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Opening Day Notes

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The 2015 baseball season got underway on Saturday and the threat of rain didn’t damper the excitement of the start of a new season. There were some impressive performances right out the gate. Some came from established players while others came from players who we will be hearing a lot from in the future.

Below are some of my notes from yesterday’s games.

-The premier game in Orange County had Aliso Niguel hosting nationally ranked Huntington Beach for a double header. Pitching depth behind Kyle Molnar was a concern for Aliso Niguel heading into the season, however the Wolverines got a nice outing from senior Josh Whetstone (4IP, 2R, 6H, 2K), but it was junior Zach Nocon’s (3IP, 2H, 2K) relief appearance that kept Aliso Niguel in the game. Molnar had the at-bat of the game, a 12-pitch walk to load the bases in the bottom of the seventh, before Eric Wagaman delivered the game winning base hit. Hagen Danner (5IP, 1ER, 2K) did his part while not having his sharpest game on the mound for Huntington Beach. Game two saw Molnar (4.1IP, 4H, 2ER, 3K) take the bump for the first time this year. A scout in attendance reported that he worked 89-93 with the fastball. Cooper Moore (2H, RBI) and Tyler Murray (2RBI) were the run producers for Huntington Beach in game two, while Daniel Amaral was combined 5-for-8 with a run scored and an RBI in both games.

-Bishop Amat and JW North are both loaded with young talent, and while each may be a year away from making a deep postseason run, each has the ability to wreak havoc on opponents this season. The two teams split a double header that was played at UC Riverside. Isaac Esqueda (3IP, 4H, 1ER, K)and Josh Andarza (2IP, H, 2K) were solid on the mound while Jayson Gonzalez (1-3, RBI) and Torrehano Sweet (1-3, 2RBI) carried the offense in game one. Game two saw Mikey Martinez (6.1IP, 5H, 8K) pitch a gem for North while the Huskies provided enough offense to earn the split. Freshman Diego Barrera continues to impress for Bishop Amat. He pitches with no fear and shows the composure of an upperclassman.

- Expect Agoura to be an offensive juggernaut this year and if they get some pitching they’ll make a deep run in the Division I playoffs. The Chargers beat Taft 12-6 behind a spectacular performance from Matt Lautz. The senior hit two home runs and finished with six RBI. He also pitched (6IP, 5H, 3ER, 4K) a good game. Bryce Fehmel (2-3, R, RBI), Joey Dawes (3-5, 3R), and Brandon Shearer (2-3) were the other offensive leaders for Agoura.

- Vista Murrieta makes the jump to Division I this year and has the talent to make a run. Palm Desert is a powerhouse Division III program with Division I talent. On Saturday the two teams split their double header. Travis Moniot (5-6, 3R, RBI) was the offensive catalyst for Palm Desert in both games. Pitcher, Jeremiah Estrada (CG, 6H, R, 5K), was a one-man show in his first official start for Palm Desert. Hunter Tidwell (4-7 combined) led the charge for Vista Murrieta.

-Ayala is stacked on the mound with three future college pitchers and if the offense gives them a spark they could position themselves as the favorites in the Palomares League. Daniel Ramirez (5-6 in two games) lead the offense while Matt Acosta, Blake Slagle, and Josh Bozoian each homered in the Bulldogs double header sweep of Brea. Jonathan Buckley and Erik Cha were the winning pitchers on the day.

Other Notables Games:

-Beckman swept their double header with Katella (6-2, 7-0). I expect to the Patriots to be one of the premier teams in the Pacific Coast League this year given their offensive prowess and quality pitching.

-El Modena split a double header with Mater Dei (4-1 L, 3-0 W). The Vanguards have been down the last couple of years but have some talent this year with Brett Conine, Paul Gomez, Dominic Campeau, and Tyler Wagner. Competing in the Crestview League will be a challenge but the Vanguards have to like their chances given their talent this year. The games were a scrimmage.

- Glendora is replacing some key pieces from last years team but got a bump from Austin Isenhart who threw a no-hitter against Big Bear. With Nick Kaye, Griffin Herrera, Jake Nelson, and Alex Briggs, the Tartans will challenge Ayala at the top of the Palomares League.

-Great Oak got a double header split with Norco behind the offense of Mitchell Hayes in game two. The Wolfpack has depth on the mound and very good players like Brandon Stewart, Drake Mekkers, Chris Begg, and Logan Morrison. The team needs to get healthy in key spots.

-Holden Groff threw a complete game shutout against Birmingham for Loyola. The Cubs lost four Division I players to graduation and are in rebuilding mode, but with Groff and Henry Stellwagon they have some nice arms.

-Mira Costa scored 23 runs in a double header against West (Torrance) yesterday but they aren’t lacking in pitching. Trevor Franklin, Michael Rumpp, Rene Houseman and Miles Kluth provide outstanding pitching depth.

-Patrick Sandoval (5IP, 3H, R, 7K) was excellent for Mission Viejo in game one of a double header in which he didn’t factor into the decision. El Toro won after scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Kyle Oyama (2-2, 2 RBI, R) led the offensive for the Chargers. Daniel Strickland answered the question about pitching depth for the Mission Viejo as he threw a no-hitter in game two.

-El Dorado swept a double header with St. John Bosco (2-1, 9-5). Nick Sprengel was excellent in game one with seven strikeouts for El Dorado in game one while Jesse Lopez had three hits in game two. If El Dorado can pitch well after Sprengel they could be dangerous in the Crestview League.

-The team many are picking to make some noise in Division I this year is Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) because of their good mix of veterans and talented youngsters. Assisted by three Buena errors, the Knights won 6-1 behind solid pitching from Chris Collins and Ryan Morris. Offensively, the Knights were led by Joe Pace (2-4, 2R) and Tristan Klier (2-3). For Buena, Austin Rubick (4IP, 4H, 0 ER, 4K) was the tough luck loser. One scout in attendance said of Rubick, “he has some juice and life on his pitches.”

-Kennedy (Granada Hills) took down Oaks Christian 3-0 behind Felix Rubi (CG, 3H, 3BB, 9K), the offense was led by Chris Sandberg (2-3, 2RBI). Oaks Christian is a fairly young team that is awaiting a few transfers to be cleared.

-Kevin Gowdy (4IP, 2H, 9K, BB) was his usual very good self as Santa Barbara defeated Nipomo. Trevor Moropoulos (2-4, RBI, 2R) led the offense for the Dons, while John Jensen, Bryce Morrison, and Sebastian Elizondo each added a pair of hits.

-Corona Centennial beat Trabuco Hills 3-2 behind a solid start from Gabe Zamore (4IP, 2H). Hunter Montgomery (3-4) led the offense, which included the walk-off hit. Manny Perez was also 2-3 for the Huskies.

-Simi Valley won a wild 12-11 game over Quartz Hill. Freshman Owen Sharts (3-4, 4RBI, 2R) paced the offense and hit a home run in his first varsity plate appearance. Jake Whipple, Cal Hodgins, and Turner Nelson all had multi-hit games for the Pioneers.

-Villa Park swept a double header from Servite (5-1, 7-6). Cole Wiens (5IP, 5H, R, 2K) was steady in game one for the Spartans who won 5-1 while only collecting four hits. In game two, Villa Park got a walk off single by Sam Schneggenburger to close out the visiting Friars 7-6.

 --Les Lukach
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