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Metro Prep Baseball Capsules

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ALBUQUERQUE ACADEMY CHARGERS
Coach: Josue Ayala (7th year)
Last season: 26-3; lost in 4A championship game to Piedra Vista
Returning starters: 5
Top players: Alex Bregman, sr., SS; Kevin Shul, sr., 3B/1B/P; Thanasi Lycou, sr., OF; Tyler Buffett, jr., P; Colby Brown, soph., 2B/SS.
Outlook: Ayala said this about his team’s chances this year: “We’re gonna win it all.” Brash, but he said he has the pitching depth — plus the LSU-committed Bregman, who is probably New Mexico’s best all-around player — to back that up. Buffett recently announced he’d go to Oklahoma State. With Piedra Vista having lost its ace for the year to Tommy John surgery, Academy could step up to win it all in May. Of note: When Buffett pitches, Ayala said, Bregman will catch.

ALBUQUERQUE HIGH BULLDOGS
Coach: Adam Amador (2nd year)
Last season: 9-14
Returning starters: 5
Top players: David Moya, sr., P/CF; Jimmy Schneebeck, jr., SS/P; Esteban Chavez, jr., LF/P; Oscar Morales, jr., 2B; Ray Aragon, jr., C.
Outlook: Most of the team’s junior-dominated roster got varsity experience as sophomores last season, and Amador hopes the Bulldogs can make inroads against Valley and Rio Grande in District 5-5A. He’s banking on good defense and pitching to make this season productive.

ATRISCO HERITAGE ACADEMY JAGUARS
Coach: Anthony Lovato (2nd year)
Last season: 14-14; lost in 4A quarterfinals to Piedra Vista
Returning starters: 9
Top players: Justin Burkeen, sr., P/OF; Jose Ortega, sr., OF/P; James Cordova, jr., C; Andrew Lopez, sr., SS; Nathan Kelly, jr., 3B; Angelo Escarcega, jr., P/1B.
Outlook: The Jaguars had a tremendous first varsity season, and they want to be included in the 4A conversation with the likes of St. Pius and Albuquerque Academy. Cordova led the team in average and RBIs last year. The pitching is not overpowering, but with wood bats in play, it doesn’t have to be.

BELEN EAGLES
Coach: Steve Contreras (5th year)
Last season: 15-12; lost in 4A first round to Atrisco Heritage
Returning starters: 4
Top players: Hunter Blaylock, sr., C/P; Troy Chavez, sr., 2B; Joseph Castillo, sr., 1B; Xavy Armijo, jr., RF; Christopher Newey, jr., LHP/OF.
Outlook: The Eagles will be fairly young, but talented. Can Belen find protection for Blaylock, a UNM recruit, in the lineup, both in front and behind? Blaylock led the team in RBIs and home runs last year, hitting .560. “Our young guys have to grow up quick,” Contreras said.

BERNALILLO SPARTANS
Coach: Dominic Toledo (3rd year)
Last season: 15-11; lost in 4A first round to Abq. Academy
Returning starters: 6
Top players: Thomas Duran, sr., P/SS; Donovan Aguilar, sr., CF/P; Devin Samora, jr., 1B/P; Clinton Reynolds, jr., utility.
Outlook: The Spartans may start slow, with a handful of players still in basketball, but Toledo thinks Bernalillo has the pitching depth to again make a run at the playoffs. Duran and Aguilar are three-year starters. The lineup has less power, but more balance.

CIBOLA COUGARS
Coach: Ramon Gonzales (3rd year)
Last season: 7-18
Returning starters: 8
Top players: Troy Mares, jr., SS; Brett Saxon, sr., C/P; Croix Sedillo, sr., utility; Drew Janis, jr., OF/P; Jason Schoolcraft, jr., 2B; Phil Trujillo, jr., LHP/1B; Adrian Ramirez, sr., CF/LHP.
Outlook: The young, untested Cougars struggled through 2011, but Gonzales thinks this team should contend in a tough District 1-5A with Volcano Vista, Cleveland and Rio Rancho. Ramirez and Mares are probably the best sticks in the lineup, and the pitching, Gonzales said, is “decent.”

