Prep baseball season previews
Last year: 11-7
Top returners: Oscar Elizarraras, sr., 1B/P; Zebastian Valenzuela, sr., 1B/OF/P; Tim Frost, sr., INF/P; Jordhy Renteria, sr., OF/P
Key newcomers: Caeden Ethington, sr., 3B/C/P; Joel Berlarde, sr., OF
Coach Duane Evans' comments: “I'm using (last year) on them to stay focused the entire year because you have any let down, one game here or there, and it could cost you a chance in the playoffs.”
The lowdown: Last year, the Raiders finished No. 27 in Division I and narrowly missed the playoffs. They also had four losses by two runs or less, which was the result of the Raiders' inconsistent play. However, they bring back several players from last year — including juniors Adan and Alan Vega, seniors Ronnie and Danny Flores, and senior left fielder Johnny Ortiz. The biggest question mark will be replacing former ace pitcher Christian Marquez, but Evans feels comfortable that he has plenty of arms and Elizarraras and Valenzuela will step up on the mound.
Gila Ridge Hawks
Last year: 15-3, lost in second round of Division II state tournament
Top returners: Irving Lopez, sr., 2B/P; Hayato Johnson, sr., 1B; Marco Jaime, jr., SS; Bobby Mena, jr., CF; Austin Browning, sr., C; Victor Castro, jr., P
Key newcomers: Emilio Griego, jr., P
Coach Greg Osowski's comments: “We're trying not to get ahead of ourselves, but we want to get to (state) again.”
The lowdown: The Hawks have the luxury of bringing back their entire infield — including studs in Lopez, Johnson and Jaime, who all made the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club All-Region Baseball Team last season. The biggest hole the Hawks will have to fill is on the mound, where they lose last year's Player of the Year in Irving Elizarraras. Castro looks to be one of the guys that Osowski thinks could fill the void after he went 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA and two saves last season. Senior Isaac Rivera, who went 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA, is another arm for the Hawks and possibly Lopez, who went 2-0 in three appearances. With nearly the entire starting lineup back from a state playoff team, Osowski said this is one of the most experienced teams he's had at Gila Ridge.
San Luis Sidewinders
Last year: 5-13
Top returners: Alexander Bazua, sr., SS/P; Jonathan Bazua, sr., OF/INF; Jorge Duarte, jr., OF/P; Jerry Ochoa, soph., P/1B; Alejandro Aguilar, sr., 1B/P
Key newcomers: Marco Diaz, soph., INF/P; Miguel Valenzuela, jr., OF/P
Coach Cesar Castillo comments: “There's high expectations that considering last year we were so young that we can turn it around. They're work ethic is getting better and I see a lot of trust.”
The lowdown: Last season, the young Sidewinders lost five games by two runs or fewer — including four games by one. Four of those close losses came during an eight-game losing streak in the early part of the season. After they righted the ship, San Luis finished the year 4-4 in their final eight games and seemed like they were maturing. Aguilar finished the season hitting .369 and Duarte ended at .355. Sophomore Fernando Fimbres led the Sidewinders last season with a .414 batting average. On the mound, Alexander Bazua went 3-4 but had a 3.18 ERA and Aguilar (3-3, 3.32) threw the second-most innings.
San Pasqual Warriors
Last year: 5-12
Top returners: Andrew Lomaintewa, sr., SS/P; Alfonso Nunez, jr., C/3B; Kristopher Aliva, soph., P/OF
Key newcomers: Deion Twist, fresh., C/SS/P; Luis Castaneda, fresh., P/1B
Coach Faron Owl's comments: “(Lomaintewa) is kind of my multi-purpose, play-everywhere player.”
The lowdown: The Warriors bring back their best player from last year — Lomaintewa — as well as a group of five freshman that Owl said he expects good things from. If the freshman can develop, along with the skills that Lomaintewa, Nunez and Aliva already bring the table, the Warriors could improve on their 5-12 record from a year ago.
Yuma Catholic Shamrocks
Last year: 15-2, lost to St. David in Division IV state championship
Top returners: Zach Boehler, jr., 3B; Jaime Montanez, soph., SS; Matt Milnick, sr., P/1B; Joey Miranda, soph., LF/C
Key newcomers: Sam Atiyeh, soph., P/1B; Keone Mills, soph., C; Alex Olsen, fresh., 2B
Coach Curt Foppe's comments: “The expectations stay the same. We have a lot of talent, it's just young talent.”
The lowdown: Most of the key players from last year's state runner-up team are gone, including a pair of Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club All-Region Baseball Team members in ace pitcher Matt Koppinger and catcher Wade McBride. Foppe said he thinks the players returning learned from those seniors and have taken the reins of the team this season. Boehler hit .484 last year with seven doubles and Miranda went .429 and was third on the team with four triples. On the mound, Milnick went 3-0 with a 2.75 ERA in eight appearences. The Shamrocks get a quick test when they open the season on Feb. 25 against River Valley, which won the AIA Division III State Championship last season.
Yuma High Criminals
Last year: 6-12
Top returners: Daniel Ramirez, sr., CF; Erfrain Garcia, jr., SS
Key newcomers: Kevin Hunt, soph., INF; Saul Marquez, soph., C
Coach Judd Thrower's comments: “We only got four seniors, but they're answering the call and are being leaders.”
The lowdown: After going 18-11 and making the state playoffs in 2011, the Criminals had a bit of a down year last season, but Thrower expects this year's Yuma High group to be a scrappy bunch. They'll have to replace Matt Higgins, who hit .341 and went 5-3 on the mound, and Angel Garcia, who hit a team-high .359. Thrower expects the pitching load to be led by seniors Nick Mendoza (4.01 ERA with two starts) and Marley Robbins (4.30 in 12 appearances).
— Antelope coach Lance Wagner could not be reached. Capsules compiled by Jesse Severson