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2019 Metro-area prep baseball capsules

— Compiled by James Yodice
ALBUQUERQUE ACADEMY CHARGERS
Coach: Chris Alexander (1st year)
Last season: 19-11; lost to Farmington in 5A quarterfinals
Key players: Nick Gaeto, sr., 3B; Chase Weissenborn, jr., SS; Matt McNaney, jr., C; Aidan Donahue, jr., utility; Kendall Easley, jr., 1B/P;  Henry Mitchell, fresh., 2B/P.
Outlook: With only one senior, new coach Alexander — a 1999 Academy alum who also was an assistant coach with the Chargers during Alex Bregman’s playing days — has some young players to mold. Weissenborn is certainly this team’s best player, with 34 RBIs last season. He’s already committed to UNM. “He can do it all,” Alexander said. Offensively, Academy will need some time to mature with so many untested faces.
ALBUQUERQUE HIGH BULLDOGS
Coach: Robert Padilla (7th year)
Last season: 11-14; lost to Centennial in 6A first round
Key players: Ryan Romero, sr., RHP/CF; Pablo Paredes, sr., LF/RHP; Carlos Jaquez, soph., 3B/RHP; Nate Armijo, jr., RHP; Gabriel Gomez, sr., RF/RHP.
Outlook: Romero could be one of 5A’s most effective arms, and he’s one of the best bats on this team, too. AHS will be incorporating some freshmen into the lineup, Padilla said, but overall, he said this group should be competitive with seven starters back, and contending for a playoff berth in May. Paredes was an all-district player last year, with some good pop at the plate.
ATRISCO HERITAGE ACADEMY JAGUARS
Coach: Chris Trujillo (6th year)
Last season: 14-13; lost to La Cueva in 6A first round
Key players: Tommy Perez, sr., RHP/SS; Erasmo Torres, sr., CF; Joel Serna, sr., 2B/RHP; Jacob Trujillo, sr., RHP/RF; Mathew Archuleta, jr., RHP/C/OF; Cesar Ledezma, soph., RHP/3B/1B.
Outlook: The Jaguars were only a couple of innings away from stunning the eventual state champion Bears in last year’s first round, but AHA is retooling this year. Perez, the team’s best pitcher last year, returns, and that’s a definite plus. Otherwise, there is an abundance of youth on this roster that is untested at this level. Can the pitching, beyond Perez, produce outs in key moments?
BELEN EAGLES
Coach: Tom Wisneski (2nd year)
Last season: 23-8; lost to Goddard in 5A semifinals
Key players:  Jadrian Martinez, sr., LHP/1B; Estevan Baca, jr., C; Luke Aragon, jr., SS/P; Sefe Aragon, jr., 3B; Ralph Elizondo, jr., OF/LHP; Troy Matheson, sr., RHP/OF.
Outlook: When Martinez (New Mexico Highlands) pitches, the Eagles should have a chance to beat anybody in their classification. Matheson will also be asked to produce in big games on the mound for Belen. But with only two starters back in Martinez and Baca, the Eagles have some positions to fill. But some of these new faces were on the JV, which lost only one game last spring, so they are accustomed to winning. Depth is a concern for Wisneski.
BERNALILLO SPARTANS
Coach: Brandon Corcoran (1st year)
Last season: 21-10; lost to Hope Christian in 4A championship game
Key players: Damian Gutierrez, sr., P/3B/1B; Dominic Tenorio, sr., P/OF/2B; Eric Beyale, soph., SS/P; Daniel Otero, sr., C/P; Adam Abeyta, sr., OF.
Outlook: Corcoran was promoted from assistant during the offseason, and he believes the Spartans have enough experience to get back to the postseason and contend. Gutierrez is perhaps the team ace; he struck out 13 in the opener against Bloomfield. Overall, Corcoran said, the pitching looks “great.” Gutierrez, Beyale and Tenorio should pace the offense. Bernalillo is moving into a tough district that features the likes of Valley, Hope Christian and Albuquerque Academy.
CIBOLA COUGARS
Coach: Ray Gonzales (9th year)
Last season: 6-18
Key players: Reece Maez, sr., C/OF; Ryan Martinez, jr., OF/RHP; Christian Wooden, jr., OF; Kai Montaño, jr., 3B/1B/P; Keith Reinhardt, sr., RHP/1B; Josh Montoya, jr., OF/RHP.
Outlook: Gonzales said the offseason was spent getting bigger and stronger, which should benefit the Cougars throughout the season. Tellingly, Cibola had La Cueva on the ropes on opening day before wasting a two-run lead in extra innings. Gonzales said Cibola can hit with anyone, which means it’s the pitching that is going to have to carry the day. It’s not an overpowering staff, so they better throw strikes and pitch to contact. Martinez led the team in batting average in 2018.
