From left, Bowdien Derby, Nick Brown, Chris Williams and Noeh Martinez are key players on the La Salle High School baseball team. (Sarah Reingewirtz / Staff Photographer)
Note: Softball preview will run a week from today here on the blog and in the newspaper.
STAR-NEWS PRESEASON TOP 10 RANKINGS
1. La Salle
2. Temple City
7. South Pasadena
8. St. Francis
9. La Canada
10. San Marino
By Miguel A. Melendez Staff Writer
The consensus around the West San Gabriel Valley is Bowdien Derby of La Salle High School is the area’s best returning pitcher.
He proved himself last year with an outstanding season and nearly led the Lancers to an upset win over Palm Desert in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.
Derby will lead a Lancers team primed for a run in the Del Rey League this season.
The proof was there last year when La Salle took powerhouse Bishop Amat to extra innings in the first league game with Derby on the mound.
With more depth in the rotation and helped by transfers, it’s no wonder the Lancers look poised. It’s also what makes them the Star-News’ preseason No. 1 team.
1. La Salle (18-11)
It starts with Derby, who is a two-time Star-News All-Area selection and was nothing short of spectacular as a junior, particularly in the season finale against Palm Desert.
He was clocked at 91 mph in front of pro and college scouts and his performance was so impressive it had Dodgers legend Steve Garvey on the phone with his former team to ask them to take a closer look at a star in the making.
What makes Derby an even more valuable asset is his versatility. He went 10-1 last year in 15 appearances that included seven complete games and five shutouts. He compiled 101 strikeouts and a 0.94 ERA.
He’s also arguably the area’s best shortstop. He batted .435 with three home runs, 19 RBIs and 12 doubles and earned first-team All-CIF-SS honors. Derby should have a strong supporting cast this season.
Chris Williams is a returning starting senior center fielder who earned second-team All-Area honors as a junior after batting .364 with 31 RBIs and six home runs.
La Salle took some lumps without pitching depth, but look for Austin Wallis to change that. He recorded one win and three saves in 12 appearances with a 2.10 ERA.
He primarily was a closer last year and is vying for the No. 2 spot.
La Salle has three top transfers in juniors Antonio Ruiz (El Monte), Jonathan Krieg (Loyola) and David Sanchez (Cathedral). Ruiz will help in the infield and battle Wallis for the second starting spot in the rotation. Krieg will be an outfielder and Sanchez will be a catcher.
“I’m very confident in the group we are fielding,” La Salle coach Harry Agajanian said. “We’re going to give teams a good run this year. We have a strong preseason schedule that will help us prepare for league.”
Rarely do you see a blockbuster game to start the season, but that’s what the Lancers have on hand next week when they play Temple City in the Elks Tournament opener.
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No. 2 Temple City (16-8)
Reigning Rio Hondo League champion Temple City returns considerable pieces, including starting pitchers Corey and Calvin Copping. The senior tandem proved to be critical in last year’s dethroning of Monrovia as a five-time league champ.
Corey, the league’s most valuable player, went 4-2 with a 0.97 ERA and 59 strikeouts. He also was a first-team All-CIF-SS selection in Division 4 with a .347 batting average, 19 RBIs and six doubles. His twin brother Calvin went 5-2 with a 1.39 ERA. The return of catcher Jonah Jarrard will looms big as well.
“We are as good as it gets,” Temple City coach Barry Bacon said. “I think we can play all facets of the game. We are solid with the twins and Jonah.”
The talent doesn’t end there. Benji Sanderson is an outstanding center fielder who batted .383 and had seven doubles. Cameron Legrand and Ben Arrue solidify the infield. Kyle Sterling is a solid first baseman who this offseason turned heads on the mound. Starling, who batted .333 and will be leading off, will be a solid part of the rotation.
“They all won a championship together last year and are all back,” Bacon said. “We are starting seven of them every single game.”
No. 3 Alhambra (22-4)
The Moors, led by seniors Juan Morales, Juan Crespo and Gary Acuna, blend a balance of youth and experience.
Morales and Crespo were second-team All-Area selections as juniors, and Acuna had the numbers to belong in the group, too. Morales batted .392 and Crespo hit .422. Acuna, who is San Jose State-bound, will be the ace after going 7-2 with a 1.47 ERA last year.
Alhambra returns a solid infield that includes shortstop Jeremy Duran, Chuy Lopez and Nate Quinonez. Morales is at first base. There are others who played last year and will see more time this season, including junior left fielder Blake Kuehnley, junior catcher Andrew Arroyo and Bishop Amat transfer/junior Jonah Lybarger, who will lead off.
The Moors will look to continue their dominance in the Almont League as seven-time defending champions. Alhambra also looks for its strong lineup to lead it over the playoff hump. It lost its postseason opener last year to University of Irvine.
