Pitman and Turlock high baseball squads both had successful seasons last year, something they are seeking to continue in their new league — the Central California Athletic League.
Turlock welcomes first-year head coach Sean Gilbert while Andy Walker heads into his second season leading the Pride.
“We have shirts that have the word, ‘compete,’ on the back and we want to be the best stretch team, the best play catch team, the best at everything we do. So, we’re getting them to focus every pitch and every at-bat,” said Gilbert.
Turlock and Pitman were tied with Buhach Colony for first place just a season ago after all three went 9-3, earning a share of the league crown.
In the new league, Pitman and Turlock will have to face tough competition such as Gregori, Enochs and Modesto.
“I think the league is going to be as good if not better than it was before, so I think we have a similar expectation. It is going to be very well balanced, just like we saw last year (in the CCC),” said Walker. “Anybody can beat anybody on any given day, we saw that last year. We had losses we thought we shouldn’t have had, but baseball is a funny game like that. You have to respect your opponent and not take anything for granted.”
The Pride return just four players from a year ago, but among those are standouts Nick Tullio and Mac Cabero, two of the best in the CCC last year.
“We have a lot of new faces and a lot of guys that are young and haven’t had a lot of varsity experience,” said Walker. “With that said, the guys are working really hard, great work ethic and we are making a lot of progress each day. So, we like the direction we are headed.”
With the weather postponing practices and games, Pitman has managed to play four contests so far and are currently 0-4. They have been outscored, 20-7.
“The weather and practice time haven’t helped because we have a young squad this year, a lot of new faces and so we need, especially early, live reps and reads and we haven’t gotten a lot of that yet. The conditions have been bad,” said Walker. “Every time we go out, we expect to compete. We expect to win every game we play and compete in every game we are in. Our expectations this season are to compete for a league title and make a deep run in the playoffs. I think if that is not your expectations then you are playing somewhat for the wrong reason, really.”
Turlock is coming into the season with a number of standouts including seniors Justin Hines, Ethan Hurte, Mason King, Casey Carr, Lance Couchman, Garret Fountain and Clay Souza.
“But the thing is potential, getting these guys not to believe the hype and make sure they are doing the things right when they need to as far as small ball,” said Gilbert. “The kids should be able to compete in league, but everyone is going to be tough. I expect us to make playoffs, and our goal is to play better.”
Pitman will kick off CCAL play at home against Downey at 3:45 p.m. March 25.
Turlock’s first CCAL game will be on the road at Enochs at 3:45 p.m. March 25.