PRESEASON STAR-NEWS TOP 10 RANKINGS
3. Pasadena Poly
4. La Salle
5. Temple City
9. South Pasadena
10. San Marino
By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
All is well for the Monrovia High School baseball team.
Sure, there was a big senior class that graduated, leaving some big shoes to fill, but with a lineup that includes Nick Bueno, all is well.
Bueno, a senior shortstop who earned co-MVP honors in the Rio Hondo League, is the centerpiece to a Wildcats team that features two other returning starters in senior third baseman Jairo Jiorge and senior catcher Adrian Velasco, both of whom earned first-team all-league honors last season after leading Monrovia to its fifth straight league title and a quarterfinal appearance in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.
Bueno last season batted .440 with 12 RBIs and stole 24 bases on 26 attempts, and also earned first-team All-CIF honors.
It’s that kind of senior leadership at key defensive positions that makes Monrovia (22-4 last season) the No. 1 team in the Star-News preseason top- 10 rankings.
“We’re in a good position because we have what I feel to be three of the best players in the area,” said Monrovia co-head coach Brad Blackmore, who’s entering his 21st season with the program.
“We’ve been fortunate that a lot of our juniors have grown up and gotten a lot better. We had a freshman on the team last year and have some really good transfers who I think can help.”
William Mercado, a senior second baseman, and sophomore Joe Mata, a transfer from Colorado, are the top newcomers who could see immediate playing time. Mata is a left-handed pitcher who adds depth in the Wildcats’ rotation.
Tony and Kevin Shue are transfers from Arcadia. Tony is the hitter, and Kevin will start on the mound.
Sophomore Chris Burkholder will start at No. 1 on the mound. He made 11 appearances last season, earning two victories with 19 strikeouts and a 1.75 ERA.
Junior Carl Daniels, a 6-foot-4 starting right fielder, will see some time on the mound as well.
CLICK ON THREAD FOR THE REST OF THE TOP 10
No. 2 Arcadia (22-4)
KJ Edson, a first-team All-Area pitcher last season as a junior, is back and will be the ace.
He had a 1.08 ERA with an 8-1 record and 61 strikeouts, helping Arcadia finish undefeated (14-0) in the tough Pacific League. Edson also earned first-team All-Pacific League honors.
Junior Erik Trask will be the No. 2 pitcher and will also start in center field. Haram Park, a senior third baseman, will lead the group at the plate. He batted .390 with three home runs and 19 RBIs.
Brendan Campbell, a junior catcher/third baseman, is a transfer from Gabrielino and will see some significant time in the lineup upon his return from injury.
Tyler Dominguez, a four-year letterman, will play shortstop.
Look for Darren Kerfoot, a junior, to be the third pitcher. He’ll also be a closer, giving the Apaches a strong rotation.
“I don’t see too many teams in our area that have better stuff than us overall,” Arcadia coach Nick Lemas said. “We’ll see. We have a lot to prove.”
No. 3 Pasadena Poly (18-7)
Stanford-bound Jordan Kutzer is just one of several key returnees this season. Kutzer, a 6-foot-6 right- handed pitcher, went 6-2 on the mound last season with 73 strikeouts and a 1.32 ERA. He was just as dangerous at the plate, batting .470 with four home runs and 18 RBIs.
Eight players in all are back, six of whom are starters. Four-year letterman Matt Saeta also returns, as does Hunter Merryman, who’ll bat cleanup after batting over .700 for the 15-time and defending Prep League champions.
Senior Brian Holman, a three-year letterman, will be the Panthers’ No. 2 pitcher.
Jonah Campbell (center field), Logan Beerman (shortstop) and Jack Birkenbuel (left field) are three juniors who complete the supporting cast.
No. 4 La Salle (14-13)
La Salle returns six starters, including standout Bowdien Derby, who’s now a junior. Derby as a sophomore provided significant pop at the plate, speed on the bases and speed off the mound. He batted .427 with 17 RBIs, six doubles, three triples and two home runs. He stole eight bases on eight attempts and recorded three saves and two wins with a 1.02 ERA in 13 appearances.
