This time, it’s Cathedral Catholic at No. 1 with Vista at No. 2 in a reversal of where the teams finished in 2012 final rankings. It should be another sizzling season in the best state for high school baseball by far.
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By Mark Tennis
Contributing: Paul Muyskens
When we last compiled state baseball rankings, it was a very close decision at the top once all games for the 2012 season were in the books. It was between CIF San Diego Section Division I champion Vista (31-4) and CIF San Diego Division III winner Cathedral Catholic (30-5) and in the end it was Vista that was awarded the No. 1 position and State Team of the Year honors.
It’s now time for the 2013 season to begin. Both Vista and Cathedral Catholic return numerous top players, but this time it’s the Dons who are one spot ahead of the Panthers in the No. 1 slot for the preseason state top 20.
Despite Vista returning Brett Seeburger, the 2012 State Junior of the Year, Cathedral Catholic has pitching talent and depth that might be better than any team in the nation.
No less than five pitchers on the Dons’ roster, led by left-hander Stephen Gonsalves, are headed to major colleges. Gonsalves, the team’s ace last season with a 9-0 record and 1.91 ERA, has signed with the University of San Diego. He may get chosen in the top round of the next MLB draft, however, and may never become a Torero.
In addition to Gonsalves, Cathedral Catholic head coach Gary Remiker can spread the pitch counts among Alex Schick (Cal signer), Michael Martin (UC Irvine), Andrew Wright (Pepperdine) and junior Brady Aiken (UCLA).
Another San Diego Section that could spoil the fun for Cathedral Catholic is Rancho Bernardo. Led by legendary head coach Sam Blalock, the Broncos have the returning firepower on offense and have some promising pitchers that may deny Vista a repeat championship.
San Diego’s section playoffs this year, however, will be different with basically a test run of a new open division format. Cathedral Catholic, however, won’t yet be eligible to be in the open division and instead will be in Division I.
Here are the 2013 Cal-Hi Sports preseason top 20 state baseball rankings (listed with win-loss record from last season):
1. Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 30-5
Another reason that the Dons will be very tough to beat is that many of their standout pitching prospects should help score some runs on offense. Brady Aiken, the junior going to UCLA, batted .404 last season while Gonsalves hit .348 and had the big clutch hit in last year’s title game. The infield also could be solid with junior third baseman Sean Bouchard and senior shortstop Hayden Grant.
2. Vista 31-4
In terms of returning pitching, the Panthers might be one arm short in depth compared to Cathedral Catholic but might be just as strong or even better for a top three. Brett Seeburger, the Cal-Hi Sports State Junior of the Year, leads the group (10-1, 0.65) while Billy Roth (9-1, 0.92) and junior Austin Ott (7-1, 1.85) shined as well. In fact, head coach Rick Lepire reports that just nine innings of work graduated from the staff. Seeburger, Roth and Ott also are top hitters. Another top returnee is shortstop Zach Mann, who hit .341 and Lepire says will be a D1 college signer. There’s also good talent on the way up from a 21-4 league championship JV squad.
3. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 24-6
The Monarchs finished as runner-up in the Trinity League behind Orange Lutheran before seeing their season end in the CIF Southern Section Division I semifinal to eventual champion Newbury Park. With the graduation of Ty Moore, the team will be without its leading pitcher and top hitter, but will have several big bats back for senior seasons, including infielder Ryan McMahon and catcher Jeremy Martinez, who have both signed with USC. McMahon hit .353 last season while Martinez is considered to be one of the top catching prospects in the nation. Senior Davis Tominaga will likely lead the pitching staff after going 6-2 last season as the No. 2. He also hit .307 and drove in 14 runs.
4. Campolindo (Moraga) 23-4-1
Coach Max Luckhurst’s team is going for a fourth straight CIF North Coast Section Division II title after becoming the first East Bay team to win three in a row last season. This is a squad, though, that can get to much greater heights with five players headed to the Pac-12. Although the NCS D2 bracket isn’t very strong compared to other postseason brackets around the state, Campo does play a schedule beyond league and playoffs that will be national-level and gives the boys a chance to finish with a national-level ranking. All-State pick James Marvel is the main graduation loss. Coming back, though, is senior outfielder Brett Stephens (UCLA), senior pitcher/first base Trent Shelton (Oregon State), senior infielder Robbie Tenerowicz (Cal), junior pitcher Matt Ladrech (verbal to Cal) and junior infield/pitcher Denis Karas (verbal to Cal). Luckhurst adds that junior Elijah Smith has transferred from El Cerrito and will contribute.
5. Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) 24-5-1
It’s a much different feeling this preseason compared to last when the Wolverines were atop many national rankings because they had pitching phenoms Max Fried and Lucas Giolito on the same staff. We never really got to see that team, however, when Giolito went down with a season-ending injury and barely pitched. A group of mostly younger players then went out and still put together a strong season and this year other than Fried they’re all back. Offensively, Harvard-Westlake will be potent with a lineup that will include catcher Arden Pabst (Georgia Tech), first base/outfield Joe Corrigan (USC), shortstop/pitcher Jack Flaherty (North Carolina) and second base Alex Horowitz (multiple offers). Coach Matt LaCour also will count on pitchers Hans Hansen and Conor Cuse, but says a question mark will be depth on the staff from the No. 4 through No. 6 spots.
6. St. Francis (Mountain View) 26-5-1
It’s pretty obvious that the Lancers are the team to beat in the CIF Central Coast Section and in the West Catholic Athletic League. Their problem in recent years has been getting knocked off in the CCS playoffs (which does tend to happen to front-running teams given that they often are playing other very good WCAL opponents). Although the graduation of standouts Braden Bishop and Trevor Bettencourt will hurt, the Lancers still were viewed by many as being a year away even last season. Top returning players include outfielder Kort Peterson (UCLA), pitcher/infield Michael Strem (Boston College), infielder Chris Baker (Washington), first base Hunter Simmons (Utah) and junior infield/pitcher Tyler Deason.
7. El Toro (Lake Forest) 25-7
Head coach Mike Gonzalez’s Chargers captured the South Coast League championship last season and should be considered the favorite to do so again this season led by senior Dan James, who hit .364 with 25 runs batted in to earn league MVP honors. While several other key bats from last year are gone, El Toro should have a strong pitching staff, led by senior all-state underclass Chasen Ford (11-0, 1.06 ERA). Ford, who is headed to Yale, will be joined by returnee Stephen Villines (6-2, 1.42) and Cal State Fullerton-bound Ryan Kayoda, who didn’t pitch last spring. Gavin Collins, a catcher headed to Mississippi State, also is back as a four-year starter.
8. Rancho Bernardo (San Diego) 23-10
Led by Cal-Hi Sports State Sophomore of the Year Alex Jackson, the Broncos return five of their top six run producers from last season that saw them win the Palomar League and make a nice postseason run before losing to La Costa Canyon in the CIF San Diego Section playoffs. Jackson led the team and the state in home runs with 17 while hitting .400. Senior infielder Gosuke Katoh had 11 home runs and 31 runs batted in while junior Casey Henderson had an impressive sophomore season with 30 runs batted in and went 4-2 with a 2.01 ERA in 31.1 innings. The top two pitchers from last season also return for their senior years. Matt Osborne went 9-1 with a 2.01 ERA in 73 innings while Parker Bugg went 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 58.1 innings pitched.
9. Agoura (Agoura Hills) 23-5-1
With a pitching staff that is pretty much intact from last season and likely an improved offense, the Chargers have the firepower to defend their Marmonte League title (which is the same league that produced CIFSS Division I champ Newbury Park). Left-hander Henry Baker (a Washington signer) and Tyler Cohen (going to Loyola Marymount and had a 0.79 ERA last year) are the team’s top pitchers. Junior Albee Weiss, a catcher/first baseman, is back to be the No. 4 hitter in the lineup after hitting .386 with 26 RBIs as a sophomore. Coach Mike Cordero also is looking for an increased role from 2012 reliever Nick Shur and sees sophomore Bryce Fehmel (hit. 322 as a frosh) and senior right-hander Andy Sondreaal as top contributors.
10. Elk Grove 20-9
This team’s postseason run ended earlier then normal last year in the CIF Sac Joaquin Section Division I North quarterfinals after being co-champions of the Delta Valley League with Davis. If there is one player you’ll easily spot this season, it’ll be 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior Ryan Tellez, the Sacramento Bee’s Player of the Year. Tellez returns after hitting .568 with seven home runs and 47 runs batted in while also pitching 42 innings with a 3.00 ERA. Also back for his senior year is Dom Nunez as he batted .429 with a second-best 28 runs batted in. Senior David Smith led the team in innings pitched and went 6-0 with a 1.03 ERA. A pair of talented youngsters return as well – junior outfielder Derek Hill (.451) and sophomore infielder Nick Madrigal (.379).
11. Clovis 20-15
Veteran coach James Patrick only needs nine more wins this season to reach 600 for his varsity career. He should get that and more with numerous top players back from last year’s team that made it to the finals of the CIF Central Section Division I playoffs. What makes Clovis more scary is that four of Patrick’s leading players are still juniors. Leading that group is USC-bound shortstop Jacob Gatewood. Pitcher/infielder McCarthy Tatum, catcher/pitcher Alan Crowley and infielder R.J. Hartmann are the other three. The Cougars’ top senior is returning all-league infielder Logan Poisall.
