GLENDALE — For the Arroyo Seco Saints to taste any kind of success at the Southern California Regional in the Palomino West Zone Tournament, Coach Aaron Milam knows precisely what needs to be done.
"We are going to have to pick up the pace on defense because it's been a major issue," said Milam, whose team will begin the tournament against the Colton Nighthawks at 1:30 p.m. today at Major League Baseball's Youth Academy in Compton. "It's something that's going to have to be cleaned up."
The Saints finished third in the Palomino Southern California Regional Baseball Tournament at Jackie Robinson Field and were one of four teams from the tournament to advance. However, Milam wasn't pleased with what he saw in a 6-5 loss to the Playa Vista Orioles on Monday.
Arroyo Seco committed four errors against the Orioles in the elimination contest.
"We have to get better and we just made too many errors that led to that loss," said Milam, who's an assistant coach at St. Francis High. "We are a pretty young team and we've had three days to clear our heads and recover from some guys being banged up."
The Saints will likely encounter a tough challenge in the Nighthawks, who won the regional title Tuesday with a 15-2 victory against Playa Vista. The teams didn't meet in the previous tournament, though Colton scored 35 runs in four tournament games.
At the West Zone Tournament last season, Arroyo Seco opened with a 4-2 victory against the Ahwatukee Sting of Arizona. Arroyo Seco then dropped a 9-4 decision to Colton before being eliminated with an 8-4 loss to the San Mateo White Sox.
The Saints have four returners in the mix in St. Francis High graduate David Hubinger, Kamran Young, Jack Sheeley and Jay Sheeley. Hubinger is one of four St. Francis players on the squad in addition to Joey Malham, Brandon Van Horn and David Olmedo-Barrera.
The Pepperdine University-bound Hubinger, a catcher, said the Saints will look to regroup in the eight-team tournament that also includes the Santa Clara Red Sox, Southern California Bombers, Los Gatos Legends, Playa Vista, Maple Valley Pinnacle and the Urban Youth Academy.
"We know it's going to be a tough tournament and there's a lot of great teams out there," Hubinger said. "We have to go out there playing our best baseball and just see what happens.
"We have to go out there and do our jobs. Hopefully, the defense will figure itself out."
Arroyo Seco shortstop Steven Karkenny, who hit a solo home run in Monday's game, said the Saints have received some quality pitching performances and have fared quite well on offense.
He'd like for that to continue.
"There's going to be a ton of talent in this tournament and nobody wants to go home early," Karkenny said. "There's only one team that will advance.
"We've also got to make it a goal of ours to shore up our defense. We need to focus on that and take pride in it."
The winner will advance to the World Series, which will be held Aug. 4-8 at the Urban Youth Academy.