Baseball Preview: Bling on the season; Green Monster No. 1, but Amat’s just as scary

1. South Hills, 2. Bishop Amat, 3. Glendora, 4. Damien, 5. Northview, 6. Diamond Bar, 7. Sierra Vista, 8. San Dimas, 9. Bonita, 10. Charter Oak.

Above: From left, South Hills’ catcher Cody Doyle and pitcher Christian Ibarra and San Dimas’ short stop Shawn Kennedy and pitcher Matt Lee pose with last years CIF championship rings.

By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
In the past three years, the San Gabriel Valley has produced multiple CIF-Southern Section high school baseball champions while others knocked on the door.
Charter Oak won the Division IV title in 2007, with Northview capturing the Division IV crown in 2008 after losing in the semifinals the year before. Bishop Amat won back-to-back Division V championships in 2007 and ’08 and reached the Division IV finals last year. It lost to eventual champion San Dimas, which defeated Torrance 4-2 to give the Saints their first championship since 1985.
After losing a heartbreaker in the 2008 Division III finals, South Hills returned to glory by capturing the school’s fifth title and first under coach Kevin Smith with an 8-2 victory over Beckman in the 2009 Division III championship game.
That’s six area champions in three years, and the area shows no signs of slowing down with the 2010 baseball season starting on Friday, which brings us to our annual Top 10 preview.


1. South Hills (24-8)
The Huskies lost Division III player (pitcher) of the year Derek Klena to graduation, but they return CalHiSports state freshman of the year Ty France, who already has given a verbal commitment to San Diego State after batting .376 with three homers and 29 RBIs his freshman year. The sophomore will platoon between third and first and has the pedigree to go down as one of the Huskies’ all-time greats.
“The sky’s the limit with him,” Smith
said of France. “If he continues to work and get better, he can set the world on fire. He’s got as much physical talent as anyone I’ve had here, and I’ve had some good ones. The question is, how good does he want to be?”

CalHiSports also has ranked the Huskies No. 17 in its preseason state poll for other obvious reasons, such as the return of San Antonio League first-team infielder Christian Ibarra, outfielder/pitcher Dakota Behr and catcher Cody Doyle.

Behr was 6-1 with a 2.07 ERA while Ibarra batted .356 with 18 RBIs and Doyle batted .384 with three homers and 18 RBIs.

In addition to returning all-San Antonio League second baseman Richie Rollice, the Huskies also welcome back sophomore CJ Saylor, who will pitch, catch and play outfield after also verbally committing to San Diego State along with France.

Then there’s UCLA commit Jacob Shirley, another infielder who hasn’t played since transferring from West Covina his sophomore season. He’s regarded, though, as one of the Valley’s best all-around players.

“I’m excited,” Smith said. “If our attitude is right and we stay injury-free, it looks good on paper. We still don’t know exactly how our pitching is going to shape up, but we like the arms we have.”

2. Bishop Amat (26-6)
With five starters verbally committed to major universities and another close to making his decision, the Lancers are huge favorites to win the Division 4 title, which would be their third championship in four years under coach Andy Nieto.

The Lancers return Tribune catcher of the year Jerry McClanahan, a UC Irvine commit who batted .448 with 38 RBIs, as well as sophomore shortstop Rio Ruiz (USC commit), who batted .348 with 30 RBIs as a freshman and will expand his duties into a closing role this season.

Returning senior pitcher Paul Paez (University of San Diego signee) is back after going 10-3 with 2.17 ERA, and junior outfielder Jordan McCraney (USC commit) and first baseman Adrian Franco (San Diego State commit) give Nieto a load of talent to work with.

There’s also junior outfielder Jay Anderson, who batted .432 and has yet to announce his college intentions, and pitcher Brandon McNitt, who gives the Lancers two quality starting pitchers to go with an experienced staff that includes lefty Daniel Zamora.

“If we’re committed, this could be a special year,” Nieto said. “That means playing for your school, not UC Irvine, San Diego State, USC or anywhere else – all that comes later. It’s my job to prepare these guys to win a championship ring, and if they’re committed to do that, you have to like what we have on paper.”

The Lancers are playing a monster schedule that includes Palm Desert, Mater Dei and Chatsworth, and not only will join South Hills in the prestigious National Classic but will face the Huskies in the most anticipated nonleague game of the season on April 28.