CLEVELAND STORM
Coach: Shane Shallenberger (10th year)
Last season: 15-11; lost to La Cueva in 6A quarterfinals
Key players: Treston Shallenberger, sr., SS/RHP; Robert Healy, sr., C; Jaren Jackson, sr., 1B; Damien Roddy, jr., 2B/P; Colten Madison, jr., OF; Roy Jennings, jr., CF.
Outlook: The Storm once again projects to be among 5A’s best teams, with the aforementioned players — especially Shallenberger, Healy, Jackson and Roddy — leading the way. This team has explosiveness on offense and features some good arms. The lineup features both speed and power, and just about everyone can swing it well. Healy is the real power stick. The younger Shallenberger is in his fifth season on the varsity.
DEL NORTE KNIGHTS
Coach: Leandro Lovato (1st year)
Last season: 8-16
Key players:  Aidan Hunter, soph., CF/LHP; Gavin Sanchez, soph., P/3B; Jacob Saavedra, sr., LHP/1B; Andres Gallegos, sr., P/C/IF; Mike Duran, sr., OF/RHP; Josiah Silva, jr., IF/RHP.
Outlook: This is a team that isn’t going to have much depth (hardly any, in fact, with just 10 on the roster) and there will be some youth in the lineup as well for new coach Lovato. One positive is that all four of the Knights’ seniors can pitch, and they’ll need to gobble up the innings for the next two months. Hunter and Saavedra are two of the best batters on the team.
EAST MOUNTAIN TIMBERWOLVES
Coach: David Naylor (15th year)
Last season: 10-11; lost to Bernalillo in 4A first round
Key players: Dominik Chavez, jr., RHP/OF; Logan Harlan, jr., C/SS/P; Cole Phillips, fresh., SS/P: Caleb Martin, fresh., 3B/P; Will Merkey, jr., 2B.
Outlook: This could be, with seven starters back and quality depth all around, Naylor’s best team since 2013 when the Timberwolves were a No. 1 seed at state. There are only two seniors among the two dozen in the program, but East Mountain figures to be extremely competitive in Class 3A, including with Sandia Prep in its own district. Uncertainty at the catcher position is the only issue for Naylor to solve.
ELDORADO EAGLES
Coach: Reid Figiel (3rd year)
Last season: 15-12; lost to Rio Rancho in 6A first round
Key players: Cade Malone, sr., 1B; Jace Zuniga, sr., 3B; Keith Alvarado, jr., RHP; Ben West, jr., CF; Zack Hofman, jr., MIF; Logan Fairhurst, sr., C.
Outlook: It’s a small team, Figiel says, but one with power and speed and good chemistry. Alvarado is this team’s big-game pitcher, and Noah Armstrong will likely slot in as the No. 2. Malone anchors the middle of the Eldorado lineup, and has plenty of power. West is another player to watch in the lineup. The Eagles face some very tough battles in District 2-5A, which might be the state’s toughest league in 2019.
HIGHLAND HORNETS
Coach: Fernando Santillanes (2nd year)
Last season: 4-20
Key players:  Reese Turpish, jr., SS/P; Julian Vigil, soph., C/2B; Giovanni Salgado, sr., MIF/P; Carlos Chacon-Nuñez, sr., 3B/C.
Outlook: The Hornets’ numbers are way down; Santillanes barely has enough to field a lineup every day. So, everyone will have to chip in with regards to pitching, and Highland, of course, will need to keep everyone on the field and away from injuries.
HOPE CHRISTIAN HUSKIES
Coach: Josh Usher (1st year)
Last season: 25-6; Class 4A state champions
Key players: Brandon Bagon, sr., C/P/OF; Kole Simmons, sr., OF/P; Joey Palamara, jr., RHP; Connor Usher, jr., 2B/3B/P; Mateo Ruiz, jr., 3B/P;  Noah Chavez, MIF/P.
Outlook: Usher, an assistant to Glen Copeland, got promoted when Copeland resigned in the offseason. Four starters return for the Huskies, who move into the second-largest classification this season. Bagon is perhaps this team’s best pitcher/batter, but others, like Simmons, Palamara, usher and Ruiz, are all going to eat up some innings for Hope Christian. Bagon and Simmons are the top offensive players returning. Hope’s new district includes Valley and Albuquerque Academy, two teams definitely that will push the Huskies.
