A Look at the City’s Prep Teams
ALBUQUERQUE ACADEMY CHARGERS
Coach: Josue Ayala (4th year)
Last Year: 24-4; Class 4A state champions
Players to Watch: Alex
Bregman, soph., SS; Sean Carrier, sr., 1B; Elliott Hansen, sr., DH;
James Rosprim, sr., 2B; Ben Gilman, sr., C; Kevin Shul, soph., C.
About the Chargers:
The defending 4A state champions were hit hard by graduation; Bregman
is the team’s best player and one of New Mexico’s most coveted talents.
Academy will spend the first month cultivating its pitching to identify
the top arms to lead it into district. But the Chargers’ offense will
have to be creative after hitting 59 homers last year.
Calendar watching: March 11 vs. Eldorado; March 13 vs. Rio Grande; March 15/30 vs. Volcano Vista; May 1, DH vs. Moriarty.
ALBUQUERQUE HIGH BULLDOGS
Coach: Al Guadagnoli (3rd year)
Last Year: 6-20
Players to Watch: Braulio Hernandez, sr., P-SS; Kellen Drake-Lavelle, jr., 3B-P; Matt Fatta, jr., C-2B, P; Zach Chavez, jr., 1B-P; Tyler Bess, soph., 1B-P.
About the Bulldogs: Hernandez is getting looks from a handful of Major League teams, and AHS might have enough support around him to make at least some noise in 2-5A behind La Cueva and Sandia. But can AHS score the runs it needs to keep pace?
Calendar watching: March 3, vs. Academy; April 17, DH vs. Sandia.
Coach: Steven Contreras (3rd year)
Last Year: 18-11; lost in 4A quarterfinals to Piedra Vista
Players to Watch: Hunter Blaylock, soph., C; Steven Contreras, jr., CF-P; Zeke Gonzalez, sr., 3B; Matt Holona, jr., 1B-P; Quentin Mansfield, jr., P-LF; Danny Jaramillo, jr., SS-P.
About the Eagles: The defending District 6-4A champs will face a strong challenge from Volcano Vista, but Belen is up to it with seven returning starters on a team dominated by juniors. The Eagles are very capable offensively, led by Contreras, and Holona already has a no-hitter this season. Calendar watching: March 3 vs. Valencia; April 3, DH vs. Moriarty; April 24, DH vs. Volcano Vista.
Coach: Dominic Toledo (1st year)
Last Year: N/A
Players to Watch: Zac Martin, sr., 3B; Paul Lopez, sr., 2B; Dillon Darnell, jr., SS-P; Thomas Duran, soph., SS-P; Ryan Garcia, jr., C.
About the Spartans: Toledo, a former Bernalillo player, comes home to coach his alma mater. The Spartans have some speed at the top of the lineup with Duran and Ryan Garcia, and power with Darnell, Martin and Omar Luna.
Calendar watching: March 16 vs. Belen; March 25 vs. Volcano Vista; March 24, DH vs. Los Alamos.
Coach: Ramon Gonzales (1st year)
Last Year: 12-16; lost in 5A first round to Sandia
Players to Watch: Cody Calhoun, sr., P-OF-C; Carlos Chavez, sr., P-2B; Taylor Dudley, sr., CF; David Zamora, sr., P; Jimmy Hassel, sr., 1B-P.
About the Cougars: Cibola has a dozen seniors but are in a new system under Gonzales. It’s a small-ball approach Gonzales brings over from Rio Grande where he was an assistant. Calhoun and Hassel give the Cougars a couple of solid starters.
Calendar watching: March 6, DH vs. Oñate; March 23 vs. La Cueva; April 13/April 30 vs. Rio Rancho.
Coach: Shane Shallenberger
Last Year: 2010 first year of program
Players to Watch: Blake Swihart, jr., C-SS; Iseha Conklin, jr., SS; Matt Villalobos, soph., C-3B-SS; Robert Montoya, soph., utility.
About the Storm: Cleveland figures to be fairly competitive as the program takes its first steps. Swihart is one of the state’s best players, and a switch-hitting catcher to boot. The biggest necessity is to figure out a pitching rotation.
