ALHAMBRA – The Mark Keppel baseball team is tired of being a bridesmaid. This year it wants to get married.
“Overall, we’re really experienced,” said veteran Keppel coach Houston Hernandez. “We have a strong junior group of guys. This is the first year Keppel baseball has expectations. We’re not going to sneak up on anybody. We’re going to be seeing team’s number one and two pitchers.
“This is the year we come to win.”
Hernandez said he is very positive about his pitching staff.
“We’re real deep,” he said. “We’ve got about seven guys who can throw.”
Leading the charge from the mound should be junior right hander Ruben Mendia.
“He’s a power pitcher,” Hernandez said of Mendia. “He can get strikeouts for us. He’s a fastball, change-up, cutter guy.”
Also expected to do well on the mound is Victor Chen, another right handed junior who Hernandez called his number two starter.
“He’s a strike-thrower and gets groundouts and flyouts, gets guys out at the plate,” Hernandez said of Chen. “He has to hit his spots. If he doesn’t, he’ll get hit.”
Another pitcher to watch for, Hernandez said, is yet another junior right hander Joseph Barajas. Barajas throws a fastball, change-up and a slider.
“If (Barajas) throws strikes for us, he’ll make our rotation really deep,” Hernandez said.
Pitcher Mendia is also expected to play third base and bat well when not on the mound.
“He’s our number three hitter, a three-year starter on varsity,” Hernandez said. “He’s got power to all fields. He’s going to get a lot of opportunities this season.”
And batting leadoff to get the Aztec offense going will be senior right fielder Will Hatem.
“He gets on, steals a lot of bases,” Hernandez said of Hatem. “He’s the fastest guy on our team.”
THE STORY DOWN THE ROAD AT SCHURR HIGH is that the Spartans are going with a youth movement this season.
“We’re very young,” said Schurr coach Frank Gonzalez. “I have one varsity returning. But we’re energetic, hardworking, but young.”
So, what is the goal for this team?
“We’re hoping to make a playoff run,” Gonzalez said.
On the mound for the Spartans should be sophomore rightie Louie Barriga and junior southpaw Joaquin Cesena.
“They mix it up a little,” Gonzalez said of his two starting pitchers. “Neither one of them throws very hard. They just try to hit their spots. They both throw fastballs and change-ups and an occasional curveball. We’re working on arm strength.”
The anchor to the infield is expected to be junior third baseman Adam Alfaro.
“(Alfaro’s) good, but these kids aren’t used to varsity pitching, so that’s going to be our weakness,” Gonzalez said.
The key to the outfield should be senior Armando Rodriguez, who has been known to be solid defensively. Plus more.
“A lot of leadership that I’m starting to get now is from Rodriguez,” Gonzalez said. “He makes sure people are in the right spots and doing their jobs.
“Offensively, he’s seeing varsity pitching for the first time this year. That’s going to be our Achilles heel: hitting varsity pitching.”
Look for Keith Le Nou to do well at second base for the Spartans and if there are any troubles with the front two pitchers, freshman right hander Kenny Carrillo could see some action on the mound.