After another workout session, Andrew Stueve sat in the dugout as his Cal State Stanislaus baseball teammates were perfecting their batting techniques and fielding grounders for the 100th time. The senior, who returns as the Warriors’ No. 1 pitcher, was multitasking. He was talking about the upcoming season while looking at all the potential in front of him.
Well, there’s been a lot of that going on around here. The Warriors are all business all the time, but they also know they have an experienced and deep team, one that is looking to have a repeat of the 2008 season and qualify for the NCAA West Regionals again. So that might explain why they can’t help but smile.
But like Stueve’s stare at a recent practice, they don’t want to look too far ahead. Today marks the first day of the 2011 season, as the Warriors welcome Central Washington to Warrior Field at 2 p.m.
The Stanislaus players and coaching staff are happy they’re finally playing someone other than themselves in intra-squad scrimmages.
“We are ready to play someone in a different color uniform,” said a smiling coach Kenny Leonesio, who’s in his eighth season at the helm. “I feel like we’ve been practicing and playing ourselves for a few years now. They just want to see someone else out there in a different uniform. I think our guys are really excited for that and we’re definitely ready.”
The Warriors enter the season with a veteran squad that is coming off a fifth-place finish in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. In all, Stanislaus has 17 returners, with three of them — Stueve, outfielder David Contreras and relief pitcher Leonard Giammanco — completing last season with all-conference selections.
With that kind of experience, they’re looking to make just their second CCAA tournament appearance.
“This year it looks like we’re a lot more focused,” said Contreras, a fourth-year starter who is on pace this season to break six school records in most at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, total bases and RBIs. “Everyone knows what to expect. Last year, we had a lot of JC transfers, first year in the league. Maybe they didn’t know what to expect. Everyone seems like they’re ready to go.”
Besides all the depth, the Warriors’ pitching is expected to be a key factor. Stueve is a four-year starter with 14 wins and a career 3.68 ERA, while Giammanco returns from a first-team all-CCAA season. And junior Phil Quade will also be an important piece to the team’s bullpen, as he led Stanislaus with 20 appearances last season.
Leonesio indicated that his team doesn’t have too many weaknesses — though don’t expect the Warriors to be smacking out too many home runs this season. Stanislaus will instead utilize its quickness and experience.
“Coming in, we weren’t planning on being a power team,” Leonesio added. “Our offensive plan was to put a lot of pressure, steal some bases, field the bunts and just come through with clutch hits. I think we have the personnel that fit really well into this style.”
Stueve, who will start today against Central Washington, believes this team is much more prepared this time around.
“We’re pretty much a very similar team,” the senior pitcher noted, “but if you saw us last year compared to now, we’re so much ahead, we’re so much better that we look like a different team.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.