Calendar watching: March 13 vs. Eldorado; March 25 vs. Artesia; April 9/April 27 vs. Rio Rancho.
DEL NORTE KNIGHTS
Coach: Ben White (1st year)
Last Year: 6-20
Players to Watch: Cameron Stern, sr., SS; Kaleb Blewitt, sr., 2B; John Johnston, jr., C; Kyle Higgins, sr., P; Kasey Higgins, jr., P.
About the Knights: The family Higgins give the Knights a decent 1-2 pitching combination, and Del Norte does have 12 seniors. Stern and Blewitt have been together for years and give the team strength up the middle on defense.
Calendar watching: March 6, DH vs. Piedra Vista; March 9, vs. Eldorado; March 24, vs. Belen; April 3, vs. Volcano Vista.
EAST MOUNTAIN TIMBERWOLVES
Coach: David Naylor (7th year)
Last Year: 16-5; lost to Eunice in 1A-2A quarterfinals
Players to Watch: Greg Stottlemyer, sr., 1B; Jeff DeLanoy, sr., P-IF; Ray Demarest, soph., SS-P; Travis Kornegay, soph., utility; Jesse Crawford, fresh., P-C.
About the Timberwolves: East Mountain lost four of its top five batters in the lineup to graduation, and of its 11 players only three are seniors. The rest are freshmen and sophomores. Demarest came up big in the playoffs last year against Clayton.
Calendar watching: April 12, DH vs. Texico; April 16/April 22 vs. Santa Rosa.
Coach: Jim Johns (23rd year)
Last Year: 19-10; lost to Rio Rancho in 5A quarterfinals
Players to Watch: Sam Wilson, sr., P-CF; Bobby Blackstone, sr., 2B; Armin Day, sr., 1B; Nick Schnedar, sr., OF; Emmanuel Lucero, sr., LF.
About the Eagles: They graduated some power in the middle of the lineup, but a very good pitching staff — led by Wilson, and fellow southpaws Joseph Martinez and Pat Roney — should help make up some of the difference. Johns thinks the Eagles will run a bit more, led at the top of the lineup by Schnedar, Blackstone and Wilson.
Calendar watching: March 6 vs. La Cueva; March 25 vs. Sandia; March 27 vs. Volcano Vista; April 10/April 22 vs. Rio Grande.
Coach: Jay Dines (2nd year)
Last Year: 0-23
Players to Watch: Nick Nguyen, sr., 2B; Hank Delgado, jr., P-IF-OF; Daniel Molina, sr., IF-P; Alex Sayers, jr., SS; Daniel Bustillo, jr., 3B.
About the Hornets: Highland returns everyone except two players from a winless 2009 squad, so the Hive should make strides in the right direction. They had trouble scoring runs last year, but the young talent has had a year to adjust to varsity pitching.
Calendar watching: March 9 vs. Bernalillo; March 23 vs. Gallup; March 27, DH against West Mesa.
HOPE CHRISTIAN HUSKIES
Coach: Sean Anthony (1st year)
Last Year: 16-12; lost in 3A first round to Ruidoso
Players to Watch: Kyle Elliott, sr., P-C-OF; Matt Forsyth, jr., P; Nathan Burford, soph., P-SS.
About the Huskies: Hope has six returning starters, but it’s still a fairly young group with four eighth-graders. The Huskies lost quite a bit of power (24 home runs), so they want to be a better baserunning team, and scratch out runs. On the plus side, Hope has some pitching depth.
Calendar watching: March 23 vs. Volcano Vista; April 23, DH vs. Sandia Prep.
LA CUEVA BEARS
Coach: Gerard Pineda (1st year)
Last Year: 29-2; 5A state runner-up
Players to Watch: Josh McAlister, sr., P; Ryan Padilla, jr., P-CF; Nate Ross, sr., 1B; Ryan Winter, sr., C; Zach Nelson, jr., 2B; Matt Smith, jr., SS.
About the Bears: La Cueva was ranked nationally in several preseason polls, but the truth is the Bears do have some question marks as they replace both middle infielders and a catcher. McAlister and Padilla, both Division I-caliber talents, and the general strength of the program will allow La Cueva to reload without too much delay.
