It’s time to sit back and watch the stories unfold.
Yes, it’s high school baseball season and the five teams in the Turlock area all have unique storylines. Turlock High is coming off one of its best seasons in recent memory, Pitman High welcomes back a busload of returners and introduces a group that went undefeated at the junior varsity level, Denair High is still rebuilding after the departure of retired coach Ron Cornell, Turlock Christian High is adjusting to losing a half-dozen senior starters and Hilmar High is looking to repeat its 2009 Sac-Joaquin Section final run.
The Bulldogs have a fat target on their backs, considering the run they had last season and the amount of talent they return. Turlock made it all the way to the Section’s Division I South Championship game, thanks in large part to pitcher Vince Wheeland. Though Wheeland is now at Oklahoma State, the Bulldogs still boast a talented roster with seven all-league players who contributed to a Central California Conference title.
That list includes ace Jeremy McDonald, deadly hitter Ryan Cumberland and UCLA-bound senior Kevin Kramer, as well as the likes of Ryan Flood, Ricky Fuentes, James Heller and Ryan Brown.
“We got a lot of experience of being in the playoffs and playing in a lot of big games, it’s really invaluable for a team,” Turlock coach Mark de la Motte said. “The guys want to have a good year so they can get to that point.”
Pitman hopes to be one of the three playoff teams from the CCC this season. And the Pride have a great shot, as they welcome back 11 returners, including six starters. Brandon Lewis and Clay Cozzitorto will be the team’s top pitchers, in addition to proven talents like Zach Olsen, Mike Lopes, A.J. Derr and Steven Kha and a group of players who carried last season’s junior varsity team to a 27-0 record.
“We’re excited about the kids coming up and we have so many returners,” Pitman coach Mick Tate said. “We had three sophomores who started for us last season and we have the rest of the juniors coming up from a very successful JV year. It just makes it more competitive. We’re competing against each other. That part of it is a lot of fun.”
As for Denair, Hilmar and Turlock Christian, they’re all looking for a playoff berth in their respective divisions.
Turlock Christian is coming off a successful season that included a postseason appearance, but the Eagles have a lot to prove this time around with 10 underclassmen on the roster. Denair has an even less experienced roster with just three seniors. Hilmar is in a similar position.
The Yellowjackets made quite a run in 2009, ending in the Section’s Division V title game against Central Catholic. But last season, they did not make the playoffs. This time, they have a roster of young talent that includes two freshmen. But the Yellowjackets welcome back pitchers Matt Tyler and Tyler Herd.
“Basically,” Hilmar coach Justin Steelman said, “we’re surrounding our year on pitching. That’s what we’re striving for.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.