Senior captain Johnny Auer, who played the designated-hitter role last season by default because of injury, is back at full strength. Noeh Martinez is another strong sophomore, and he’ll play center field.
Derby is slated to be the Lancers’ ace this season, but expect senior Garry Goebel to make it a spirited competition.
Leadoff batter Kenny Williams is out four weeks with a broken finger.
No. 5 Temple City (16-9-1)
Rams coach Barry Bacon said he feels he has three pitchers who “all have number-one stuff.”
That’s a good problem to have when deciding who’ll be the ace this season for a Temple City team returning five starters.
Calvin Copping (4-4, 1.46 ERA) started a playoff game last year as a sophomore. His twin brother, Corey Copping (2-0, 0.55 ERA), and senior Julian Jarrard (6-2, 43 strikeouts, 2.43 ERA)are expected to battle for the top spot. Corey (.302) and Jarrard (.304) are just as productive at the plate.
Alec Vigl, a three-year starter, also returns and will start in right field. Jonah Jarrard, a junior, will take over duties at catcher.
No. 6 Alhambra (23-5)
Frankie Wright will be the ace this season. He was seldom used on the mound last season as a junior, but he had a productive offseason, giving the Moors a strong arm on the mound as well as a productive third baseman who batted .349 with 24 RBIs.
“I think he’s right in there with some of the best players in our area,” Alhambra coach Steve Gewecke said.
Gary Acuna, who as a sophomore went 5-1 with 40 strikeouts and a 2.90 ERA, is a junior left-hander who’ll likely be the No. 2 pitcher. He’s already garnering Division 1 interest, Gewecke said.
Andrew Figueroa converted to catcher this season and will hit in the middle of the lineup.
Juan Crespo, a junior center fielder who batted .340 with 10 stolen bases, is a strong threat.
Juan Morales, a junior, is the third baseman, and senior Ryan Pi on, a second baseman, will be counted on more this season.
No. 7 Maranatha (19-10)
Maranatha returns five starters in Mark Jebbia, David McAlister, Sam Frakes, Daniel Rasmussen and Nick Popham, who’ll be the ace.
“We have four guys who are going to compete,” Minutemen coach Brian DeHaan said. “Nick Popham is going to get a significant amount of innings. Jebbia, McAlister and Frakes will be heavy producers.
“That’s what I like about this team: We have six arms that can go on any day. Ryan Marrs and Rasmussen are the other two.”
Jebbia, who as a junior batted .367 with 18 RBIs, is expected to shoulder more offensive responsibility. He’ll bat third in the lineup, followed by Frakes.
Rasmussen leads the top of the lineup; he started every game as a freshman last year.
No. 8 Pasadena (14-14)
The Bulldogs return seven starters and are senior-heavy this season, led by four-year starters Chris Rucker, Robert Lain and Chris Klein.
Lain (6-4, 2.71 ERA) is the ace, and Rucker and Klein, a shortstop, will see time on the mound as well. Klein last season went 4-1 with 34 strikeouts.
Pasadena finished fifth in the Pacific League last season and made a Division 2 wild-card playoff appearance.
No. 9 South Pasadena (13-13)
The Tigers return six starters in Tony Veiller, Brian Swanson, Dylan Trimarchi, Anthony D’Oro, Brenden Perry and Conor Bednarski.
Keaton Leach, a junior transfer from St. Francis, is a top newcomer who’ll pitch.
Veiller was expected to be the ace, but he’ll be out 3 to 4 weeks after a finger injury on his throwing hand. He tops out at 87 mph and may be back on the mound in two weeks.
No. 10 San Marino (11-14)
The Titans return four starters, and also returning is Mark Chen, who’s back after tearing his right ACL early last season.
Pitchers Everett Phillips and Alex Eaves will battle for the No. 1 spot.
Senior Doug Mayberry, the lone all-league selection returning, batted .382 with 15 RBIs, 10 doubles, a triple and a home run.
Kyle Ezold, who as a sophomore hit .338, will boost the Titans’ lineup.