romano, along with juniors Oaklee Spens, Aiden Gonzalez, Adam Loera and Justin Robinson.
“There are a lot of good teams in our league and we expect a battle,” Hart said. “We will be trying not too look too far ahead and we will take that approach. We want to control the things that we can control.
“I’m looking forward to league and I think we may be able to surprise a few people.”
The Pioneers went 2-8 and 0-8 in the Liberty League in 2018 and did not make the playoffs.
Providence has left its old league and will compete for the first time in the Prep League, along with Flintridge Prep, Rio Hondo Prep and Chadwick.
Also new for the Pioneers is their coach, as Mondo Contreras has taken over the program. Contreras previously coached at Crespi High and L.A. Mission College.
“The support at Providence has been just great since I got here,” Contreras said. “The administration is really committed and they share the same energy as I do about making things better.
“It’s not necessarily about changing the culture, but bring in a good style to help the players be successful. The players have been really open to doing some new things and they are all in for the season.”
Providence’s best player from a year ago, Kobe Siy, graduated. The all-league utility player batted .486 in league with six runs batted and an on-base percentage of .600. On the mound, he had 33 strikeouts in 32 innings.
Contreras has only been with the program for four weeks, yet sees potential.
Contreras tabbed senior Joey Blanchette as a key player for the Pioneers. Blanchette will pitch and play in the outfield.
Players who will also be counted on to contribute are sophomore pitcher/utility Gunner Pratt and senior pitcher/infielder Jacob Mcgorrian.
“We will shuffle players around to get the best result and put together the best lineup,” Contreras said. “In league, I know its a new league but I see us rising to the challenge. We’ve already seen a couple of the teams from our league and I expect us to be ready.”