Calendar watching: March 6 vs. Eldorado; March 23 vs. Cibola;
April 24, DH vs. Sandia.
LOS LUNAS TIGERS
Coach: Robert Riggins (1st year)
Last Year: 10-18; lost in 5A first round to La Cueva
Players to Watch: Patrick Martinez, jr., P; Dylan Sillivent, sr., CF; Albert Olguin, sr., 2B; Andrew Barnett, sr., 1B.
About the Tigers: Los Lunas is very young after graduating a dozen seniors. Riggins, in fact, said he has only two players with extensive varsity experience. One of them is Olguin, the best hitter on last year’s squad.
Calendar watching: March 6 vs. Valencia; March 11 vs. Cleveland; March 27 vs. Sandia.
Coach: Jim Briggs (18th year)
Last Year: 11-17; lost in 5A first round to Las Cruces
Players to Watch: Scott Ringler, sr., P-3B; Sean Durick, sr., C; Thomas Lee Mares, soph., SS; Kevin Reaves, jr., CF.
About the Monarchs: Manzano has just two seniors, so it will need its underclassmen to develop rapidly in order to take a run at another playoff spot. Mares is one of the better shortstops in the area in a year in which we have a few of them at that position.
Calendar watching: March 6 vs. Sandia; March 11 vs. La Cueva; March 27 vs. Cibola.
Coach: John Ruben (7th year)
Last Year: 17-8; lost in 4A first round to Los Alamos
Players to Watch: Nick Gonzales, sr., SS-P; Chris Fischer, sr., P; Isaac Aragon, jr., C-1B; Max Ruben, sr., LF; Robbie Bell, sr., P; Sam Crabtree, sr., P.
About the Pintos: Moriarty believes it has one of the best teams in 4A, led by Gonzales who Ruben said is one of the most talented players in the state. The Pintos have pitching depth, and they hope to challenge Academy’s supremacy in District 5-4A.
Calendar watching: March 25 vs. Cibola; March 27 vs. Los Alamos; April 3, DH vs. Belen; May 1, DH vs. Academy.
RIO GRANDE RAVENS
Coach: Orlando Griego (14th year)
Last Year: 23-6; lost in 5A quarterfinals to Oñate
Players to Watch: Christian Garris, sr., 2B-P; Isaac Marquez, sr., C; Chris Payne, sr., SS-P.
About the Ravens: Griego is hesitant to call this a rebuilding year, even though Rio Grande sent nine seniors off to college baseball after last season. Inexperience is going to be a problem early for the Ravens, as well as finding dependable starting pitching.
Calendar watching: March 6, DH vs. Las Cruces; March 9, vs. La Cueva; March 23, vs. Rio Rancho; April 10/April 22 vs. Eldorado.
RIO RANCHO RAMS
Coach: Ron Murphy (13th year)
Last Year: 26-4; Class 5A state champions
Players to Watch: Josh Walker, sr., CF-P; Ben Matheson, sr., 1B-P; Ethan McCranie, sr., C; Kris Martinez, jr., SS; Joe Sena, sr., P-OF.
About the Rams: Rio Rancho once again has got some pitching depth, and if the Rams can get solid production from newcomers like third baseman Gavin Biswell and second baseman Aleq Chavez, they’ve got the speed and power to be a state contender again.
Calendar watching: March 9 vs. Volcano Vista; March 18 vs. Las Cruces; April 13/April 30 vs. Cibola; March 25-27, hosting tournament that includes La Cueva and Carlsbad.
Coach: Al Foster (1st year)
Last Year: 21-9; lost to Rio Rancho in 5A state semifinals
Players to Watch: Sean Gahan, sr., 3B; Robert Gunther, sr., P-1B; Muddy Waters, sr., 2B; Jake Groth, sr., C; Kevin Collier, jr., CF; Jacob Skorka, jr., SS.
About the Matadors: This should be one of 5A’s most well-rounded clubs, which is now being coached by one of its most famous alums, Foster. Gunther and Nicasio Gonzalez give the Matadors depth and strength at the front of the pitching staff. Sandia returns seven starters.
