After 17 consecutive playoff appearances, and 12 Western State Conference titles since that run began in 1997, the reloaded Cuesta baseball team will enter this season with a new look, but the same expectations.
The Cougars start out the season ranked No. 7 in the preseason poll by the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association, one of four ranked teams in the WSC.
“It’s a different Cuesta team,” Cougars head coach Bob Miller said in a news release. “I think we have good team balance this season We are going to beat you with pitching and defense. We are going to have to stick to our philosophy and compete.”
Perhaps most fitting of that philosophy is a pair of former San Luis Obispo High standouts: sophomore center fielder/relief pitcher Jordan Goldsmith and sophomore starting pitcher David Murillo, who will take the mound for Cuesta as the opening day starter.
Murillo started just one game for the Cougars last year, finishing 1-2 with a 6.07 ERA in 12 appearances. He will be asked to expand his role this season as one of three sophomores in the starting rotation.
“Having veterans is of big value to the club. They have had a year to mature and know what it takes to succeed at this level,” Miller said.
After seeing spot duty during the 2011 season, Goldsmith will start in center and be Cuesta’s go-to man out of the bullpen.
Goldsmith’s exceptional range and speed was evident last season in pinch-running situations, scoring 10 runs and stealing a base in the few appearances he had.
“He has shown huge improvement. He may be the most improved player we have here at Cuesta,” Miller said.
Sean Mullen, another former San Luis Obispo High standout and a freshman on this year’s team, will also be called upon in relief situations. According to Miller, Mullen has “tremendous potential” and has one of the fastest arms in a very young bullpen featuring seven freshmen.
“One of the keys to the season will be the development of the freshman,” Miller said.
Defensively, the Cougars will start sophomores at every position, including all-WSC first team choice and former Mission Prep standout Alex Detz at second base.
Cuesta starts the season against one of the best teams they will face all year when they begin a three-game set at No. 2 ranked Orange Coast today.
The Cougars’ home opener is Tuesday at 1 p.m. against No. 9 Riverside.