The Laguna Beach baseball program begins the 2011 season with high hopes.
The Breakers are thinking big and hoping that momentum they gained at the end of last season translates to bigger things this year.
Laguna returns eight players from a 2010 team that went 16-14 and posted the most victories in a single season in program history. The Breakers also won a playoff game, a wild-card victory over Don Lugo that marked just the second time the program has recorded a postseason win. Their season ended in a loss to a Palm Desert team that went on to win the Division 4 championship.
Coach Jeff Sears enters his fourth year with a strong pitching staff in place. Before the start of the season, Sears said 33 Laguna players and six coaches took a trip to Hawaii and played some of the top teams on the islands.
"What a team bonding experience this was," he said.
Laguna's season starts today with a first-round home game against Westminster in the Newport Elks/Foothill Tournament. The tournament continues Saturday, resumes Monday and runs through March 12. Sears said that the Breakers will play four games in the first week of the season.
Laguna Beach Breakers Baseball
Head coach: Jeff Sears (fourth year)
Coaching staff: Ben Julianel (pitching); Erik Beckman (strength and conditioning).
2010 record: 16-14
CIF results: Advanced to second round.
Returning players: Chris Paul (shortstop/pitcher, first-team all-league, two-time all-CIF, Sr.); Keaton Jones (shortstop/pitcher, first-team all-league, Sr.); Austin Paxson (outfield, second-team all-league, Sr.); Eric Peruzzi (catcher, Sr.); Robbie McInerny (infield, Soph.); Taylor Preston (outfield, Sr.); Jake Hertbert (outfield/pitcher, Sr.); Alex Iannoti (pitcher/first base, Jr.).
Roster: Larry Stewart (pitcher/first base, Soph.); Santi Pierini (pitcher/outfield, Jr.); Jack Pillsbury (pitcher, Jr.); Zach Graf (outfield, Jr.); Jackson Rees (pitcher, Soph.); Travis Clawson (outfield, Jr.); Steven Harrison (catcher, Fr.); Alex Lebon (pitcher, Sr.).
Coach's outlook: "This team will go as far as our pitching takes us," Sears said. "We play catch very well with the athletes we play up the middle (Peruzzi, Jones, Paul, Paxson). This team has bought into working hard for something this school hasn't had for 48 years, a league title. This team likes being at the yard and playing baseball. That makes it a lot of fun to coach these guys."