Pasadena area baseball teams ready for transition year

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Pasadena Poly baseball Coach Wayne Ellis, left, and the Panthers will rely on outfielder Zach Bern and several other returners this season.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer)

Whether the turnover was high or a local team is returning a solid core, it appears that term transition was in the vocabulary of the Pasadena area’s 10 baseball squads as the season began.

Of those squads, San Marino High finished third in the Rio Hondo League with a 17-9 record and beat regional foes Maranatha, Marshall Fundamental, Monrovia, La Cañada, Flintridge Prep and Alhambra.

This year, despite some key graduations, the Titans are hoping for a little more success.

“We’re not jumping the gun on anything. We’re still trying to find our identity and where our good fits are,” Titans Coach Mack Paciorek said.

The Titans are forced to transition away from last year’s effective 1-2 punch of Garrett Glazier and Jeff Bain with the graduation of Glazier.

While Bain, an All-Area second-teamer who finished with a 6-3 record and a 1.17 ERA, makes the easy slide to ace this season, there is no clear No. 2.

Instead, Paciorek has a crop of prospects in senior knuckleballer Jeff Osgood, junior Jeff Chan, southpaws Jay Davis and Justin Ryan and young hard-thrower Miles Glazier.

Regardless of who fills out the rotation and bullpen, the Titans seem solid on the hill.

As for the plate, well, Paciorek is hoping for some offense.

Rio Hondo League second-team outfielder Nick Gott is expected to build upon a junior campaign in which he hit .310, while third baseman Matt Wofford is hoping for a bounce-back 2013 at the dish.

Maybe the team’s most underrated player is catch Lionel Escajeda, a proven defensive catcher who contributed seven extra-base hits.

Paciorek’s list of other’s to watch includes junior designated hitter Max Warren, Air Force-bound shortstop Bradley Haslam, center fielder Willie Forgatch and outfielder Johnnie Jimenez.

Despite struggles in 2012, the South Pasadena Tigers are preparing for a rebound 2013 campaign under coach Anthony Chevrier.

“This year we’re not talking expectations or goals,” Chevrier said. “The first two years we did that and made the playoffs and last year we did that and didn’t do as well. We’re going to play out our expectations on the field.”

Last season, South Pasadena finished 8-17 despite the adroit hitting of third baseman Dylan Trimarchi, an All-Area and Rio Hondo League first-teamer who totaled a .465 batting average, .529 on-base percentage and 33 hits. Also gone is hard-throwing ace Keaton Leach and up-and-coming pitcher Joey Harmon, who transferred to Arcadia.

Chevrier hopes his pitching holes will be replaced by seniors Bryan Bednarski, Mark Swanson and Johnny Karalis.

If the pitching is a little steady at first, though, that might not necessarily be an issue.

The coach is hoping that clean-up Nick O’Brien can help carry the load, a burden made easier if leadoff hitter Andrew Shults can efficiently reach base and if No. 5 hitter Alex Chu can provide protection.

Maybe the most interesting facet of the Tigers’ lineup is the rotation of catchers Alex Keeling and Skyler Anselmo, whose tall, lanky and quick bodies break the mold of the prototypical sturdy and large catcher.

Perhaps it’s both fair and unfair to use the lean categorization in regards to La Salle High.

The Lancers (19-8-1) return after a historic 2012 campaign in which they won their first-ever Del Rey League championship, their first season series versus archrival Bishop Amat in school history and reached the second round of the Division IV playoffs.

However, All-Area Player of the Year Bowdien Derby (9-1, .60 ERA) is gone along with senior Chris Williams (.465 batting average).

La Salle also waved goodbye to All-Area first-team catcher David Sanchez (.413 batting average), who transferred back to Cathedral.

“So, without him and the seniors from last year,” La Salle Coach Harry Agajanian said, “we’re going to be young this season and we’re going to be playing four freshman.”

The Lancers still have a formidable pitching presence in senior Austin Wallis (6-4 with a 2.19 ERA) and junior Jordan Rogers with a potential star in sophomore Chris Rabine.

Agajanian is looking forward to the return of center fielder Noeh Martinez (.313 batting average with 22 runs), while he’s particularly high on freshman infielder Kyle Cuellar and junior catcher George Medina.

It doesn’t seem to matter who is in or out at Pasadena Poly, where the Panthers (17-6) have won 17 straight Prep League championships.

Poly advanced to the second round of the Division VI playoffs before its exodus and loses several key players from that squad, including Prep League co-MVP pitcher Chris Ward and league first-teamers Logan Beerman, Jonah Campbell and Davey Feess.

The good news for the Panthers is that league first-team catcher Caleb Lee (.315 with 19 RBI and 21 runs) returns, as does league second-team senior second baseman Luke Asperger (.385 with 24 runs), junior outfielder Zack Bern (.321 with 17 hits) and junior first baseman David Orndorff (.397 with 23 hits and 17 RBI).