“We’ll play gap to gap, pressure offense with a lot of hitting and running,” coach Steve Gewecke said. “And we’ll try to rely on our pitching and defense to hold other teams down, which I think we’ll do again.”
No. 4 Arcadia (24-6)
The question for the Apaches seems to always be who will replace the departing ace, from Bryce Rutherford and now KJ Edson, the Star-News Player of the Year.
“That’s pretty much it,” Arcadia coach Nick Lemas said. “You never replace that person that left. You groom the next guy that comes in and they become their own person.”
That person will be Erik Trask, a second-team All-Area selection who as a junior went 7-1 with a 1.05 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched. He was a formidable pitcher behind Edson and proved clutch in pressure moments.
Dan Kerfoot will take Trask’s old spot as the dependable No. 2. Kerfoot had a 1.38 ERA in 10 appearances.
Arcadia returns considerable pop in a lineup that includes first-team All-Area catcher Brendan Campbell. He batted .375 with 27 hits, 16 RBIs and three doubles.
The infield looks strong with David Dominguez at second and Drew Klein, who moves from third to shortstop. Brandon Benson, a second team all-league selection, is the designated hitter.
No. 5 Monrovia (11-14)
The Wildcats return four starters in Chris Burkholder, Carl Daniels, Kevin Shue and Joe Mata.
Shue will lead the pitching staff after going 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA a year ago. Burkholder will see more time on the mound after 13 appearances last year. Look for Daniels and Mata to pitch, too.
Reed Miller will give Monrovia some power in its lineup. He’ll first have to get back on the team once the soccer season is over. He batted .308 last year.
“He’ll help us,” Monrovia co-head coach Brad Blackmore said. “He’s athletic and can play second, third or the outfield.”
No. 6 Maranatha (15-15)
The Minutemen lose some strong pitching with the graduation of Mark Jebbia. They’ll look for pitching by committee with Ryan Marrs, Josh Marrs and Daniel Rasmussen, who is the best returning hitter. He batted .375 last year.
Maranatha will be tested from the start in the Southern California Invitational and will gauge itself against the area when it faces San Marino and La Canada in that tournament.
The Minutemen also have a new coach in Matt Shupper, who has coached travel ball and high school at the lower levels. He brings with him an all-star staff that includes Brian Roenicke, the nephew of Milwaukee Brewers coach Ron Roenicke, and Glendon Roush, a former Cubs pitcher who will serve as off-field pitching coach.
No. 7 South Pasadena (12-16)
The Tigers return four starters led by Dylan Trimarchi, a senior who batted .412 with 10 doubles and three triples last year.
Impressive during the offseason was Keaton Leach, who will be the ace.
Third-year coach Anthony Chevrier said Leach is hitting in the high 80s to low 90s on his pitches.
“He’s going to be a big name for us on the mound,” he said.
Joey Harmon, Justin Cornford and Brian Bednarski also will see time on the pitching staff.
“The first two years the kids were committed and we made the playoffs,” he said. “This is the most athletic and most talented team I’ve had in three years.”
No. 8 St. Francis (14-14)
The Golden Knights return six starters, led by second-team All-Area selection David Olmedo-Barrera, a senior second baseman who is heading to Cal State Fullerton.
Tei Vanderford will be a third baseman and one of several players St. Francis will rely on this season. The bulk of the innings will go to senior Will Larkin and junior Danny Monarrez.
St. Francis will have to find a way to add power and consistency from the mound to accomplish its goal against some of the toughest teams in the Mission League.
“I’m sure the San Gabriel Valley is getting tired of how good the Mission League is, but it is good,” St. Francis coach Brian Esquival said. “Our goal is to get in the playoffs, and if you can do that then we’ve had a pretty good year.”
No. 9 La Canada (11-11)
The Spartans look to get back on the baseball map with talent that could come into fruition this year. La Canada returns seven starters, including senior left fielder Mitch Russell, who will see valuable time on the mound.
He proved his worth last season after an injury slowed Brendon Shoemake, now at UC Santa Barbara.
Derek Giorgino was top five in hitting in league last year. He’ll play right field and fellow junior Anthony Mizrahi will be the catcher. Clayton Hurtman is back at shortstop, too.
No. 10 San Marino (5-18)
The Titans are another team in the Rio Hondo League that looks to get back in the playoff mix after a tough stretch with a young group last year.
“There’s definitely a chance for that,” San Marino coach Mack Paciorek said. “You’ve gotta take one in the chin once in a while, and last year was a good one. We dealt with a lot of adversity, got smacked around but hopefully that woke the beast a little bit.”
Senior Garret Glazier and sophomore Jeff Baine are the top two returning pitchers. Matt Wofford was a real weapon last year. Look for seniors Justin Kreineler, a center fielder, and Garrett Young, who will hit in the middle of the lineup, to be key contributors.