“I would challenge anyone to say they’re playing a tougher nonleague schedule that us, plus we will get all we can handle from St. Paul in the Del Rey (League),” Nieto said. “It would be disappointing if we weren’t playing for a championship later in the year. Hopefully the bitter taste of losing to San Dimas (in last year’s semifinal) will rub us the right way.”

3. Glendora (19-8)

The Tartans finished second in the competitive Sierra League and advanced to the Division II second round, and more than anyone return established pitching to make a run at the Sierra League title in what will be a tough league from top to bottom.

Senior pitchers Adam Plutko (6-3, 2.64 ERA), Michael Gonzales (5-4, 3.05 ERA), Jacob Cage (3-1, 3.74) and Jacob Smigelski (4-0, 2.95 ERA) form a solid rotation around a team that batted .337 last year, with Smigelski batting a team-high .452 with 21 RBIs.

Catcher Joseph Winterburn batted .309 with 21 RBIs, and first baseman Kyle Layton hit .412. With others back, such as Matthew Nava and Joseph Windward, this has the potential to be one of the best Tartans team in recent years.

“The depth of pitching and defense we have we feel pretty good about,” Glendora coach Dan Henley said. “We have to improve our offensive output, but we were good on the hill last year and should be better this year.”

4. Damien (21-9)

After finishing third in the Sierra League, the Spartans won a Division III wild card and advanced to the quarterfinals before losing 6-2 to Crespi under first-year coach Al Leyva.

The Spartans return a decorated group led by second baseman Eric Lewis, who batted .529 with 19 RBIs, and shortstop Eric Young, who batted .356.

The firepower doesn’t stop there. With catcher/third baseman George Ortega (.321, 20 RBIs) and catcher Nick Bast (.259) back from a team that batted .351, the Spartans are in good shape offensively. They return only one established pitcher, though, in senior James Guillen, who was 2-2 with a 4.05 ERA.

“We had a special group last year and this group can be special, too,” Leyva said. “We have a lot of arms we can throw, but how they do on the varsity level is the big question.”

5. Northview (21-5)

The Vikings’ second-round loss in the Division IV playoffs last year came as a surprise and ended a great three- year run that included in a championship in 2008.

The Vikings lose several talented players from last year’s team but are still the Valle Vista League favorites in returning third-year starting pitcher Eddie Pedroza, who was 8-2 with a 2.75 ERA last year and is 15-2 since his sophomore season. There’s also junior pitcher Xavier Martinez, giving the Vikings a formidable one-two punch.

The Vikings also return Loyola Marymount-bound catcher Arman Valenzuela (who batted .324 with 20 RBIs) to go with a lot of new faces, including left fielder Bryan Urbina, but much of what to expect is a wait-and-see.

“What I found out over the summer and winter is that we have a lot of talent coming up, these kids just haven’t gotten their opportunity yet,” coach Darren Murphy said. “We’re (the Valle Vista League) all in the same boat. There are a lot of kids who will be making names for themselves, but as far as we’re concerned, I think we can surprise a few teams.”

6. Diamond Bar (12-13)

On paper, the Brahmas figure to have a shot at the Sierra League title, with several returning players who helped them compile a .329 team batting average.

Junior first baseman/pitcher Kenny Mathews is one of the area’s best all-around players after batting .378 with 29 RBIs, and also returning is pitcher/outfielder Chester Pak, who hit .456 with 22 RBIs and six homers.

Senior outfielder Jeff Crowe batted .351, catcher Tiger Chang hit .312 and third baseman Jonathan Munoz batted .462 to give the Brahmas plenty of muscle.

The question is pitching, but with Pak, Mathews and Munoz all in the rotation if they can improve on last year’s 4.70 team ERA, they have a chance to be special.

7. Sierra Vista (19-7)

When coach Brett Stevens said the Dons have the potential to be one of the top two or three teams he’s had in 23 years of coaching at Sierra Vista, that’s saying plenty.

The Dons return one of the area’s best pitchers in senior Christian Huerta, who was 8-2 with a 1.96 ERA, which included six complete games and two no-hitters as a junior.

With first-team pitcher David Serrano also back after going 5-3, the ingredients already are in place for another Montview League title run.

“Christian is still working hard,” Stevens said. “You always worry about senior burnout after having a great junior year like his, but he has put in the work and is looking good. The question is, can we play enough defense to really make the year special?”

Center fielder Luis Torres (.338), shortstop Elias Novelo (.314) and catcher Hector Salcedo (.405) all give the Dons the firepower they need.

