Updated: Feb 27, 2019
This week, reporter Alex Scarr previews the heavyweight West Valley League as part of his City-wide preview roundup.
You can feel it. The winter chill has given way to a spring thaw, as low 60s turn to high 60s and the heavy coats return to the closet for another 10 months.
Coaches and groundskeepers have been hard at work laying sod, dragging infields, and tarping mounds for months. Baseball season is nearly here.
With just a few days until baseball season begins in earnest (with some early tournaments already underway), it’s as good a time as ever to look around the City Section. Who’s been doing towel drills? Who ran the extra pole? Who wants a trip to Dodger Stadium in June? Hope springs eternal. Let’s get to it.
Head Coach: Matt Mowry
2018: 26-10 (won Open Division)
Key Losses: Armando Yanez, Victor Villa, DJ Vergini, Andrew Acosta
Key Returners: Johnny Tincher, Albert Garcia, Erik Rivas, Alex Ballesteros
Coach quote: “I’m looking for my guys to come out and have fun and be excited about playing their senior years with friends they have known most of their lives. For the new guys and young players, join in and really contribute to an exciting season.”
Outlook: The Patriots are defending LA City champs for the second year in a row and look poised for a three-peat. City Player of the Year Johnny Tincher is back for another season behind the dish before he heads off to the University of Washington, and junior stud Albert Garcia figures to lead the staff on the hill. But one issue looms large: Do they have the pitching depth? DJ Vergini and Armando Yanez are college kids now. Who gets the ball when ‘Bert has a day off? If they can answer that, the road to Dodger Stadium will be paved in gold.
Head Coach: David Kaczor
2018: (lost in Open Division semifinals)
Key Losses: Alex Milone, Andy Ambriz, Miguel Marin
Key Returners: Gabe Achucarro, Stevan Gomez
Outlook: Chatsworth has been on the outside looking in for several seasons now, as talented squads have fallen just short year after year. Is this the season coach David Kaczor gets the Chancellors to the promised land? He’s got a few holes to fill before anyone pencils them in for the big dance in June. Starter Gabe Achucarro is a senior starter now with plenty of experience, and they’ll lean on him for 6 to 7 innings when he’s on. Austin Carrillo is a two-way stud. But with Alex Milone and Miguel Marin gone, who carries the load offensively? Stevan Gomez and Carrillo will need to step up. I believe in Kaczor as much as anyone.
Head Coach: Sid Lopez
2018: 15-14 (Lost in Open Division semis)
Key Losses: Bryan Andrade, Anthony Gonzalez, Nick Martin, Joe Pettiford
Key Returners: Chris Lozano, Robert Velasco, Alec Garcia
Coach quote: “We should be able to compete, as we’re returning seven starters. They’re all juniors with a year of experience under their belt, and they’ve reached the semis the last two years.”
Outlook: The 2018 version of the Cavs took everyone by surprise. They swept El Camino Real in the regular season, won the West Valley League, and stormed their way to the semifinals of the City Section playoffs. Coach Sid Lopez’s squad is loaded with returners, as they were one of the youngest teams in the city last year. To return, they’ll need to replace ace Bryan Andrade, but considering how talented they looked a season ago they’re primed for a big breakout in 2019.
EL CAMINO REAL
Head Coach: Josh Lienhard
2018: 18-15 (lost in Open Division finals)
Key Losses: Bryan Golnick, Jerry Waldorf, Mike Brumleve, Ethan Staller, Daniel Gonzalez
Key Returners: Joey Klein, Parker Tuszynski, Adam Christopher, Cole Kitchen
Coach quote: “We have a lot experience coming back from last year’s title run, and good depth on the mound.”
Outlook: The Conqs of ECR want to win. It’s only been three seasons since the last city championship banner was hung in right field, but you can feel Coach Lienhard has a squad that ought to return to Dodger Stadium. They’ve lost ace Bryan Golnick, but junior Adam Christopher and senior Jack Whisnant are hopeful to make that jump into the number one guy at Elco. They added Chatsworth transfer Andy Ambriz to bolster the infield, and senior Cole Kitchen figures to be one of the best hitters in the Section. I like them to return to Chavez Ravine.
Head Coach: Matt Matuszak
2018: 14-12 (lost in Open Division first round)
Key Losses: Matt Diaz, Matt Bacon, Kolby Steeg, Noeh Castillo
Key Returners: Andrew Fishman, Albert Prado, Albert Becerra
Coach Quote: “I'm looking for my guys to give me the two things they can control day in and day out: their attitude and their effort.”
Outlook: The Highlanders lost some key bats in Matt Bacon and Noeh Castillo and replacing them won’t be easy. But All-League selections Albert Prado and Albert Becerra hit near .300 as starters, with Andrew Fishman hitting a cool .391. Lefty Drew Weinberg becomes the de-facto ace with Matt Diaz and Mason Shin graduating. He spots his curveball and keeps hitters off balance, but there’s a buzzsaw in league to run through. Even still, Granada Hills won’t be out of many games with Coach Tooz at the helm.
Head Coach: Michael McNeely
2018: 17-17 (lost in D-1 semis)
Key Losses: Kameron Steele, Ethan Steinmehl, Ethan Durant
Key Returners: John Halverson, Elvis Park
Coach quote: “We are young and inexperienced. We are looking to play hard, learn, and get better game by game.”
Outlook: Taft gave every team their best punch in 2018 but couldn’t quite scrap together enough wins to sneak into the Open Division bracket of the playoffs. They lost to eventual D-1 champ Verdugo Hills and find themselves back at the drawing board in 2019. The Toreadors graduated nine seniors and will return only two players from the varsity squad last year. Word is some talent may be coming up through the pipeline, but in the cutthroat West Valley League, the Toreadors may struggle to win weeks.