2011 Baseball Preview: Monrovia primed for success

1. Monrovia
2. Arcadia
3. Pasadena Poly
4. La Salle
5. Temple City
6. Alhambra
7. Maranatha
8. Pasadena
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.


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.


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  • Big Baseball Fanatic

    Cats should have another great season this year, with plenty of young talent in their lineup.

    Replacing experienced Senior Pitching from Murphree and Calver won’t be easy but someone always steps up every year and gets it done.

    The Infield looks as good as ever but losing DeLaNuez and Bradley in the outfield could hurt a little.

    Team speed and hitting are good but they did lose some power out of Bradley,Calver,DeLaNuez,Murphree grad but with these new bats that could be a total non-factor!

    Bueno,Velasco,and company will still put up great stats.

    All-in-All it still comes down to beat Temple City and you should win League.

  • WhiteMamba


    I have just lost respect for you. The fact that Monrovia is, in your eyes, the best team in the area is a joke. I don’t mind if you like Monrovia, but please do not let your love for the Cats show when you make these rankings. Monrovia’s ace pitcher would be a bullpen pitcher if he were on Arcadia. And Pasadena beat Monrovia, La Salle, and they killed Maranatha. The fact that they are 8th overall is bad too. Come on Miguel, I know you are a better reporter than that. As the season rolls on, you will realize your mistake. Bueno is a good player, but he is not a game changing force. Your better than that Miguel. Come on.

  • what?

    hey white mamba, you know that it’s pre-season right? don’t get your panties in a bunch. let the season play out.

  • real deal

    That’s because Pasadena was 14 and 14 last season… DUH!!!

  • WhiteMamba

    Yea you’re right. But that is just my opinion on the pre season rankings. We are going to have to wait to see how the tournament plays out.

  • High School Sports Lover

    White Mamba may be a little over the top, but he is correct. Monrovia’s pitching staff would get lost in Arcadia’s bullpen. Although the Apaches lost the 2 best hitters in the WSGV from last year they still have enough pop with Park, Benson, Trask, Edson, and the rest to score 3 runs a game. And trust me…with that pitching staff, that’s all they are going to need. Predictions…. staff ERA for 2011….. 2.25…… Record 21-5… easily good enough to end 2011 just like the past 2 years….. #1!!!

  • Reality

    Monrovia looked real average beating Western Christian tonight 7 – 1, they got and needed a lot of help from the Umpire, some absolutely ridiculous calls. Should have been a about a 4 – 2 game.

  • real deal

    I think it would be wise to reserve judgment on everybody’s pitching staffs til they get a few games in. Don’t crown anybody just yet.

  • wiseguy

    The Arcadia fans are at it again. We know…..We know….You guys are gonna be good this season. By the way, how much did you guys beat South Pas by on Friday?

  • Big Baseball Fanatic

    The Cats just have a young team this year.

    They only have 6 Sr. and only 5 are playing, none of which are pitchers.

    They will improve greatly as the season continues and will still be in the running for the Rio Hondo League.

  • BigFatFan

    Arcadia who? SP wins 7-6

  • WhiteMamba

    Come on people. I know you’re better than that. Arcadia threw their 2 or 3 guy when So Pas threw their ace. Im not making excuses, but at least there is a reason as to why they lost. They battled back down by 4 and the shortstop made a great play to save the game for So Pas. Stop hating on Arcadia. Facts are facts. Arcadia is a better team than Monrovia. Im not hating on Monrovia, but facts are facts people. Be realistic, stop being biased.

  • Big Baseball Fanatic

    Geez White Mamba! How does somebody giving props to SoPas read as Monrovia fans saying the Cats are better than Arcadia to you?

    I would agree with the statement that Arcadia has more talent and experience in their dugout than the Cats, but like I said before they are just young, they’ll get better as the season wears on.

    Monrovia was ranked higher than Arcadia last year, and this year maybe your turn, that’s all. Not a big deal..

  • wiseguy

    Facts are facts? Facts is, there is always an excuse.

  • BigFatFan

    WhiteMamba, sounds like youre the one making excuses for Arcadia. please dont diminish SPs win, thats bush. I guess your coach made the wrong call on which starter to use.

  • Respect the Game

    The season just started. All you’re working for now is to get your team running like a fine tuned engine and get into the playoffs.

    On the SP / Arc game…not taking anything away from SP

    Here’s the low down; Arcadia looked flat, faced a pitcher that had no gas, just finesse and couldn’t hit him. Arcadia made foolish errors on defense, in fact where’d they get that line-up; two pitchers in the outfield?