CLEVELAND STORM
Coach: Shane Shallenberger (3rd year)
Last season: 23-7; lost in 5A semifinals to Volcano Vista
Returning starters: 6
Top players: Natty Lucero, sr., P/CF; Chris Foster, jr., C; Robert Montoya, sr., SS/P; Matt Villalobos, sr., 3B/P; James Cleveland, sr., OF.
Outlook: Coming off a strong summer, the Storm need to replace Blake Swihart, but this is a sturdy lineup, led by Montoya and Villalobos. There is more depth and experience with the pitching, and the Storm hopes to be better defensively this spring.

DEL NORTE KNIGHTS
Coach: Ben White (3rd year)
Last season: 4-20
Returning starters: 5
Top players: Anthony Artiaga, sr., LHP; Robert Sanchez, sr., CF; Cody Narvaez, sr., 3B; Anthony Martinez, sr., SS; Derek Madrid, jr., C.
Outlook: The Knights have got a pair of three-year starters in Sanchez and Narvaez, and key transfers in Artiaga (San Diego) and Madrid (Sandia HS). White hopes this team can get above the .500 mark this year, but better defense must be part of the equation.

EAST MOUNTAIN TIMBERWOLVES
Coach: David Naylor (8th year)
Last season: 15-6; lost in 2A first round to Lordsburg
Returning starters: 9
Top players: Ray Demarest, sr., P/SS; R.J. Butler, soph., LHP/1B; Jesse Crawford, jr., utility; Alfonso Archuleta III, jr., IF; Josh Doyle, soph., IF.
Outlook: The Timberwolves did beat eventual state champion Estancia once last season, which is a great starting point. And with everyone back, East Mountain is thinking big. “The most athletic and gifted group of kids that I’ve had,” Naylor said.

ELDORADO EAGLES
Coach: Jim Johns (25th year)
Last season: 18-10; lost in 5A quarterfinals to La Cueva
Returning starters: 4
Top players: Thomas Lee Mares, sr., SS/P; Cullen O’Dwyer, sr., RF/LHP; Sam Segotta, sr., CF; Victor Guevara, sr., 2B; Brandon Treadwell, sr., P/1B.
Outlook: The Eagles are fairly inexperienced, and it’s how new faces mature that could dictate how Eldorado fares in 2012. The Arizona State-bound O’Dwyer is one of 5A’s best players, and Mares will have to be sharp when he’s on the bump.

HIGHLAND HORNETS
Coach: Hector Martinez (2nd year)
Last season: 2-22
Returning starters: 7
Top players: David Brown, sr., CF; Jessee Grey, sr., P; Ryan Wicketts, soph., LHP; Preston McFarlane, sr., utility; Julian Chavez, jr., 1B.
Outlook: Highland hopes its experience will translate into a better season, as the Hornets have won just two games in two years. Brown skipped basketball to concentrate on baseball, and he’s an All-District performer. Grey and Wicketts will carry the load on the bump, but the Hive must give them run support.

HOPE CHRISTIAN HUSKIES
Coach: Sean Anthony (3rd year)
Last season: 23-7; lost to Sandia Prep in 3A championship game
Returning starters: 5
Top players: Nathan Burford, sr., P/3B; Ian Sutton, sr., P/CF; John Jensen, soph., C; Keenan Dodd, soph., SS/P; Kyle Howell, soph., 2B.
Outlook: The Huskies will be loaded with 10th-graders, but Jensen, Dodd and Howell are all third-year varsity players. Hope perhaps doesn’t quite have the pitching it had, but Anthony said the wood bats will “bring other teams to our style of play.”

