Spartans Need Help on Hitting Side of the Game
The 2019 season doesn’t look as dreary for baseball as it does for football and basketball. The Spartans finished last year under a new head coach and under a huge grey cloud with a flourish to finish third in the MWC. Fans rejoiced in the streets. Well, no, they didn’t but it was cause for positive feelings for the present and the future. So, here we are on the brink of the 2019 Season. What’s the lineup look like? Try this on for size.
C – Johnny Mendoza (JR) – .288 and 2
1B – Ruben Ibarra (SO) – .245
2B – ?
SS – Aaron Pleschner (SR) – .253 in 186 ABs
3B – Santiago Cantu (SO) – .180 and 1
OF – Kellen Strahm (JR) – .307 in 228 ABs
OF – Connor Konishi (SO) – .248 in 109 ABs
OF – ?
DH – ?
SP – Andrew Mitchel (SR) – 6-2 and 3.72 with 101 Ks in 87 IP. MWC Co-POY
SP – Tevin Cadola (SR) – 3-2 and 4.53 with 8 starts and 47 IP
SP – Josh Zanger (JR) – 1-3 and 6.30 with 5 starts and 30 IP
RP – Fineas Bonta-Smith (SR) – 5-3 and 3.99 with 5 saves and 54 Ks in 47 IP
Talked to Coach recently and he shed some light on some of the blanks I have listed above. He was fully aware that he needs immediate help for the offense so he’s hoping some new players from the juco ranks can offer that help. Before he even started talking about transfers he talked about the pitching. He pretty much agreed with the names I have above but he added one that he believes will be a big help as either a starter or a reliever and that’s Justin Watland (SR 0-0 and 3.55 with 22 appearances from the pen). He had even better numbers in the MWC so expect to see him.
He also said that Cantu could end up at 2B which would be no surprise which leaves 3B open and I’ll get to that in a minute. If he does go to second, that would give the Spartans strength up the middle which is where most balls are hit.
Here are the names Coach mentioned in my conversation with him. Troy Viola (.306 and 9) is a transfer from Glendale CC and I forgot to write down where he is projected to play. Nine home runs? He’ll get a shot somewhere. Left handed hitter. Blake Berry (.321) out of Santa Rosa CC and can play multiple positions. Alex Davis (.329 and 2) out of Marin CC. He’s a shortstop so he gives some depth up the middle. Dick Knecht (.266 and 9) out of San Mateo CC. The .266 is uninspiring but the 9 dingers always catches the eye. First base I think and a lefty all the way. he’ll get a serious shot. The only freshman he mentioned was James Shimashita from Madison HS in San Diego. He really blossomed as a senior after hitting low to mid 200’s in his first three years as a varsity starter. He hit .375 as a senior.The Spartans corner OF positions are pretty much up for grabs. He’s a lefty all the way and can pitch some also as he struck out 48 in 42 IP which ain’t bad. A pitcher’s arm in RF sounds good to me.
Reason for pessimism? The starting lineup looks to bring back less than 10 home runs and is pretty young and inexperienced. One senior in my lineup. Another way to look at it is they didn’t hit many last year either. They lose four .300 hitters and return one. The lineup will need some help from recruits or some growing up by returning players. That always happens in college ball;; a complete turnover every four years. It keeps things interesting.
You see that pitching looks healthy. Bringing back a pitcher of the year is always an ace in the hand and he’s the pre-season pick for POY. A name I didn’t include is Wesley Clawson who had decent numbers as a freshman last year. I suspect he will push the guys I have listed. Fineas Bonta-Smith might also be pushed into starting which wouldn’t be a huge surprise, either. I like all these guys. It’s been a long time since the Spartans have been this deep in pitching.
Hitting is another story. Three returning home runs. Yeesh! I saw Cantu up in Eureka this past summer where he played short and looked comfortable there. Best arm between him and Pleschner gets the SS role and the other plays second which is no insult. That would leave a hole at third which probably means a newbie. Same with one OF position and DH.