LA CUEVA BEARS
Coach: Gerard Pineda (10th year)
Last season: 27-3; Class 6A state champions
Key players:  Ben Schoneman, sr., RHP; Phoenix Autrey, sr., C; Aaron Sanchez, sr., IF/RHP; Cody Davis, sr., LHP; Davis Pratt, sr., utility; Dawson Burton, jr., OF.
Outlook: The Bears open their quest for a third straight title, led by Schoneman, a reliable innings eater, and Autrey behind the dish. Cultivating pitching depth is an ongoing thing for Pineda, though the Bears can usually be counted on to have a stable of tough arms come April and May. Davis and Pratt both will be part of that picture on the mound. A lot of important bats graduated, but Pineda doesn’t expect that to be an issue.
LOS LUNAS TIGERS
Coach: Shaun Reed (4th year)
Last season: 5-17
Key players: Kade Benavidez, jr., 1B/3B/P; Joseph Klaus, jr., C; Lance Lueras, jr., utility; Keese Cieremans, jr., SS/P; Estevan Padilla, sr., 2B; Lyvan Medrano, sr., utility.
Outlook: The experience the Tigers lacked last year, which led to quite a few close losses, could and should lead to a lot more wins for Los Lunas, which returns seven starters. Benavidez is this team’s ace pitcher, backed by Lueras and Medrano. Benavidez also bats cleanup for the Tigers, and is a switch-hitter, so he’ll present some problems. Can Los Lunas make inroads against the likes of Belen and St. Pius in District 5-5A?
MANZANO MONARCHS
Coach: Tim Campos (3rd year)
Last season: 12-14; lost to Clovis in 6A first round
Outlook: The Monarchs, who lost ace lefthanded pitcher Mitchell Parker to graduation, return four players who hit over .300 last season: Junior infielder Aaron Clark, senior infielder Ruger Bravo, junior outfielder Jace Melfi and senior outfielder/infielder A.J. Urquieta. The Monarchs, like Sandia and Albuquerque High, hope they can piece things together to make a run at Rio Grande in District 5-5A.
MORIARTY PINTOS
Coach: Denny Young (6th year)
Last season: 5-20
Outlook: The Pintos have just a small handful of seniors, and its youth will have to help Moriarty get back to being a competitive program after a tough 2018 season. Sophomore IF/P Bryan Wright is one of those top underclassmen.
NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITY ACADEMY EAGLES
Coach: Joe Suina (1st year)
Last season: N/A
Key players: Clarence Sanchez, sr., 2B; Josh Ortiz, jr., 3B; Malachi Saiz, jr., SS/P.
Outlook: NACA hasn’t had varsity baseball for several years, but the school is bringing it back. With only 10 players, the Eagles need to stay healthy.
RIO GRANDE RAVENS
Coach: Orlando Griego (24th year)
Last season: 16-10; lost to Cleveland in 6A first round
Key players: Jude Perea, sr., SS/RHP; Francisco Gomez, sr., 2B; Adam Sanchez, sr., C/P; Mario Armendariz, sr., C/3B/LF; James Romero, sr., 1B/RHP; Steven Romero, sr., RF/LHP.
Outlook: With nearly every starter back, five college-signed players, and depth to burn — particularly on the mound, where there are several outstanding prospects — the Ravens have aspirations to get deep into the state tournament this spring. Also keep an eye on freshman Eduardo Cardeñas, who Griego said swings the bat as well as any 9th grader he’s ever coached. On paper, one of the state’s most complete teams.
RIO RANCHO RAMS
Coach: Ron Murphy (23rd year)
Last season: 19-12; lost to Piedra Vista in 6A semifinals
Key players: Clayton Kempski, jr., C; Noah Brewer, jr., 3B; Kevin Pietrzak, sr., RF; Ethan Silcox, jr., OF/SS; Mitchell Winter, sr., 1B; Alec Stanfield, jr., RHP.
Outlook: The Rams already have bagged some nice wins this season against solid groups from El Paso, and this surely will be one of 5A’s best teams. Ace pitcher Andrew Duran returns for the Rams, who aren’t quite as deep as usual. Rio Rancho has had to do some juggling in the middle infield, but Murphy believes he’s got playmakers on both side of second base, including the integral Silcox.
SANDIA MATADORS
Coach: Chris Eaton (2nd year)
Last season: 13-13; lost to Piedra Vista in 6A first round
Key players: Dante Caviggia, jr., P/IF; Seth Casias, sr., SS; Aiden May, soph., C/P/IF; Tristan Copeland, jr., Jacob Kmatz, soph., CF/RHP.
Outlook: The Matadors are very young, and will have several freshmen and a few sophomores in key roles this spring. Kmatz is the team’s best player and No. 1 pitcher, even though he’s just a sophomore. Although Sandia certainly projects as a team that will win in the next year or two, Eaton thinks they can compete very well this season. Only three seniors on this roster.
