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Prep Baseball Previews 2010

Prep Baseball Previews 2010

Hayden Baldwin will be one Pitman High's top pitchers.


POSTED February 24, 2010 4:28 p.m.
PITMAN PRIDE
2009 record: 16-11 overall, 7-5 CCC
Head coach: Mick Tate (8th year)
Assistants: Eric Reza, Andy Walker, John Acha, Scott Gehl, Spencer Snodgrass
Key returners: Hayden Baldwin (INF/P), Colton Risley (INF), Michael Melendez (OF/P), Kirk Renshaw (OF), Brandon Lewis (INF/OF/P)
Key newcomers: AJ Derr (C/INF), Steven Kha (C/INF), Zach Olsen (OF), Clay Cozzitorto (INF), Shea Patterson (OF/P)
Outlook: The most troubling thing about this season’s Pride is their pitching. There’s not much to brag about, considering they lost their top two throwers — in Tyler Snodgrass and Tyler Harris, now on the Cal State Stanislaus baseball roster — to graduation. This season’s pitchers are considered inexperienced.
“Every year I’ve been here, we’ve always had a senior returning who had a lot of success,” Pitman coach Mick Tate said. “A senior who had a lot of success as a junior — we do not have that. It’s wide open, the pitching race for us.”
But the only varsity coach Pitman has ever had believes he can develop what he’s got and that includes Hayden Baldwin and Brandon Lewis, with the duo getting some mound time in 2009. The Pride have speed, however, and that’s what Tate will use to put runs on the scoreboard.
“In high school, you can always find a way to score runs, even if you’re not a great hitting team,” he said. Though he’s working with 21 players, this is a youthful group. There are three sophomores in the lineup and the trio are expected to be important contributors for a Pride team that wants to end a three-year absence from the playoffs. Last season, Pitman came quite close, finishing third in the Central California Conference with rival Turlock behind three-time defending league champion Buhach Colony and Golden Valley, the two teams that were granted extended seasons.

TURLOCK BULLDOGS
2009 record: 13-11 overall, 7-5 CCC
Head coach: Mark de la Motte (2nd year, 3rd overall)
Assistants: Dave Cheny, Blake Amador, Jeff Miller, Kevin Mayer
Key returners: Kevin Kramer (INF/P), Vince Wheeland (INF/P), Ryan Brown (C), David Herrera (OF/P)
Key newcomers: Ryan Flood (INF), Ryan Cumberland (INF/P), Jeremy McDonald (OF/P)
Outlook: Though the games didn’t count, coach Mark de la Motte recognized many positives from his Bulldogs’ scrimmages against Lincoln of Stockton and Oakdale High, two solid teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section — regardless of division. He noticed good pitching and good hitting, while his players turned in routine plays. All of that, de la Motte said, should be more than enough for Turlock to return to the postseason for the first time since 2003. Don’t believe that? Here’s what rival coach Mick Tate of Pitman has to say about the Bulldogs: “Turlock is the team to beat.” This squad claims some of the Central California Conference’s most intimidating talent, with Vince Wheeland (Oklahoma State) and Kevin Kramer (UCLA) already securing their college destinations. Kramer is perhaps the most feared player around, as it hasn’t even been a year since he won a gold medal with Team USA in Taiwan last summer. In those two scrimmages, for example, he went 6-for-6, though Kramer knows this is a long season and the playoffs are months away. His coach is also cautious to jump to conclusions, to say that two college-bound players are enough to erase years of missing the postseason.
“The team wants to prove this is an all-around team,” de la Motte said. “In baseball, you need all nine guys.” There are only three seniors on this squad, on top of returning four starters from 2009. But don’t judge: The Bulldogs have a well-rounded pitching staff with two right-handers and three left-handers, giving them options if they ever get in a tight situation.
“If we pitch well, that should do it for us,” de la Motte said. “Everybody’s goal in this league is to make the playoffs. Certainly, these guys want to do that.”