8. San Dimas (24-5)

The Saints return only one full-time starter from last year’s Division IV championship team. They lost player of the year Josh Leyland as well as major contributors Kevin Ponzo and Thomas Jenson.

The Saints do return shortstop/ pitcher Sean Kennedy, who will bat leadoff after hitting .321, and pitcher/ outfielder Matt Lee, who hit 354.

If Lee and Kennedy hold their own on the mound, the Saints have a shot at a Valle Vista league crown. A lot will depend on other pitchers such as Derek Penilla and catcher George Holland, who takes over for Leyland, but Saints coach Mike Regan likes what he has.

“We’re a bunch of unproven guys,” Regan said. “We have about four guys who can pitch long innings, which is always a good start, but like I’m telling everyone, last year was last year; you have to prove yourselves and make your own identity this season.”

9. Bonita (21-6)

The Bearcats graduated nine players from last year’s Division IV quarterfinalists who lost a heartbreaker to eventual champion South Hills, including shortstop Jiovanni Mier, who was drafted in the first round of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.

The Bearcats’ lower levels have shined, however, and with three-year returner Brian Tuttle, a shortstop and pitcher who batted .367, along with first baseman Evan Highley (.323), they should do just fine.

Coach John Knott is relying on newcomers such as shortstop Justin Garza. And with 6-foot-6 left-handed pitcher Adam McCreery returning from an injury that limited him to just one appearance last season, Knott’s hoping some new standouts can emerge.

Others to watch for are sophomore Justin Garza (shortstop/pitcher) and senior pitcher Josh Ypez.

10. Charter Oak (21-10)

The Chargers are much like the Bearcats – in a wait-and-see mode, with eight new position players in the starting lineup.

They do return senior Joe Reynoso, who had a brain tumor removed in September but has battled his way back, along with sophomore starting pitchers Travis Santiago and Oscar Montenegro.

Impact players to keep an eye on are right fielder D.J. Wallace, shortstop Miles Meredeth and second baseman Matt Santiago.

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  • observer

    Yes Fred you are right on your top ten. I still think Amat is and should be #1. They have Deep batting rotation. Great one two punch. Still questionable is Sophmore Zamora. We will see when his time is coming soon.

  • amat reader

    What is said About amat baseball team is correct. But what Andy says about D Zamora has experience is incorrect. As usual half pint must see something or not. What about the other returns from J.V. Better than Zamora. Saw him pitch quiet of few times in winter and fall ball. The kid has alot of growing up to do on the mound with no experience it is going to be a long road. Thank goodness for Paez and Mc Nitt or this science project could go terribly wrong. Just one person thoughts.

  • BullPen

    1-5 is solid, but after that it is a crap shoot. DBar is a one trick pony, Bonita has little to no pitching, San Dimas is in rebuilding mode, and SV should actually be #6, CO is a year away, too young. The Sierra League has three teams in the top 10, interesting. That league is gonna be a dog fight between GHS, Chino, Chino Hills and Damien.

  • Don

    With all due respect to the worried Amat faithful out there, Id suggest that two dominant Pitchers should be plenty for job(s) one and two: winning a Del Rey Championship and then your division.

    Success in the big boy tourneys is great but the season is long and if nothing else, Napoleon is right about keeping your eyes on the prize.

    The Lancers return something like 75% of their RBI output, losing only Rodriguez, Bergara, and Genzuk from the ranks of everyday run producers. That kind of hitting alone ought to keep Amat a couple games out front of Caseys guys.

  • Dbar

    Tanner Johnson from diamond bar will pitch his way to a Sierra League title.

  • BullPen

    Hey Dbar! Do your really believe that mess? You meant to say Kenny Matthews, right? He is the one trick pony at DBar. Call me crazy, but to win the SL you’re gonna have to have more than one solid pitcher and hitter.

  • maxprepstop100recruits

    Adam Plutko number 100 maxpreps top recruits.Where is the love for the rest of the SGV.

  • Dukes Baseball

    Justin Garza from Bonita is a great sleeper. Kis is legit. Ive been following youngsters around the SGV for over 25 years. Kid has great potential. Was teammates with Ty France from South Hills. Kid needs to put on some weight put should be a big suprise this year. Baseball is in his blood. Also has a cousin Dom Davis over at Amat that should make the squad. Great kid with alot of athletecism. Coach Knott has some great young kids coming up and Garza should be the leader of the pack.

  • DBAR

    Tanner Johnson remember that name.

  • WTH

    No love for Huth’s kid? Whats up with that?