Calendar watching: March 11 vs. Rio Grande; March 25 vs. Eldorado; April 24, DH vs. La Cueva.
SANDIA PREP SUNDEVILS
Coach: Paul Huitt (11th year)
Last Year: 21-7; Class 3A state champions
Players to Watch: Nick Nelson, jr., SS-2B; Michael Eaton, jr., SS-2B; C.J. Kinney, jr., LHP-1B; R.J. Ortiz, jr., LHP-1B
About the Sundevils: It’s a team predominantly made of 11th graders; only senior third baseman Alec Houser is a regular starter. Sandia Prep is strong up the middle, and the Sundevils have 10 players who picked up considerable playing time in last year’s state championship season.
Calendar watching: April 8 vs. St. Michael’s; April 23, DH vs. Hope.
ST. PIUS SARTANS
Coach: Marc Hilton (11th year)
Last Year: 18-10; lost in 4A quarterfinals to Farmington
Players to Watch: Kevin Piersol, soph., P-3B; Quintin Rizek, soph., CF-P; Chris Lobato, soph., C; Matt Martinez, sr., 2B; Nic Martinez, sr., P-OF.
About the Sartans: Following a terrific offseason, St. Pius hopes to challenge Belen and Volcano Vista in District 6-4A with a balanced offense and some good pitching. Piersol, Rizek and Lobato all started as freshmen.
Calendar watching: April 17, DH vs. Volcano Vista; May 1, DH vs. Belen.
Coach: Carlos Carrasco (2nd year)
Last Year: 7-18
Players to Watch: Jorge Venegas, soph., P; Trey Alcachupas, soph., C; Lewis Lockhart, sr., 1B; Robert Carrasco, soph., SS; Garrett Holliday, jr., LF.
About the Jaguars: Like Volcano Vista, Valencia returns pretty much everybody from last year. But the Jags are still relatively inexperienced. They do, however, expect to be more competitive against teams that roughed them up last year.
Calendar watching: March 3 vs. Belen; March 6 vs. Los Lunas; April 1 vs. Volcano Vista.
Coach: Chad Kuhn (5th year)
Last Year: 12-16; lost to Oñate in 5A first round
Players to Watch: Chris Wallis, sr., C; Eric Hagen, sr., P; Estevan Romero, sr., 1B.
About the Vikings: Valley’s extremely young, so it is relying heavily on position players like Wallis and Romero. Kuhn, in fact, thinks Romero could be in line for a huge offensive season. Five other seniors have never played an inning of varsity baseball.
Calendar watching: March 6, DH vs. Mayfield; March 11 vs. Artesia; April 10, DH vs. Sandia.
VOLCANO VISTA HAWKS
Coach: Kevin Andersh (2nd year)
Last Year: 15-13; lost in 4A first round to Piedra Vista
Players to Watch: Victor Sanchez, jr., P-3B; Dalton Bowers, soph., SS; Kyle Byer, jr., C; Andrew Villareal, jr., CF; T.J. Trujillo, jr., 1B.
About the Hawks: Andersh said his team is still a year away from being a true state contender, but it ought to be awfully good in 2010, anyway. Sanchez is Volcano Vista’s top starting pitcher on a junior-dominated team that doesn’t have great pitching depth.
Calendar watching: March 4 vs. La Cueva; March 9 vs. Rio Rancho; March 15 vs. Academy; March 27 vs. Eldorado; March 24, DH vs. Belen.
WEST MESA MUSTANGS
Coach: Richard Cordova (1st year)
Last Year: N/A
Players to Watch: Albert Carmignani, jr., P-OF; Gabe Davila, jr., IF-P; Ray S
anchez, sr., C; Jose Raul Gonzalez, jr., IF-C; Mike Romero, sr., P-OF.
About the Mustangs: West Mesa likely has some rebuilding to do under Cordova. “I want to stay here, build a program,” said Cordova. He has some raw talent, but probably not enough to compete in District 1-5A.
Calendar watching: March 4, vs. St. Pius; March 23, DH vs. Moriarty; April 15, vs. Eldorado.