Basketball season is over and wrestling season is winding down. Winter is making way for spring, and you know what that means—baseball is upon us.
Turlock and Pitman High have already begun their respective pre-seasons, albeit truncated ones, and each team is eyeing 2014 as their year to shine. Last year, the Bulldogs had a storybook season as they broke school records, won the Central California Conference championship, and made it to the Division I Sac Joaquin South Section title game. As for the Pride, though they finished in third place in the CCC, they also experienced significant post-season success in 2013 as they missed out on a south section title game appearance thanks only to their cross town rivals.
But it’s a new beginning in the month of March. There are new lineups and new team dynamics.
Turlock returns with Austin Bush, Gavin Gaffaney, and Brett Cumberland in leadership positions. While Turlock enjoyed a strong pitching rotation last year, they will have to rely on pitching by committee this year as Bush and Gaffaney are expected to aid from the mound along with newcomers Nick Gonzalez, Nick Benson, Cody Cornell, Rob Domingos, and Jon Temple.
“Last year we were pretty much a strike-out, dominating pitching team. This year we’re going to have to… pitch several pitchers and not walk guys,” Turlock head coach Mark de la Monte said.
Bush and Cumberland are also expected to contribute from the plate in power hitting positions.
“They’re going to be a chunk of our offense as well as them being solid defensive guys,” de la Monte said. “They handle the ups and down a lot better. That kind of experience and leadership helps a lot.”
Turlock is currently 2-0 on the season with wins over Sierra and Lodi High
Pitman’s pitching core was headed up by Jordan Gonzalez last season. Now, with Gonzalez gone via graduation, the Pride will rely on returners Trevor Chaney and Matt Carrigg, among others.
“We’ve got more depth. Jordan was obviously a good, solid pitcher for us and did an outstanding job as a senior, but I foresee Trevor Chaney doing the same and being strong for us like Jordan was,” Pitman head coach John Acha said. “Last year we had to rely heavily on only three or four guys, at most, and this year we have a little more depth.”
Carrigg, a sophomore, will also contribute heavily on offense as he’s developed his strength at the plate.
“He’s already gone through the learning curve with us,” Acha said.
Other returning contributors include catcher Dakota Spillers and Drew Lewis. Though the majority of Pitman’s squad are juniors and sophomores, last season’s success has endowed the team with a sense of purpose for this season.
“Guys that are returners got a real good pace for it and I can see that they want that back, they want to get there again. That’s going to help to motivate these younger guys,” Acha said.
The Bulldogs and Pride both won their first-day games of the Pedretti Tournament, against the respective teams of Lodi and Lincoln, by a score of 3-2.
Turlock plays Oakdale and Pitman plays Sonora in day two of the Pedretti Tournament at 3:30 p.m. today in what will be one of the many gauging opportunities for the teams in respects to their readiness for CCC play.
“Our approach is to have our pitching keep us in every game and play great defense. Sometimes you’re going to hit and sometimes you’re not,” de la Monte said. “It’s everybody’s goal to win the gold in league, including us. It’s going to be a little more even this year, I think every team is good, so it’s going to be competitive.”
“Last year Turlock had one of those teams that just don’t come around very often but I feel like the league is going to be a lot more spread out and even. It’s going to be a lot more competitive,” Acha said.