SANDIA PREP SUNDEVILS
Coach: Paul Huitt (20th year)
Last season: 8-18
Key players: Shaw Jaramillo, jr., C; Joseph Romero, jr., RHP/CF; Josh Kelley, jr., SS/2B; Isaac Horstman, soph., RHP/utility; Sam Henderson, soph., RHP; Gus Walker, soph., LHP.
Outlook: The Sundevils are trending in the right direction, with everyone back from last season. Horstman is the team ace, with great upside, Huitt said. This team doesn’t have a single senior, but don’t let that fool you; Sandia Prep has plenty of experience. The pitching is solid, and should give the Sundevils a good chance to not only get back to the playoffs, but do some winning once they get there.
ST. PIUS SARTANS
Coach: Matt McCoy (2nd year)
Last season: 19-10; lost to Farmington in 5A semifinals
Key players: Grant Smith, sr., SS/P; Josh Lackner, sr., OF/DH; Jake McCoy, sr., utility; Hayden Walker, jr., LHP; Mason Ashcraft, jr., 1B/RHP.
Outlook: The Sartans might be Class 4A’s best team this season; they certainly have some of this division’s most dynamic players, including the power-hitting Lackner. Only one starter graduated, and the pitching should be excellent, led by Walker. Smith is a four-year varsity performer for the Sartans, McCoy a third-year guy. Ashcraft is one of the team’s best all-around talents.  If St. Pius stays healthy and hungry, it could be playing on the season’s final day.
VALENCIA JAGUARS
Coach: Carlos Carrasco (11th year)
Last season: 9-17
Key players: Jeremy DiBartolomeo, sr., SS; Isaiah Garcia, sr., P/3B; Davin Gonzales, sr., 3B/OF/P; Damacio Barela, OF/RHP; Abraham Ramirez, jr., 2B; Ryan Clark, jr., LHP/1B.
Outlook: There isn’t much varsity experience here with the Jaguars, who return just two starters, but Carrasco said it is a talented group, dominated by seniors and juniors. While he’s comfortable with the pitching, the offensive productivity is a concern as the season begins, and the Jags will need that in a competitive district that includes St. Pius and Belen. DiBartolomeo is a N.M. Military commit; he and Gonzales anchor the middle of the lineup. Garcia is a third-year pitcher.
VALLEY VIKINGS
Coach: Chad Kuhn (15th year)
Last season: 14-10
Key players:  Nolan Kuhn, sr., 1B; Jove Messenger, sr., OF/1B; Elijah Pearlman, sr., RHP;  Antonio Ramazzini, soph., C; Joe Armijo, sr., RHP/OF; Joseph Luna, sr., OF/LHP.
Outlook: Coming off a playoff-less season, the Vikings have something to prove, and with seven starters back, including their best three pitchers, they ought to make some serious noise as they drop into the second-largest class this season. Pearlman is the hard-throwing ace who beat La Cueva last year. Good chemistry on this group, which features 11 seniors. Nolan Kuhn and Messenger, plus Pearlman, all will be important bats in that Valley lineup.
VOLCANO VISTA HAWKS
Coach: Kevin Andersh (11th year)
Last season: 17-10; lost to Piedra Vista in 6A quarterfinals
Key players: Ryan Curran, sr., RHP/OF (Coastal Carolina); Luke Baca, sr., 3B; Tyler Campbell, sr., LHP/1B; Thomas Novicki, sr., OF; Hayden Peacock, sr., 1B/OF; Tim Hibben, sr., C/DH.
Outlook: Pitching depth, led by Campbell and Curran, is a definite strength for the Hawks, one of 5A’s top teams. Baca has been a first-team all-district player the last couple of years, and he’ll be one of the featured bats in the Volcano Vista lineup, which has more power than in recent years. Will contend with Cleveland and Rio Rancho in District 1-5A.
WEST MESA MUSTANGS
Coach: Marc Hilton (2nd year)
Last season: 7-17
Key players: Chris Aspaas, sr., P/C; Andres Ramirez, sr., P/SS; Jon Gomez, sr., 3B; Brian Ledezma, soph., C; Abraham Muñoz, sr., RHP/OF; Mark Gutierrez, soph., LHP/OF.
Outlook: Hilton during the offseason spent time working on developing arms to get ready for this season, and he feels he’s got versatility enough on the hill to give the Mustangs a chance to compete. There is no No. 1 as of yet. Aspaas was the Mustangs’ top batter in most categories last season and will spark the offense, along with Ledezma and Gomez. West Mesa faces a demanding schedule, both inside and outside its district.
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