Prep Baseball Preview: Rancho Bernardo High, Poway return star-studded lineups
By Michael Bower
There is a never-ending list of talent in the local area thanks to all of the returning players from last season.
Rancho Bernardo High is the leader of the pack, bringing back nearly everyone from last year’s CIF San Diego Section Division II runner-up squad.
The Broncos, ranked No. 8 in the state, are the favorites in the Palomar League and arguably have the best talent of any team in the county up the middle.
Poway is still young, but with a handful of up-and-coming stars already with varsity experience, the Titans will be a threat in the Palomar League.
Del Norte should be near the top of the Valley League once again, but could struggle early while it tries to figure out its pitching situation. The Nighthawks will lean on a core group of veterans most of whom will be starting for the first time.
Here is a closer look at the local teams:
Coach: Sam Blalock, 23rd year
2012 Record: 23-10, Palomar League champions. Went 3-1 in Division II playoffs (fell to La Costa Canyon in championship game)
2013 Division: Open
Key players: C, Alex Jackson, Jr.; 2B, Gosuke Katoh, Sr.; SS. Matt Jervis, Sr.; P, Parker Bugg, Sr.; P, Matt Osborne, Sr.; CF, Preston Sands, Sr.; Inf./P, Casey Henderson, Jr.; OF, Mondesi Gutierrez, Jr.; OF/P, Drew Davis, Sr.
Outlook: The Broncos have a long list of talented veterans and are strong at every position on the field, especially up the middle.
RB boasts one of the best double-play combinations in the section with UCLA-bound Katoh and Point Loma Nazarene-bound Jervis. Behind the plate is the No. 1 junior prospect in the nation, Jackson. The right-handed catcher smashed 17 home runs last season. Point Loma Nazarene-bound Preston Sands will shift from right field to center field, and with LSU-bound righty Bugg, Osborne and Henderson on the mound, the Broncos are the favorite in the Palomar League and should challenge for the newly formed Open Division section crown.
RB enters the year ranked No. 8 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 3 in the section behind No. 1 in the nation, Cathedral Catholic, and No. 4 in the nation, Vista.
Coach: Bob Perry, 19th year
2012 Record: 18-14, went 1-2 in Division I playoffs
2013 Division: Open
Key players: OF, Kyle Dean, So.; 3B, Tyler Nevin, So.; CF, Joey Fiske, Jr.; P/1B/OF, Sam Godfrey, Jr.; P/Uti., Justin McSorley, Sr.; OF, Chris Lowe, Jr.; SS, Brett Singer, So.; P, Tommy Brunansky, Jr.
Outlook: The Titans are young, but have many players with bright futures ahead of them.
Dean, who hit cleanup for the 15U USA Team over the summer, and Nevin, a UCLA commit, will bolster the middle half of the lineup. McSorley, the ace of the pitching staff, will also provide some pop at the plate.
The lingering question mark — and it has been since last season — comes on the mound.
“We are still trying to figure that out,” Perry said. “We have some younger guys that can throw.”
Godfrey, Brunansky and Nevin will certainly get their share of time, but after that it will come down to the guys who show the best stuff throughout the season. The benefit of already being in the Open Division playoffs allows the Titans to give everyone a shot without worrying about dropping a few games.
“You always find one or two guys that step it up every year, and with us already in the playoffs it will allow me to find those guys a little easier,” Perry said. “I can give those kids more chances because we don’t have to worry about how many wins we have or how many more we need to get to the playoffs.”
The Titans are an eager, close-knit group and should challenge Rancho Bernardo for the Palomar League crown.
Coach: Rielly Embrey, 4th year
2012 Record: 16-12, missed playoffs
2013 Division: Division III
Key players: CF, Matt Miller, Sr.; P, Corey Werneth, Sr.; P, Stephen Xirinachs, Sr.; Inf., Brady Groesbeck, Sr.; Inf., Connor Toor, Sr.; 1B/P, Anthony Hensley, Sr.; P/Inf., Tyler Plantier, Jr.; C, Dillon Kidwell, So.
Outlook: The pitching staff took a hit due to graduation, but the Nighthawks are hoping their bats and defense can help them early while they figure out the starting rotation.
One thing in stone is the ace of the staff and that will be Werneth. After that, though, Del Norte will have to see which guys step it up during the season.
Del Norte returns nine from last year and seven of them will be playing their third year on the varsity.
Plantier, son of San Diego Padres hitting coach Phil Plantier, should help at the plate and on the mound. Miller will also provide some pop at the plate.
The Nighthawks figure to challenge for the Valley League crown, but Ramona is definitely the team to beat. Valley Center and Oceanside will also compete for the title.
Coach: Mike Lord, 1st year
2012 Record: 7-14, lost play-in game for spot in Division V playoffs
2013 Division: Division V
Key players: 1B/P, Jake Kirby, Sr.; C/P, Corey Adkins, So.; SS, Metro Henning, So.; CF/P, Jacob Secrist, Sr.; P, Harry Neidermyer, Fr.; P, Matt DeWildt, Fr.
Outlook: The Eagles do not have much depth with only 14 players on the roster, which could present a challenge for new coach, Lord.
Maranatha will be led by two freshmen on the mound, Neidermyer and DeWildt. Seniors Kirby and Secrist could also get some innings.
“We have some young pitchers that are good, but they need to grow up,” Lord said. “They are just puppies that have to grow.”
Adkins is a solid catcher and pitcher, but will be out with an injury for an undisclosed amount of time.
Kirby will lead the offensive attack for the Eagles, which will enter the Pacific League this season. Tri-City Christian is the favorite to win the league title.
“Our biggest challenge is numbers,” Lord said. “If anyone gets hurt, then we have to start playing guys at positions they have never played before.”
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