  • Brahma

    Diamond Bar will not have a shot at any Sierra League title. They will be out coached, out pitched, and out played. Tanner Johnson will be their only hope at staying in the running, and not to mention he’s name is crazy, Fred should of asked Coach Shibley he would have told you who the real deal is; Tanner Johnson.

  • Capistrano Valley in the house

    You guys can keep your division 3 and division 4 rings. We all know where the heavy lifting is done. D1 baseball thats were its at! P.S you guys are all wrong Glendora will be stronger than South Hills and Bishop Amat this year. Its too bad your top 2 cant hang with the big boys, we occasionally like to give our kids a rest and put our JV teams against the san gabriel valley teams, so you can lose by a decent margin, instead of the usual a blow out by the Orange county teams… #1 in the nation and #1 in the state this past season. CV

  • SGV Baseball Blogger

    Nice list fred, your right about Bonita and Charter Oak …. you really dont know what your gonna get from them this season … that league is up for grabs with Los Altos and Luna , Big Diamond Ranch and Goodwin and Wilson with Baltierra

  • Don

    Dear Mr. Capistrano,

    Sorry you arent getting enough attention over there in South Orange County.

    Its kind of sad when someone like you feels insecure enough as to actually look up our little hometown blog here and then post your little rant.

    You probably just need phalloplasty; your root problem is common to folks who crave attention. Try it, youll feel like a new man. Anyhow, good luck with the season and best wishes on getting your own life. Now go away.

    Don

  • BigDog

    Hey Fred

    Does Diamond Ranch have any talent this year. Hows there pitching.Could they make it to Dodger stadium this year.

  • Brahma93

    @ Bullpen,

    Either Fred knows something you dont about Diamond Bar or you have something very personal against the school, either way..GROW UP! I assume your not 15 yrs old anymore…..This is about and for the kids NOT bitter ass adults!!!

  • kh

    don
    your the man.
    i almost broke out the d book to see what that word mint,
    but ill use inner thaughts,
    soberman will figure it out.
    hey big dog,
    anybody can go to dodger stadium
    just buy a ticket,and i think they have group or team discounts.
    dont put the cart in front of the horse, my friend.
    after this next week we all will have a good ideal whos who.
    its a long season,
    am just going to enjoy some good old baseball game this season,already seen ucla csun couple school from back east.lifes getting better 1 day at a time.am still laughing don….hey we all crum on each other,its part of the blog jocking,but some down under o.c. taking shots at the cream of the crop.so cal.cant have it.now i have to pull for the almighy amat .go down there and take care of business boys

  • BullPen

    Hey Brahma 93

    Have nothing against school or kid, just have issue with foolish people that predict a team will win the toughest league in the SGV when they only have one legit guy. People need to check themselves before popping off about who will win this or that. They also need to rethink their statements when they lay their high hopes on an untested kid, get real.

  • Wondering

    Brahma 93 – What can you tell me about the DB pitching staff this year and who is this Mater Dei pitching transfer. Any early word on him?

  • Baseball Nut

    Breaking news:

    MATER DEI, looses its TOP pitcher for the season. Matt Blanchard a three year varsity player has undergone surgery for a torn labrum. Mater dei will have trouble now competing in the tough Trinity league.

  • Kimbo Slice (of Reality)

    Hey Capo Valley Girl-

    I have an idea. Since you have no life aside from buying your wife breasts and getting her liposuction why don’t you clean the sand out from between your toes, dust off your Birkenstocks or Uggs and drag your sorry ass up to the SGV this weekend to watch some ball.

    If nothing else you can go home with a SGV beatdown administered by me personally.

  • Amat fan

    Fresh off the press Amat wins. A nail biter. Paez dominating for 5 innings. Mc nitt still rattle. But still came up with the win. Paez 7 or 8 k’s. Looks better than ever. Hitting came up clutch. Defense look good. J Mac and masher came up when needed the big hit. Go Amat.

  • kh

    all we can do is leave this tny and be ranked #3 thats if we take care of business,one game at a time.

  • http://1 DB

    TANNER JOHNSON IS NOT EVEN CLOSE TO KENNY MATTHEWS

  • BigDog

    kh
    What…………..Did you take your meds today

  • socal baseball fan

    Diamond Bar 1 Kennedy 0 in 8 innings. Brahmas jr pitcher Kenny Mathews pitched a complete game 3 hitter in the season opener. The only brahma run came on a home run by sr of Chester Pak in the top of the 8th inning. Next up will be El Toro who beat JW North 2-0.

