Baseball teams will take to the diamond today , the first day of games for high school sports, and will get into the season next week with a series of crosstown and pre-league contests.
Even after two all-league pitchers graduated, Tracy High’s 2014 baseball team includes much of the talent that carried the Bulldogs to the 2013 San Joaquin Athletic Association title with a record of 16-12, 12-3 SJAA.
With seven returning seniors and two returning juniors, Coach Vic Alkire likes the speed his team has both in the outfield and on the bases.
So far Alkire hasn’t identified any sluggers, but he expects to build an offense around consistent hitting and base running from juniors Jacob Alvarado and Robbie Ramirez and senior Braeden Oki.
“All three are lightning on the bases,” Alkire said, adding that senior Aaron Denholm and other returning players are patient at the plate and capable of moving runners.
Returning seniors Chaz Samaniego and Brett Curtis will get plenty of time on the mound, backed up by sophomores Brett Mansell, Noah Denoyer and Thomas Greely and freshman pitcher Chandlyr Metal.
Senior catcher Anthony Nunez, who will also pitch, said that the athleticism that will make Tracy effective on offense will translate well to defense. He also cited outfielders Alvarado, Ramirez and Oki as playmakers.
"We have the speed in the outfield which gives the pitchers confidence to not be afraid to let a pitch go, because we know they’re going to be there," Nunez said.
West Wolf Pack
West High coach Roger Gallardo sees multitalented players throughout the Wolf Pack roster.
Gallardo said that most of the players from the 2013 season, when the Pack went 4-19 and 2-8 in the Tri-City Athletic League, have the experience to make this year’s team better.
“It’s going to be a different concept of utilizing what we have,” Gallardo said.
“There are a lot of interchangable parts. We’ve got guys who can play infield and outfield and give us a couple innings on the mound.”
Senior Mitch Cowles has experience as a pitcher, and Gallardo said he’s identifying others who can join the rotation.
Third-year varsity players include junior Jack Kelly and senior Garrett Speckman.
Speckman said that with athletic ability and confidence, his teammates have the baseball instincts to be successful.
“We’ve got more young talent. We’ve got more people who can play multiple positions,” he said.
Sophomore Jacob Rebar, who will pitch and play first base and outfield, said the Wolf Pack are coming into the season prepared to win.
“The returners this year, I can tell a lot of them worked during the off-season,” he said. “I think our hitting this year has taken a step forward. We’re a real scrappy team and we’ll get the job done.”
The Jaguars have a new start this year with just five returning players.
“It’s definitely a younger team than we had last year,” coach Scott Anderson said.
Seniors Brennan Bowman, Dylan Davis and Trevor Trew are returning infielders, and senior Matt Rodriguez has the most experience as a varsity pitcher. Also back is junior outfielder and pitcher Ryan King.
Anderson said those players will guide the transition from 2013, when Kimball went 18-7 and 9-5 in the Valley Oak League and just missed the playoffs.
“The leadership this year with the returning seniors is extraordinary,” Anderson said. “They’re willing to take charge and show these guys what needs to be done.”
Trew said that regardless of skill or experience level, the players all support each other, with no individual craving the spotlight.
“That’s what’s going to get us through the year. No one’s going to put anyone down,” he said. “All of our fundamentals are good. We’re going to be very cohesive this year.”
Anderson said he has five more players coming up from the sophomore squad who will pitch for the Jaguars: juniors Cody Delbridge, Peter Van Katwyk and Jacob Barba and sophomores Kyle McPartland and Chad Hanville.
“We’ve got some arms. It’s just getting some game time,” Anderson said.
Kimball will play its home games at West High this year, because lack of irrigation and scant rainfall this winter caused the Kimball field to dry out and become unplayable.
Returning players on the Millennium High baseball team will anchor a Falcon squad that’s undergoing the usual transition of high school teams.
“We lost a lot of key players from last year, but I don’t expect a lot of drop-off,” coach Drew Reyes said. “The key to maintaining success is having a strong JV program.”
Reyes said he expects juniors Isidro Cota, a utility player, and Matthew DeWitt, an outfielder, to fill out a team that includes returning six returning seniors and one returning junior.
Senior Manjot Atwal will be the Falcons’ primary starting pitcher, continuing the role he had last year.
“Over the off-season, I really worked on my control,” Atwal said, adding that he has more velocity behind his pitches this year. He’s also confident that the infield, including returning junior shortstop Eddie Diaz and senior second baseman Daniel Gutierrez, will back him up.
The Falcons are out to build on a 14-3 record, 7-3 in the Central California Athletic Alliance, that earned them third place in league last year.
“Coming together as a team, meshing with new players, is definitely key,” said senior first baseman Spencer Blackwell, now in his fourth year on the varsity team.
Delta Charter Dragons
During the past six years, Steve Abercrombie, head coach for the Delta Charter baseball team, has seen the team progress steadily. Milestones included a Mountain Valley League title in 2012, but the 2013 MVL dwindled to two teams, Delta Charter and Ben Holt Academy, and the Dragons finished at 5-6, 4-2 in the MVL.
Abercrombie said the enthusiasm for Dragon baseball is back, with a core group of returning players, some new players with experience and more new players who are taking the field for the first time.
“It’s kind of neat, because I’ve got kids who are experienced teaching the other kids,” he said. “It’s made it a very cohesive team.”
Returning players include senior Justin Rudnick and junior Jonathan Palmer, who will be the core of the Dragons’ pitching staff. Also pitching is senior Oliver Messier, a newcomer to Delta Charter but an experienced ballplayer. Abercrombie also expects sophomore Tommy DeAnda to contribute on the mound.
Those players will be the core of the batting lineup as well.
Other returning players include sophomore T.J. McIntyre, senior Andrew Silva, and junior Justin Serna.
Delta Charter High has land near the New Jerusalem campus for a baseball diamond, but until the school can raise money to build a field, the Dragons will have home games at Tracy Ball Park.
Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.