College Sports

San Luis Obispo Blues set to open 2016 season Friday night against Santa Maria Packers

San Luis Obispo Blues’ first baseman Jimmy Brakka (44) is one of several players returning this summer to compete in the California Collegiate League. The Blues play their season opener at 6 p.m. Friday at Sinsheimer Stadium.
San Luis Obispo Blues’ first baseman Jimmy Brakka (44) is one of several players returning this summer to compete in the California Collegiate League. The Blues play their season opener at 6 p.m. Friday at Sinsheimer Stadium. The Tribune

San Luis Obispo Blues head coach Jamie Clark can’t say for sure what his opening day lineup will look like.

It’s one of the main challenges the second-year coach faces in the weeks leading up to the California Collegiate League season, which begins in earnest at 6 p.m. Friday inside Sinsheimer Stadium.

This year’s 33-man roster is made up of players from seven Division I conferences, along with Division III, junior college and NAIA standouts. For Clark, one of the biggest variables early in the season is making up for the absence of key contributors whose college teams qualify for the postseason.

That likely will be the case for nearly one-third of the roster in the coming weeks. The Blues have received commitments from players at playoff-bound schools Texas Tech (three), Oklahoma State (three), Louisiana Tech (three) and Mississippi State (one).

If any of those programs advance to the College World Series, it would likely be the first week of July before San Luis Obispo has a complete team.

“Our roster pretty much gets thin really, really quick,” Clark said. “We start running on a skeleton crew. Fortunately, we’ve had guys at the JUCO level that are very, very solid players.”

Clark assumed the head position last season when longtime coach Chal Fanning, now the pitching coach at Cal Poly, left the Blues after 12 seasons to pursue an opportunity at Austin Peay State University.

San Luis Obispo went 32-16 overall in Clark’s first year, including a second-place finish in the North Division of the CCL and a berth in the playoffs. He brought in two new assistants this year, Clay Cederquist and Jason Rutherford, to help guide an intriguing roster of veterans and newcomers.

While no Cal Poly players are currently listed on the roster, Cuesta College will be well represented. Relief pitcher Dan Beavers and first baseman Robbie Silva recently competed a strong spring for the Cougars, and former Cuesta standouts RJ Hassey and Jake Niezen also returned to the Blues.

Oklahoma State centerfielder Ryan Sluder and West Virginia relief pitcher Jackson Sigman earned all-CCL honors last summer and both are expected to make significant contributions in 2016.

Clark was hesitant to offer up any team expectations given the fluidity of the roster, saying his goal is to make sure players “take their development a little bit further than they have in past. Just get a little better and leave here a little better than when they got here.”

The Blues begin the season with seven consecutive home games, starting this weekend against the Santa Maria Packers.

CCL play starts the following week when the Walnut Creek Crawdads come to town for a three-game set, and Clark will have to finalize his roster 24 hours before the first league contest.

Clark, his assistant coaches, general manager Adam Stowe and the team interns have spent the spring getting Sinsheimer Stadium ready to host 34 home games over the next two months.

The head coach seemed thrilled with the finished project, saying the field “is probably in the best condition I’ve ever seen it, at least in the last 10 or more years.”

SLO Blues

What: California Collegiate League

Where: Sinsheimer Stadium, 900 Southwood Drive

Opening night: 6 p.m. Friday, vs. Santa Maria Packers

Roster:

Graham Ahlrich, RHP, Louisiana Tech

Korey Anderson, RHP, Western Carolina

Dan Beavers, RHP, Cuesta College

Matt Bernstein, 1B, Texas Tech

Harrison Bragg, 3B, Mississippi State

Jimmy Brakka,1B, Santa Barbara City

Eric Cole, LF, University of Arkansas

Brent Diaz, C, LA Tech

Garrett Dodd, 2B, Louisiana Tech

Luke Eigsti, RF, UAB

Harley Faye, 3B/RHP, Hendrix Arkansas

Justin Goossen-Brown, DH/RHP, LA City

Jack Hartman, LHP, U Penn

RJ Hassay, C, Cuesta College

Wyatt Hogan, LF, Hendrix Arkansas

Blake Johnson, SS, UAB

Joe Lienhard, RHP, Oklahoma St.

Matt Mogollon, RHP, Chapman

Holden Morris, OF, U Penn

Parker Mushinski, LHP, Texas Tech

Brendan Nail, LHP, Western Carolina

Jon Nicholson, RHP, Texas Tech

Jakes Niezen, RHP, Cuesta College

Holden Nix, RHP, Trinity University

Josh Ramirez, RF, Fresno Pacific

Jackson Sigman, RHP, West Virginia

Robbie Silva, 1B, Cuesta College

Ryan Sluder, OF, Oklahoma St.

Jose Tejada, SS, Hope International

Collin Theroux, C, Oklahoma St.

Matt Walker, RHP, UCLA

Allen Winans, RHP, Campbell

Coaching Staff

Jamie Clark Head Coach

Clay Cederquist Assistant Coach

Jason Rutherford Assistant Coach

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