Having merely one Division I-caliber pitcher to turn to would obviously be a major asset for any prep baseball team.
Arroyo Grande High has two for sure, and a third recruit could also end up playing at that level, leading to great expectations for the Eagles among coaches throughout the Central Coast as the season gets under way today.
After finishing 12-6 in the PAC 7 in 2010 (20-8 overall), a game out of first place, the Eagles have had seniors Kyle Raubinger and Colton Haynes sign with Loyola Marymount and Cal Poly, respectively.
Yet another standout in their rotation, Jesse Yancosek, is also attracting attention from similar programs throughout the western region, coach Brad Lachemann said.
“We’re pretty comfortable with the three guys we get to run out,” Lachemann said. “Playing three games a week (Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday series in the PAC 7), that’s a huge bonus.”
Raubinger is the headliner of the group. An all-CIF Southern Section Division 2 second-team selection, the PAC 7’s Most Valuable Pitcher and an Area Code Games participant last year, Raubinger went 9-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 59 innings as a junior. He also had a big year at the plate, batting .417 with 30 RBI and five home runs.
“He can do anything,” Lachemann said. “He’s got a great arm, he hits for power, he hits for average.”
Haynes, meanwhile, was somewhat new to pitching last year, when he compiled a 5.37 ERA with 24 strikeouts in fairly limited duty, 282⁄3 innings. At 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Haynes, who’s regarded as a great athlete with major upside, can throw up to 90 mph and has steadily developed on the mound.
Yancosek is coming off a year in which he had a 3.44 ERA and struck out 65 batters in 63 innings.
Paso Robles looks to defend PAC 7 title
Paso Robles (17-12, 13-5 in 2010) graduated its most valuable player from last year, shortstop and pitcher Thomas Bernal, a Cal-Hi Sports all-state third-team selection now at Kentucky. Aside from him, though, virtually everyone is back, as only one other player in last year’s regular lineup was a senior.
“We have some guys that have had experience,” Bearcats coach Derek Stroud said. “I thought collectively they really did a good job.”
Mac Stuart, now a junior, batted .380 last year, leading Paso Robles with 38 hits and 10 doubles. Additionally, Scott Plescia, Austin Swank, Jesse Horne and Elias Stokes all batted between .321 and .410.
Stuart, with a 4.28 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 521⁄3 innings, also had a standout season pitching last year. Matt Culp and Michael Gonzalez should round out the Bearcats’ starters after getting some work a year ago.
New coaches at SLO, Atascadero
Two county PAC 7 schools saw head coaching changes over the offseason.
At San Luis Obispo, assistant Bobby Ryan took over after Casey Candaele accepted an instructional role within the Texas Rangers organization.
The Tigers (13-14, 10-8 in 2010) should return a solid pitching staff, led by junior Marco Murillo, who pitched 531⁄3 innings as a sophomore for a 1.84 ERA. Additionally, Sean Mullen, a 6-foot-6 senior who had previously starred in basketball before taking this past season off to focus on his pitching, had a 3.43 ERA in 161⁄3 innings.
In Atascadero, Paul Teixeira has replaced Dan Butz in the dugout.
The Greyhounds (14-14, 8-10 in 2010) should also be tough on the mound, led by 6-4 senior Weston Walker. Walker, who had a 3.07 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 132⁄3 innings as a junior, threw a no-hitter for the Atascadero
A-Sox club team this past June, in a 17-1 win over the Bakersfield Braves. Bryce Evans and Scott Kaul should also see plenty of opportunities.
“Veteran pitching is going to be a strength,” Teixeira said. “Those three guys are going to be key for us. They’re all impressive.”
Offensively, Atascadero’s Spencer Ruggles (who had a .370 batting average a year ago) and Mitchell Angeloni (.364) should both be tough outs.
Nipomo adjusts to LPL schedule
After a Southern Section releaguing cycle, the Los Padres League replaced St. Joseph with Nipomo. Thus, after cramming an 18-game league schedule into six weeks in the PAC 7, the Titans will now play 12 total, in a two-a-week format.
While the new itinerary will lighten the load on Nipomo’s pitching staff, it also leaves less room for downturn, coach John Stevens noted, and in turn, the Titans will often end up facing other teams’ best on a more routine basis.
Nipomo (13-14, 7-11 PAC 7 in 2010) returns three talented juniors with experience on the hill in Cole Holloway (a 2.33 ERA in 21 innings last year), Marc Baker (2.67 in 55) and Ryan McNeil (3.10 in 492⁄3), each of whom has “matured quite a bit,” Stevens said.
Offensively, the Titans graduated arguably the best player in the history of the program in Long Beach State freshman Jeff McNeil, but they do return senior outfielder Joe Gutshall, who led the PAC 7 in batting average (.462) and stolen bases (16) as a junior.
The toughest competition in the LPL figures to come from Lompoc and Cabrillo, respectively. In Monday’s preseason Southern Section top-10 polls, the Braves were ranked No. 6 in Division 5, with Cabrillo at No. 8. Those two tied for the league championship last season with 10-2 records.
Elsewhere, Morro Bay (6-17, 3-9 in 2010) and Templeton (6-15, 2-10) are both looking to climb back up the league standings.For the Pirates last season, the three best ERAs were posted by underclassmen: Rico Caravalho (4.20 in 31⁄3 innings), Keith Evans (4.38 in eight innings) and Cole Mauter (5.25 in 222⁄3).
The Eagles, who had just four seniors on the roster last season, featured one of the area’s most all-around promising prospects in Alex Kotheimer, who batted .328 as a sophomore, and also pitched for a team-leading 4.24 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 342⁄3 innings.
Mission Prep new to Southern Section
Mission Prep (12-14 in 2010) moved from the Central Section to the Southern Section this past offseason along with all of the Royals’ other sports.
Playing as an independent, the Royals need to win at least 50 percent of their games to be eligible for the divisional playoffs; whether they would then get in as an at-large entry depends on how many leagues’ at-large teams are admitted first, and if room would remain in the bracket.
Last season, Mission Prep had arguably the area’s best freshman pitcher in Anthony Bosshardt, who had a 2.16 ERA in 222⁄3 innings, and will likely be the Royals’ No. 1 this year.
Scott Gill (who hit .389 as a junior) and Art Lane (.341) figure to lead the Royals offensively.
Crusaders ranked highly in Division 7
North County Christian (19-1, 12-0 Coast Valley League in 2010) brings back nearly its entire starting lineup from last year’s group that advanced to the semifinals of the Division 7 playoffs.
Among those returning are juniors Daniel Katches (who batted a whopping .593 last year with 24 RBI) and Keelan Willison (.492 with 34 RBI), as well as senior Taylor Brard (who had a 3.72 ERA in 47 innings).
Shandon (7-9, 7-5 in 2010) finished third in the CVL last year.
Tommy Harris is back to lead the Outlaws after batting .488 with 25 RBI and pitching 53 innings for a 4.09 ERA and an area-best 86 strikeouts as a junior.
The CVL has welcomed Coast Union, which has an enrollment of nearly 300, significantly more than the other teams in the league.
Andy Gordon led the Broncos (6-11 in 2010) with a 0.39 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched as a sophomore.