    Had a chance to win in the end of the game, missed coaching decision…pinch-hitter w/power, should’ve pinch-ran as well…bases juiced, Benson gaps a liner to left-center, base-runner from 1B wheels around and is thrown out at the dish, great throw from OF to the dish, not sure who threw it…two runs score, tie game and then Arcadia loses in extra innings.

    Long and short of it, didn’t look like anyone from Arcadia was prepared to play, including coaches, except very few shining momnets.

    BTW, Pas Poly vs Arcadia last night…0 – 7…Arcadia team looked completely different…Defense looked significantly better, KJ on the mound…offense slow start, hitting but nothing impressive…Arcadia strong close on offense and Kutzner struggled late in the game but pitched well early.

  • WhiteMamba

    All im saying is that Arcadia is the best team in the area in my eyes. I agree with the point that Monrovia is only going to get better as the season goes on. But so is Arcadia. No team gets worse as the season goes on. KJ Edson is hands down the best pitcher in the area. He will shut down alot of good teams. When he is on the mound, no matter who Arcadia is playing, they will have a shot because of KJ. Monrovia doesnt have a pitcher like that. Thats a fact. Im cuious to see how the season plays out. Should be a good one.

  • New York

    Football can’t get here soon enough!

  • what?

    Edson, the best pitcher in the area? He’s pretty good, but come on now. You better hope he stays healthy then. Plus, you guys shouldn’t worry too much about Monrovia, since you have to deal with CV, Pasadena and the Burbank schools.

    FYI: Best pitcher in the area is Derby of LaSalle.

  • WhiteMamba

    what? –

    Arcadia has to “worry” about those teams?? You make me chuckle. I know that Arcadia is not going to be the powerhouse they were last year. But come on, the only two real threats they will see in Pacific League play are CV and Burroughs. Pasadena might be able to upset them, but its not likely if KJ is on the bump.

    And as far as Derby goes, you obviously haven’t seen KJ throw. It isn’t even a debate. KJ is a submarine guy with alot of movement and command f all of his pitches. Not only that, but he throws hard. You can’t make the comparison if you haven’t seen both players pitch. I have. Derby is a great pitcher, but can’t compare to KJ.

  • what?

    I’ve coached both KJ and Bubba Derby. So I do know what I’m talking about.

  • WhiteMamba

    Well you must have coached them in little league because there is no way KJ is not better than Bubba.

  • Goldenarm

    I like the arms Temple City has.
    Bacon needs to stress DEFENSE, because the Rams will be throwing the ball over the plate – and will have the closers to put tight games away. They may not have the bats to close scoring gaps come late innings however. A couple good hitters hopefully will emerge.
    Last year it was costly errors at times that knocked the wind out of the team.
    They will miss the bat of Pultz and also the unreplaceable Dusty Sanderson, who was an athlete of impeccable character and relentless work ethic.
    Under the radar is always good for TC.

  • WhiteMamba

    Ohhh look Miguel.. So far my opinions were correct. TC3 Arcadia 4.. Monrovia 2 SD 3…. You do a great job Miguel. But it gets old hearing about Monrovia. There is no way they are the best team in the area. You and I both know it. Im not even making a case for Arcadia. I just want the best team ranked correctly. Whether its Arcadia, Poly, or La Salle.. I just don’t like the favoritism you display in all sports.

  • Apache Alum

    Ok White Mamba or what ever you call yourself, We play San Dimas in the final game of our own tournement, If we win then you have an argument, but until then SHUT THE F…. UP! you are becoming an embarrasment to the Apache Nation. You’re reminding me of Realist from this past football season and then Monrovia tore a huge hole in our Asses. Thank you for understanding.

  • SaintsR4real

    Helluva game this Thursday night @ San Dimas 7pm.

    Arcadia 2-1 @ San Dimas 3-0 (in tourney).



  • WhiteMamba

    Im not even an Arcadia fan. Im a fan of all high school baseball. You want to know what im not a fan of? Its favoritism and bias. And if you have kept up with this blog for the past couple of years, you would understand where im coming from.

    P.S. Why didn’t you like the realist? He was pretty knowledgable. The way I saw it, he was provoked by alot of Monrovians. I can’t wait to see him on these blogs.

  • Apache Alum

    Seems like he never left, (: or are you too just related? Just out of curiosity, were you not conviced of Monrovia’s dominace this past football season? and what makes you think that Miguel is biased towards Arcadia?