TURLOCK CHRISTIAN EAGLES
2009 record: 7-16-1 overall, 4-11 SL
Head coach: Jon Valenti (1st year)
Key returners: Robbie Smallwood (INF/P), Miles Martinez (C), Trevor Starn (INF/P)
Key newcomers: Jesse Lopes (INF)
Outlook: It’s a new era, and it starts today with the season opener against Orestimba at Pedretti Park. But the Eagles will also introduce a new attitude to go along with their new uniforms, thanks to determined first-year coach Jon Valenti, who competed at the professional level for nine years — including stints with the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants organizations — before deciding to coach high school kids.
“We’re trying to revamp this program,” he said, adding that the small stuff matters, too. He handed the Eagles practice uniforms, something that didn’t happen often in past seasons. He’s teaching them the fundamentals of the game and offering lessons that they never knew before, all because he believes this team is destined for a postseason berth. The last time that happened was back in 2007. There’s also a sense of urgency with eight seniors on the roster. It might be the Eagles’ best chance before they start rebuilding with the likes of Jesse Lopes, a freshman infielder who is expected to be a major factor this season. Robbie Smallwood and Trevor Starn are the only two players on this season’s team that have experienced life beyond the regular season and Valenti knows he will depend on the duo for success. The coach saw a glimpse of what’s in store in a scrimmage against Hughson, where the Eagles won 10-0 with no errors committed. There’s one thing that he wants to improve on before his team embarks on a journey to the postseason: “We’re not deep. I’m working on my bench players so they can perform as starters.”

HILMAR YELLOWJACKETS
2008-09 record: 13-16 overall, 8-7 WAC
Head coach: Justin Steelman (2nd year)
Assistants: Ralph Caraveo, Glen Joslin
Key returners: Brandon Cummings (1B/P), Brad Avila (INF/OF), Darren Clarot (C), Michael Labass (OF)
Key newcomers: Matt Tyler (INF/P), Tyler Herd (INF/P), Issac Diaz (INF/P)
Outlook: Everything is different now after the Yellowjackets achieved something no other baseball team in school history had ever done — and that was competing for a Sac-Joaquin Section title. In 2009, Hilmar did just that. That run caught everyone by surprise, though it ended in heartbreak with Western Athletic Conference foe Central Catholic winning in the Division V championship game. This season’s Yellowjackets are determined to show they can do it again and again. “I expect to be back there every year,” said coach Justin Steelman, who wasn’t too surprised about his team’s late-season surge in 2009. “I push my kids to the limit to try to make them the best.” He expects great things, even though he lost a half-dozen players to graduation, all of them being big-time contributors. But he’s confident in this season’s group that includes returning starters Brandon Cummings, Brad Avila, Darren Clarot and Michael Labass. Those players will provide that much-needed leadership, just in case the Yellowjackets decide to make another postseason run. “We need to show ourselves better in how we play in the title game,” Steelman said.

DENAIR COYOTES
2009 record: 16-7 overall, 8-7 SL
Head coach: Aaron Delworth (1st year)
Assistants: Mike Souza
Key returners: Brett Arnold (INF/P), Trevor Werner (INF/P), Craig Miller (INF), Dylan Souza (OF), Mitch Hilton (OF), Brian Willis (P)
Key newcomers: Travis Wright (OF), Codee Watts (C)
Outlook: The most obvious change is who’s in charge. It’s no longer Ron Cornell, who was the head coach for nearly 40 years before he retired last season. It’s now Aaron Delworth, who coached the junior varsity squad to back-to-back second-place finishes in the Southern League the two previous seasons before his promotion. It shouldn’t be much of an adjustment for Delworth. He’s working with a group that returns seven of last season’s starters, though the Coyotes will have to replace the top pitching-and-catching duo. “I want to make them competitive,” Delworth said. “Mariposa and Waterford have been the top two teams. Le Grand has always been in the hunt. At this point, we want to take what we did last year and build on it.” The last time the Coyotes made the playoffs was in 2004, long before this current group was assembled. Delworth knows he has mighty big shoes to fill in replacing Cornell — the school is considering naming the Denair baseball field after him — but Delworth is ready for the task.

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