The loss of Ward and his 10-0 record and 1.67 ERA will be hard to overcome along with No. 2 pitcher Davey Feess (1.80 ERA).

As for Maranatha, the Minutemen will look for continued progress for coach Matt Shupper.

The Minutemen finished third in the Olympic League with a 13-11-1 overall mark before falling in the first round of the Division V playoffs.

“This year, we want to play for a league championship and make a run at CIF,” Shupper said. “We lost some talented players with Ryan and Josh Marrs graduating and [pitcher] Chris Davidson transferring.”

Shupper has some stout returners in junior outfielder/pitcher Daniel Ramussen (.371 batting average and 20 runs), junior outfielder/pitcher Helio Higley (.333), junior third baseman Jeffrey Oki and catcher Kosmo Brown.

Rasmussen, Higley and sophomore Walter Harris will also take turns in the rotation, while senior Trevor Van Riper is back after a year off and will play in the outfield and occasionally at second base. Freshman Paul McAlister is also scheduled to start at first.

Like Maranatha, Pasadena High is hoping to make a serious charge in its respective league, the Pacific League.

“I expect this season to be competitive and we should have a winning season,” Bulldogs Coach Mike Parisi said. “The kids know how to win and compete and we’re going to surprise some people.”

Pasadena reached the postseason last year by finishing fifth in the Pacific League with a 13-11 overall mark.

Junior outfielder Alex Baer returns for the Bulldogs a year after leading the squad with a .391 batting average.

Pasadena’s next best hitter is junior ace Calvin Christiansen, who rang in 2013 by the setting the school’s all-time record with 16 strikeouts while tossing the program’s third-ever no-hitter in the back end of a double-header versus Gabrielino on Feb. 23.

Christiansen batted .362 last season with 21 hits, while on the bump, he was 5-0 with a 1.58 ERA and 26 strikeouts.

The Bulldogs’ No. 2 pitcher figures to be senior Patrick Saucedo, was posted a 2.45 ERA last year and led the team with 51 1/3 innings pitched.

The Bulldogs’ offense did receive a boost this offseason when Marshall Fundamental Coach Mike Guzman joined the team as the hitting coach.

In a bit of a surprise, Pasadena archrival Muir has higher numbers, as Mustangs skipper Bob Galvan welcomes 16 players on the varsity roster.

When asked what he hoped to see from his squad, Galvan made a reference to the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals, a squad none of his players were alive to see.

“We have speed up and down this lineup and we’re going to utilize it,” said Galvan, as the Cardinals were known for their fleet-footed ability during that era. “If we can just get these guys on base, they can cause so much havoc.”

Speaking of speed, the Mustangs (6-19 last season) have a legitimate ace in 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander Joshua Muema-Washington, who can get his fastball into the low 90s.

While Muema-Washington is Muir’s clear ace, the Mustangs have a budding star in sophomore hurler Derrell Davis.

Galvan is also hoping that sophomore Teaon Mason can display the speed that made him such a threat on the football field.

Others Galvan believes will contribute this season are Dejon Williams, catcher Eddie Castaneda and senior captain Tyler Pulley.

While Muir and Pasadena return veteran coaches, Marshall Fundamental ushers in a new era under Jeff Henderson.

The Eagles’ skipper was an assistant on last year’s squad that finished fourth in the Delphic League with an 11-12 record and reached the postseason for the first time in 17 years under Guzman.

“We’re really, really young as we graduated seven starters and all of our pitchers,” Henderson said. “We’ve got two seniors returning and we’re looking to be competitive.”

Those two returnees are starting third baseman Sergio Gil (.327 average with 17 doubles) and shortstop Charlie Henderson (.375 average with 19 stolen bases).

Jeff Henderson also is anticipating some breakout seasons from pitcher/center fielder David Braun, sophomore second baseman Avery Cox, senior pitcher Carlos Delgadillo and sophomore pitcher David Martinez.

At St. Monica Academy, the third-year program appears intent on progress as Monrovia High product Nick Fabanish is taking over the reins.

The Wildcats alumnus was part of the 2006 CIF Southern Section Division V champion team and hopes to implore a winning mentality to a squad that finished second in the International League last year with a 6-10 mark.

“The kids are pretty raw, but there were certain things that did impress me about them,” Fabanish said. “They’re not bad and so far we’ve been working on fundamentals and defense. I just want to do what I can to pass along the knowledge I received from my coaches to this team.”

Fabanish inherited a squad with some key returning components in junior pitcher Gilbert Iman, second baseman Soli Ghandi (.364 average with 15 runs), senior all-everything P.J. Zwart (.370) and freshman shortstop Matt Golbranson.

International League rival Southwestern Academy will hope to trip up the Crusaders as the Sun finished 4-10 last season and third in league.

Southwestern welcomes back former coach Tom Bornt, who takes over after skipper Kyle Chormanski stepped down after the birth of his son.

Bornt doesn’t have a bare cupboard as veteran catcher Charlie Mathias and senior shortstop Masato Ito are prepared to return.