  • pat

    SoCalbaseball,

    Was it correct that Kenny also had 12 SO’s??

  • Damien Fan

    What happend to Nick Amrhien (class of 2010) , pitcher from Damien.
    How is he looking this year?
    I remember he had a pretty good year as a sophmore.

  • sherlock

    Glendora tny off and running,

    Bonita 7 Northview 7, good game and again good coaching. Bonita got the benefit of a short left field porch and a horrific call at the plate otherwise Northview wins it.

    Bonita 22 ayala 1, Claremont 6 Diamond Ranch 5, Alta Loma 12 Charter Oak 11 extra innings

    Aaron henry soph 2 hrs for co, d j Wallace hr and single. Reynoso pitched well, closer holden ok, why did quinley pull him to go to soph???? Duncan hothkiss led way for alta loma a very young team.

    About Amat, they have been spoiled with 2 to 3 impact starting pitchers the last few years, this year does not look that way, mark my words here.

  • go brahmas

    For those that wanted to know about Diamond Bar:
    Kenny mathews, cal state fullerton
    Jon Munoz, uc Irvine
    Chester pak, cal state Northridge
    Others received offers but not yet said yes. So not just a one man band. Whoever becomes the #2 starter if they do well they could win league.

    Tanner who? Give the kid a chance to do something before yall make him Roy Hallady jr.

  • Northview again?

    Northview should have one the game in the 8th with the play at the plate, the blew clearly blew that call! Northview played very sound defense &now that the jitters are gone looks like they will swing the bat just fine? lead off hitter for them add multiple great at bats!

  • Amat

    Sherlock. Well what about eat your words. The number 3 pitcher won on Saturday he threw a CG. Against Corona Santiago. Now Amat has only wait for this 3 starters hmmmmm. We will see how this team does. Go Amat.

  • DBAR

    Diamond Bar tanks again, the only chance they have for a win is when Kenny is pitching other than that they lose. Shibley doesn’t have the boys in the right positions.

  • sherlock

    Scrunch, chomp , gurgh, yep that is Sherlock eating some words , but I do get to come back later.
    Amat beat a very good and well coached team in Santiago. But we do miss them at the Glendora tny. Those night games were classic match ups and left the valley with great memories.

  • go brahmas

    Dbar, little tough on the boys so early, I bet they will win a few with the #2 pitchers, but its a little easy to say they will only win with Kenny , everyone would win with him. Give the younguns a chance and you will see.

    But I do agree with some kids are in the wrong spots.

  • Wondering

    DBar – Yea it sounds like your being a little quick to judgement here. The Soph kid threw well and if not for a 3 run HR he did a great job. CG in a losing effort with one take back pitch…I’d say the future may still be bright. Keep the faith brother!!!

  • USC FAN

    Went to the Amat game on Saturday and saw Sophmore D. Zamora pitch a complete game against a very good Corona Santiago team! I think it’s safe to say that this science project earned an “A+”. Amat reader you can take your foot out of your mouth now!!

  • Amat reader

    USC Fan. Wait it is just one game. He must of threw 85% curve or off speed. Corona Santiago thought he might have a fast ball. Apparently he did not. D Zamora did well on Saturday it is a good start for the lefty. Still a long ways to go before we say he is going to be that sucessful. Season just started. But for now he look great. So congrats. Go Amat. Good look tonight for the #2 is throwing “Mc Nitt”..

  • Long season.

    It will be a tough go around for Diamond Bar, with 2 games played, and already 5 errors, it’s a problem. Shibley pitched his ace Tanner Johnson with luke warm results. It’s going to be a long season watching Dbar struggle through another Sierra League beat down. Shibley, needs some lessons in coaching, he has players in all the wrong positions. The team is batting a .169 he needs to change it up a bit.

  • ?

    Hey Long season.

    Get a clue Johnson is not even the #2. You forget about that Matthews kid that threw 8 inns 12 k’s game 1. If I remember right Johnson gave up a BOMB on Sat. SHHHHHHH know what you are talking about before you blog.

  • THINK TWICE

    I bet capo smelly thinks twice before he comes knocking on the SGV’s door next time. Instead of playing those jv’s you better bring a varsity oc all star team if you want a chance against any team from the SGV .

  • http://1 DB

    HEY SHIBLEY KEEP THOSE KIDS RUNNING FOR NO BANNER INSTEAD OF WORKING ON FIELDING AND HITTING.