LA CUEVA BEARS
Coach: Gerard Pineda (3rd year)
Last season: 25-4; Class 5A state champions
Returning starters: 5
Top players: Tyler Straub, sr., SS; Reece Lucero, sr., C; Nate Bauder, sr., 2B/P; Brett Worthen, sr., P/OF; Austin Grier, sr., utility.
Outlook: Generally, many coaches are looking to the Bears as the 5A favorites, although they, like many teams, have holes to fill, especially on the mound. And it’s a more unproven team than the past couple of seasons. Of the 64 returning varsity innings La Cueva has, Worthen logged 55 of them. Still, there shouldn’t be a huge drop-off for the Bears.

LOS LUNAS TIGERS
Coach: Robert Riggins (3rd year)
Last season: 15-12; lost in 4A quarterfinals to Abq. Academy
Returning starters: 7
Top players: Greg Wortman, jr., C; Mario Legarda, sr., C; Cody Reynolds, sr., 1B; John Rivera, jr., 2B; Isaac Parra, jr., 3B; Donald Cruz, jr., OF; Ruger Rodriguez, jr., RHP.
Outlook: The Tigers hope to challenge Valencia for supremacy in District 6-4A. They started as many as seven sophomores last season. Wortman led the team in home runs, Reynolds was the top RBI guy, and Rivera is one of the team’s best hitters. Wortman and Legada both will do some pitching, as well.

MANZANO MONARCHS
Coach: Jim Briggs (19th year)
Outlook: The Monarchs were young last season, which made it difficult to contend in District 2-5A. Manzano will be very young once again, but the Monarchs hope to make some inroads against La Cueva, Sandia and Eldorado. Repeated efforts to contact Briggs were unsuccessful.

MORIARTY PINTOS
Coach: Mark Medina (1st year)
Last season: 10-17; lost in 4A first round to Piedra Vista
Top players: Nick Jones, jr., LHP; Lawrence Stefan, sr., P; Nick Gonzales, jr., CF; Trey Chancellor, jr., MIF; Nick Garley, jr., C/3B.
Outlook: Medina’s program has been playing catch-up; the Pintos didn’t even start practicing on their field until this week because of field problems and snow. They’re also in the state’s toughest 4A district.

RIO GRANDE RAVENS
Coach: Orlando Griego (17th year)
Last season: 22-6; lost to Valley in 5A quarterfinals
Returning starters: 7
Top players: George Torrez, sr., P; Matt Valdez, jr., LHP; Jacob Marquez, sr., P; Nick Ortega, sr., C; Jerel Stevens, jr., DH; Luis Hernandez, jr., 1B/DH.
Outlook: The Ravens have some of the best pitching depth in 5A, and the lineup, which includes returner (and leadoff man) Tyler Pimental, likes playing small ball, so switching to wood shouldn’t have a major impact.

RIO RANCHO RAMS
Coach: Ron Murphy (15th year)
Last season: 13-16; lost in 5A first round to Rio Grande
Returning starters: 9
Top players: Marcus Martinez, soph., C; Seth Felix, jr., SS; Brandon Garcia, jr., 3B; Brenden Wanchek, jr., 3B/P; Evan Offutt, jr., DH; Easton Bruere, fresh., LF/P.
Outlook: The Rams are one of the most promising young teams in 5A; in fact, they do not start a single senior. Don’t let the youth fool you. This is an extremely talented roster, with a deep pitching staff. How much has Rio Rancho grown up since last season? That will be one of the more fascinating story lines to follow this year.

SANDIA MATADORS
Coach: John Gunther (1st year)
Last season: 12-14; lost in 5A first round to Carlsbad
Returning starters: 6
Top players: Derek Blaisuis, sr., CF; Marvin Ortiz, sr., 3B/P; Taylor Duree, sr., P; Jaime Moya, jr., C; Craig Coffman, jr., 1B.
Outlook: With Ortiz and Duree, the Matadors potentially have one of the best 1-2 pitching combinations anywhere. Sandia took 10 sophomores to state last year, and they’ll have to blossom in order to challenge La Cueva in District 2-5A.

