Yet again, the Santa Barbara Foresters look like the king of summer collegiate baseball along the West Coast. The San Luis Obispo Blues are aiming to challenge them, though.
The Foresters, who’ve won 17 of 18 California Collegiate League titles since the league’s inception, went 45-11 overall last year (29-7 in the CCL), finishing with a No. 6 national ranking by PerfectGame.org. San Luis Obispo (32-17, 24-12) was the league’s runner-up and finished ranked No. 23 in the country.
“We have a tough act to follow from last year,” Blues manager Chal Fanning said. “We think we’ve got the personnel to compete and make another run.”
Heading into tonight’s 6 p.m. nonleague opener against the SLO Rattlers at Sinsheimer Park’s SLO Stadium, Fanning wasn’t shy about calling the Foresters the team to beat but was confident in his own club’s talent base.
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The Blues’ preliminary roster includes 16 players from either Big 12 or SEC schools.
“The league has done a really good job of being nationally recognized,” Fanning said. “The Blues’ name is out there.
“The big thing for us to compete in this league, especially with Santa Barbara being the top dog, is that we have to match up talent-wise.”
Some of Fanning’s roster could be in flux soon, though, given the upcoming MLB Draft, which runs Monday through Wednesday.
A headlining Blues prospect who’ll likely be selected highly is the club’s only incoming freshman, Max Homick of Rancho Bernardo High in San Diego.
A 6-foot-3, ambidextrous University of San Diego signee, Homick had a three-homer game earlier this prep season. He’s projected to be taken in the eighth round by DraftSite.com, but for now, is figuring to play in San Luis Obispo this summer, Fanning said.
Another promising newcomer ought to be Zac Elgie.
A 12th-round pick of the Oakland A’s coming out of high school in 2008, Elgie batted .297 with 22 doubles and seven homers this spring as a junior at Kansas.
The Blues’ pitching staff features three prominent, returning players in Nebraska’s Sean Yost, Texas A&M’s Dylan Mendoza and Mississippi State’s Caleb Reed.
Yost, a 6-foot-7 right-hander who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 24th round last year, pitched 30 innings for a 2.70 ERA for the Blues in 2010.
Mendoza, a southpaw, had a 2.08 ERA in 342⁄3 innings last summer. Reed, a righty, threw 22 innings in 2010, compiling a 0.82 ERA.Three former local high school stars are also on the Blues’ roster.
Former Paso Robles star Thomas Bernal, who redshirted this spring as a true freshman at Kentucky, has been moved to catcher, and the Blues are planning to give him looks there.
Alex Detz, a former Mission Prep standout entering his sophomore year at Cuesta College, is back in the infield, and San Luis Obispo grad Dylan Candaele, who recently finished his freshman season at Monterey Peninsula College, will play in the outfield.
There’s one Cal Poly signee on the roster, incoming junior pitcher Nick Grim. Grim, a 6-3 right-hander who was a teammate of Candaele at MPC, was voted onto the all-Northern California community college team for the Lobos. At the time of Grim’s signing this past November, Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said he could develop into a possible starter for the Mustangs.
Tonight’s opener is the first installment in a three-game series against the Rattlers at SLO Stadium.
In March, the Blues’ organization financially absorbed the Rattlers’ franchise. The Rattlers are now a developmental program for younger talent (almost exclusively local), and are no longer playing in the CCL.
The Blues can call up Rattlers players during the season.
There were a few other changes in the CCL, as well, with the defection of the Santa Maria Packers and the additions of the Glendale Angelenos and the Orange County Pioneers.