With every spring and every new baseball season there is the hope of a better year than the last.
But as the 2008 high school baseball season approaches, there is also the harsh reality that the area’s best ballplayers from a season ago, many of which had been varsity mainstays, have moved on.
On top of that, only one area squad made the postseason in 2007 — Crescenta Valley. And it has perhaps the biggest losses to deal with.
Gone are All-Area Player of the Year Dustin Emmons and All-Area first-teamers Chad Nacapoy, Kam Krise and Chris Johnson.
With the graduations of Emmons and Krise, along with Glendale’s Jesse Meaux, the pitcher’s mound will have a completely different look.
St. Francis, which advanced to the CIF final only two seasons ago, is without long-term stars Joe De Pinto, Evan Simonitsch and Luke Collis.
Outside of Crescenta Valley, success was hard to come by last year, and with so many big names moving on, questions abound for the upcoming season.
“We’re kind of thinking that anything can happen,” said longtime Hoover Coach Jim Delzell.
He was talking about the confusion that has become the Pacific League, but could have easily been addressing the entire area.
The Falcons are striving for their seventh straight league crown after running roughshod over the competition last year. This year, only three starters return from last season’s CIF Southern Section Division II quarterfinalist — shortstop Kris Kauppila, center fielder Daniel Park and third baseman Lonnie Kauppila, who will take up the top-three spots in the batting order.
“Those are our three best offensive guys,” said Falcons Coach Phil Torres of his all-league trio.
Torres believes his offense and defense will be fine, as the biggest questions remain with the battery.
Senior Travis Feldman will take over the No. 1 starter spot — one manned by Emmons and Trevor Bell the last few years.
“I don’t think he’ll be overwhelmed,” Torres said. “He should be ready to step up and do it.”
Big things are also expected from freshman hurler Kyle Pomeroy, while catchers Joe Sedano and Jake Lehne look to take over the stop left vacant by four-year starter Nacapoy.
“I would think Arcadia and Burroughs are the two teams to beat,” said Torres of how he believes league could play out. “It’ll just be how fast our pitchers mature.”
Hoover doesn’t get a lot of mention in the Pacific League discussion, but the Tornadoes could be darkhorses.
“We should be much improved because of experience,” said Delzell, who has seven players with starting experience. “We didn’t lose a whole lot compared to some other teams.”
The Tornadoes will look to returning all-leaguers Tyler Delzell and Jason Ochart, as well as starting pitcher and clean-up hitter Oscar Aguirre.
Glendale enters the post-Meaux era and Coach Jon Keefer believes without Meaux to lean on, all the Nitros will step up.
“The strength of our team is defense and speed,” said Keefer, who will look to shortstop and three-hitter Hong Ahn and pitchers Chris Osuna and Michael Chico to lead the charge into postseason contention. “We honestly believe we can make CIF. That fourth spot [in league] is up for grabs.”
St. Francis must contend with defending Division III champion Loyola and semifinalist Crespi, while Prep’s archrival Pasadena Poly, was a Division VI semifinalist.
Rebels Coach Robert “Buzz” Cook believes this could be the season when somebody else takes the Prep League title from Poly.
All-leaguer Mark Chodas and basketball standout Aaron Fried will key the Rebels.
“My biggest concern is keeping everybody healthy,” said Cook, who has just 14 kids on his roster — 10 of them underclassmen.
St. Francis will lean heavily on three-hitter Garrett Salzman and clean-up hitter Ramiro Carreon, who’s also the No. 1 starting pitcher and one of four returning starters along with Kyle Wong, Nick Gentili and Mike Dean.
“We’ll be all right,” said first-year Coach Brian Esquivel. “We’re gonna compete.”