SANDIA PREP SUNDEVILS
Coach: Paul Huitt (14th year)
Last season: 24-7; Class 3A state champions
Returning starters: 2
Top players: Roberto Martinez, sr., OF/P; Genaro Montoya, sr., OF/SS/P; Dalton Turpen, soph., C/3B; Isaiah Marquez, sr., OF/IF.
Outlook: The Sundevils graduated 11 seniors, but have two outstanding starters back in Martinez, who led the team in hits and RBIs, and Montoya, who led the team in runs from his leadoff position. Can some of Sandia Prep’s new varsity faces keep the program going strong?

ST. PIUS SARTANS
Coach: Marc Hilton (12th year)
Last season: 17-11; lost in 4A semifinals to Abq. Academy
Returning starters: 7
Top players: Kevin Piersol, sr., P/OF; Quintin Rizek, sr., OF; Chris Lobato, sr., C; R.J. Saiz, sr., 3B; Kyle Piersol, soph., SS; Cody Bower, jr., OF.
Outlook: This is an athletic, experienced, talented group that figures to challenge Academy in District 5-4A. There are three Division I recruits on this team — Kevin Piersol (NMSU), Kyle Piersol (UNM) and Bower (UNM). The latter two gave recent verbals to the Lobos. St. Pius has added much-needed pitching depth to supplement the staff ace, Kevin Piersol, a first-team all-stater last year.

VALENCIA JAGUARS
Coach: Carlos Carrasco (4th year)
Last season: 19-8; lost in 4A first round to Goddard
Returning starters: 7
Top players: Jorge Venegas, sr., P/2B; Robert Carrasco, sr., P/SS; Cody Koontz, sr., P/CF; Joe Salas, sr., P/1B; Cade Garcia, jr., P/3B; Jude Pepke, jr., P/C; Ryan Garcia, jr., P/RF.
Outlook: The Jaguars seem to be the pick as the District 6-4A favorite. Venegas was the staff ace last year, and Valencia had a prolific offense, with a team batting average close to .400. It’s a senior-heavy group with plenty of pitching depth. Carrasco said Valencia’s small-ball approach should make the transition to wood bats relatively smooth.

VALLEY VIKINGS
Coach: Chad Kuhn (7th year)
Last season: 17-12; lost in 5A semifinals to La Cueva
Returning starters: 5
Top players: Joe Gros, sr., P; Ty Bess, sr., 1B; Ruben Aguirre, sr., SS; Skyler Wilson, sr., 2B; Andrew Montoya, jr., C.
Outlook: Kuhn likes his team’s chances this season to make some noise, especially coming off a surprising postseason run last year that saw them one victory from the state finals. Gros is a reliable No. 1, and Bess was a Journal All-Metro selection last season.

VOLCANO VISTA HAWKS
Coach: Kevin Andersh (4th year)
Last season: 25-4; lost to La Cueva in 5A championship game
Returning starters: 4
Top players: Andre Vigil, jr., 2B; Dalton Bowers, sr., SS; Josh Day, jr., CF; Brock Sullivan, jr., 3B; Brian Fox, jr., P; Jacob Garcia, jr., C.
Outlook: Vigil and Bowers are both UNM recruits, but the Hawks were hit extremely hard at the pitching position, where they lost a majority of their wins and innings to graduation. Fox and senior Tyler Adams figure to get the ball quite a bit. Vigil is a beast at the plate; it will be interesting to see how his numbers pan out with the move to wood this year.

WEST MESA MUSTANGS
Coach: Richard Cordova (3rd year)
Last season: 7-17
Returning starters: 4
Top players: Jordan Davila, soph., 2B/P; Estevan Tafoya, jr., LHP/1B; Anthony Gonzales, jr., C; Luis Medrano, soph., SS/P; Jose Ledesma, jr., P/CF.
Outlook: The Mustangs could start as many as five or six ninth-/10th-graders this season, Cordova said. But he thinks this is the most talented team he’s had since he started at West Mesa. The key is how the young players mature, and also the Mustangs’ offense, which returns only one player (Davila) who batted over .300 last year.

— Compiled by James Yodice

— This article appeared on page D7 of the Albuquerque Journal

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