12. El Camino Real (Woodland Hills) 22-12
The defending CIF L.A. City Section champions return the bulk of the roster from last season, although L.A. City player of the year Chris Nicholson is gone. The Conquistadors’ pitching includes All-L.A. City returnees Luke Laurita and Owen Perry. All-L.A. City outfielder Yannick Villanueva also is back. A key transfer is infielder Erik Whittlesey from Granada Hills.
13. St. Mary’s (Stockton) 27-6
To say the Rams have a lot of question marks this season might be an understatement. They lose nine of their top ten bats from last season, but if it’s one thing the Rams seem to do is win as head coach Pete Pijl’s squad has won the last three CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championships. Senior Joey Caffese does give Pijl a great place to rebuilt with. The all-state underclass choice is back after hitting .322 with 22 runs batted in last while also going 6-1 on the mound with a 1.01 ERA in a second-best 48.1 innings pitched. Also returning is Taylor Johnson, who went 5-1 on the mound with a 1.29 ERA in 38 innings.
14. De La Salle (Concord) 20-7
Several key players from De La Salle’s No. 1 in the state football team should lead what is expected to be a very strong baseball team this spring. Andrew Buckley (the football team’s top receiver) threw a five-hitter in last year’s CIF North Coast Section Division I baseball final. Austin Lonestar (who caught a TD pass in the bowl game win over Corona Centennial) batted .370 last year in baseball. Plus, starting quarterback Chris Williams is regarded as a very promising lefty pitcher and plays first base. Other key returnees include pitcher A.J. Puckett (8-2, 2.41) and outfielder Hunter Mercado-Hood (.338).
15. Chatsworth 28-5-1
Coach Tom Muesborn’s program, arguably the best in the state since 2000, should churn out another contending team in 2013. The Chancellors figure to be led by senior Jason Karkenny, the returning West Valley League pitcher of the year, along with fellow All-L.A. City infielder Chris DeVito. Chatsworth also should be bolstered with the addition of transfer Marquis Jackson from Alemany of Mission Hills. He is a 6-foot-4, 205-pound outfielder.
16. Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 24-7
It was a breakout season in 2012 for the Jackrabbits, who beat out traditional powers Lakewood, Long Beach Wilson and Long Beach Millikan to win the Moore League title. There are some holes to fill, but the top two players off of that squad are back. Pitcher/first baseman Chris Castellanos was an all-state underclass pick while shortstop/pitcher Frankie Rios is headed to USC.
17. Lakewood 25-7
Four-year varsity standout J.P. Crawford, who was the Cal-Hi Sports State Freshman of the Year for the 2010 season, is the headline returnee for the Lancers. Two others to watch from last year’s roster are pitcher Ricky Winfield (0.36 ERA) and infielder Kyle Clary (.297). Lakewood is appearing much higher in some preseason national rankings than No. 17 in the state, but we preferred to keep defending Moore League champ Long Beach Poly higher – at least until some actual results start coming in.
18. Valley Christian (San Jose) 25-8
The defending CIF Central Coast Section Division I champs must do without Cameron Stewart, who was strongly considered for the Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year honor, but still seem to have plenty of talent on hand. Theron Kay, who was one of the state’s top sophomores (8-2 pitching record, 0.98 ERA plus .279 batting average), is one of those players. Also back are brothers Bryson and Keenan Brigman, who were among Valley Christian’s top hitters as a sophomore and freshman, respectively.
19. Cypress 25-7
The Centurions are getting high marks from many around Southern California for having a strong returning cast from last year’s team that ended up with a good record but was overshadowed at the end by league rival Pacifica. Infielder David Fletcher is a Loyola-Marymount recruit who also was all-state underclass. Also back is Elijah Skipps, a junior outfielder who already has committed to Arizona.
20. Bullard (Fresno) 26-7
Nico Pacheco, the Fresno Bee’s Player of the Year in 2012, is back to serve as the catcher and linchpin of the Knights’ offense and defense. Pacheco caught every inning for last season’s CIF Central Section Division I championship team and also led the Knights in hitting (.364) and RBIs (37). The team does have some other holes to fill (which is why Clovis is ranked higher to start the season) but coach Chad Thornhill also has shown in recent years that the program can be a consistent winner.
Teams on the Bubble
Buhach Colony (Atwater) 23-9
Clovis West (Fresno) 28-5
El Capitan (Lakeside) 30-7
Gahr (Cerritos) 19-11
Garces (Bakersfield) 27-6
Lutheran (Orange) 23-6
Newbury Park 19-7
Serra (San Mateo) 19-13
West Ranch (Valencia) 20-9-1
Willow Glen (San Jose) 22-7
Woodcreek (Roseville) 24-7
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