Position Depth Gives PCC Baseball Reason To Look Up In 2013
The Pasadena City College baseball team has a dilemma as the 2013 season began this weekend, but unlike recent seasons, it's the type of situation the coaching staff can look as a positive. Instead of fielding a set starting nine unit in the field, ninth-year head coach Evan O'Meara's Lancers have a bevy of interchangeable parts and more depth at starting spots than in any previous season.
Through two games and a 1-1 record, the Lancers also have shown able starting pitching, solid defense, and an ability to put players on base.
On Saturday, PCC started knuckleballer Tim Shiba and the freshman from Cathedral High twirled a gem, allowing just seven hits and two earned runs over seven innings in a 10-6 Lancers' win. PCC gave Shiba support right off the bat with five runs in the top of the first inning, keyed by a three-run triple ripped by rightfielder Aaron Correa (La Habra High). Second baseman Bobby Fraijo (San Dimas) led a 13-hit attack by going 3-for-5 with two RBI.
Shiba, who throws more than 80 percent knuckleballs but never faster than 70 miles per hour, kept AVC off balance, getting 14 of his outs on popups and fly balls. Shiba did not strike out a batter and only walked two in a successful Lancers' debut.
It took two parks, two days, two sets of umpires, but PCC and Antelope Valley finished the '13 season opener. It began Friday at Brookside Park's Jackie Robinson Memorial Field with the Lancers and Marauders tied at 3-3 in the 10th inning before the game was halted due to darkness.
The game was completed Saturday at AVC's Marauder Stadium as the Lancers lost a tough one, 4-3, in 11 innings. The regularly scheduled game started 15 minutes following the defeat.
PCC ended up stranding 20 runners on base in the game, including the bases loaded in the 11th. Designated hitter Cody Van-Es (Village Christian) lined out to center field for the game's final out.
In the portion of the game played at Robinson Field, the Lancers rallied from 3-2 down in the bottom of the ninth. Down to their final out and no one on base, catcher Corey Richards (South Pasadena HS) lined his third hit of the game to right field. Fraijo walked, and then PCC tied it when both pinch hitter Cameron Silva (Crescenta Valley) and then third baseman David Halstead (All-South Coast Conference Second Team last year at DH who hit .337, from Eagle Rock High), drew hit by pitches.
In the 11th, AVC would score the go-ahead run on a RBI single by Dakoda Jolliffe.
PCC received another strong starting performance by letterman right-hander Trevor Gleason, who pitched the opener's first seven innings, allowing eight hits, two earned runs, walking one, and striking out eight batters. New starting shortstop Josh Clark (Duarte) reached base five times in the contest on two hits and three walks.
In the second game, leftfielder Tarik El Abour (returner from 2011, San Marino High) also reached base safely five times as he was 2-for-3 with two stolen bases, two runs scored, two hit by pitches, and a walk. Silva, the starting catcher, added two hits as did centerfielder Angelo Robledo (Pasadena High) and Correa.
The defense including a diving catch by El Abour, a terrific catch in left center by Robledo that took away a potential two-run hit, and the highlight reel play of the day by Halstead. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Halstead ended the third inning by leaping at the third base fence and somehow making the catch on a foul ball hit by Jose Tejada. It ended a rally by the Marauders, who had runners on second and third.
In two games, PCC played 19 different position players, 12 of them getting hits. O'Meara's potential starting unit includes two blue-chip catchers in Richards and Silva and first baseman Christian Ybarra (Silverado High). O'Meara feels he has an exceptional double-play combo in second baseman Fraijo and shorstop Clark. Halstead, Correa, and Jonathan Cuatete (Eagle Rock High) all can play third base with Halstead also in the mix at first base. In the outfield, returner Anthony Martinez (Roosevelt HS) and El Abour both started left field, returner Charles Smith (Muir High) and Robledo started in center field, and Phillip Perez (Cathedral) and Correa played right field. David Kalendarian (South Hills) and Juwan Robins (Burbank High) also have seen action in the outfield.
Returning designated hitter/infielder Tyler Dominguez (Arcadia High, .311 average in 2012), yet another third baseman in Joseph Acosta (Chino Hills), and second baseman Josh Jimenez (Marshall Fundamental) add to the Lancers' infield depth.
"We don't have the star power, sort of like we had in Matt Chavez last year," O'Meara said. "But what we have is true depth. We don't have to stick with one player if that player is struggling, and we can use a pinch hitter or a defensive replacement late in games. Guys are going to see playing time on this team, and the players who are productive are going to start more often than not."
On the pitching staff, O'Meara has a pair of key relievers in returning sophomores Evan Stransky (Temple City High) and Spencer Stute (Duarte).
O'Meara's assistant coaching staff includes Dave Walters, who returns for his third season, and newcomers in Marcos Bugarin, Brian Smith, and Matt Kiewiet. Walters, Bugarin, and Smith are all former Lancer players.
In the home opener, PCC players wore the replica 1938 Pasadena Junior College gray jersey tops that honor alumnus and baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Lancers are back in action with a non-conference game at Grossmont College. First pitch is 2 p.m.
Ball-Yard Notes: Eight players in all return from the 2012 roster, including Daniel Gomez, a pitcher who started several games last season at third base because of a slew of team injuries...Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch Friday was the sport information specialist at the college, Robert Lewis. After "firing" a fastball on the outside corner for an alleged strike, he asked for his arm to be iced down by the PCC training staff.
[Photo--Corey Richards is excited running up the first base line after driving a hit during PCC's season opener Friday at Jackie Robinson Memorial Field, image by Richard Quinton, sports information photographer.]