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Roseville baseball teams go heavy on the seasoning

Focus is on pitching, defense, but they can all hit, too
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Experience. Roseville baseball programs are loaded with it this season: nine returning seniors at Oakmont, the Nos. 1 and 2 pitchers back at Valley Christian, three underclass All-Sierra Foothill League picks at Granite Bay, 11 seniors at Roseville, including the SFL co-MVP, and an infield six players deep at Woodcreek.

“I’m blessed,” said Eric Valencia, beginning his first season as coach at Woodcreek following the retirement of Kelly Mayo. “This is a talented group of kids. The leadership role is huge with (Shaun) Mize and (Stephen) Nogosek.”

Granite Bay starts just two seniors at eight positions, but junior shortstop Ryan Rosa, junior Brett Bautista and sophomore second baseman Vinny Esposito made the All-SFL team last season. Rosa hit .378 with four home runs in 2011. Bautista hit .348 and Esposito .344.

“They all have a year under their belts already,” Grizzlies coach Pat Esposito said.
Here is a look at the area’s five baseball teams:

Granite Bay

While the Grizzlies are focusing on pitching and defense, they scored 31 runs and hit .416 in starting the season 3-0, including a whopping 10-4 victory over Pleasant Grove.

“We’re going to be a good hitting team,” Pat Esposito said. “And we have pretty good speed.”

While Vinny Esposito was off to a .636 start and Bautista had six RBI in three games, junior Aaron Knapp started 5 for 8 and sophomore call-up Devin Lehman was hitting .400 with four RBI, including three hits in a 9-3 victory over Rosemont.

The Grizzlies also turned six double plays — three each against Vista del Lago and Pleasant Grove.

“We’re defense-oriented,” Pat Esposito said. “We do not want to make any errors.”

On the mound, Granite Bay has senior Shawn Munkdale, junior Travis Magness and sophomore Mitch Hart to counter the 1-2 punches of Roseville seniors Dalton Blaser and Mark Reece and Woodcreek juniors Nogosek and Tyler Milani. Munkdale was 1-0 with a save last season.

Roseville

The Tigers went 22-9 last season in winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship. It was the first blue section banner in baseball for the school in 28 years.

Coach Hank DeMello expects another rough road in the SFL.

“It’s the SFL; not much more to say,” he said. “Every game is tough, and that is why our league does so well in the playoffs. Every game is a playoff game.”

Coming off a season in which the Tigers hit 27 home runs, the keys this season are pitching and defense.

Roseville has two big arms in Blaser, one of the Tigers’ five left-handed pitchers, and Reece. Blaser was 8-1 with a 2.46 ERA in 2011. He also hit .467 with six homers in sharing the SFL’s MVP award with Austin Diemer of Rocklin, now at Cal State Fullerton. Reece, 8-2 with a 2.16 ERA last season, grew to 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds and no-hit Pioneer last week at Raley Field.

Junior lefty Bryce Reichmann could be the replacement for the graduated Matt Maher in the rotation, and senior catcher Dylan McBride “can be dynamite when he wants to,” according to DeMello.

Oakmont

With nine returning seniors, Vikings coach Dean Perkins also has good team speed and hitting.

Middle infielders Tommy Wieser and Cody Baron each hit .333 last season. Third baseman-outfielder Jimmy Lunardelli hit .413, scored a team-high 28 runs and had eight extra-base hits, including two homers. Logan Coggeshall hit .293 with seven extra-base hits. First baseman Dalton DeVries hit .412 in limited action. Utility player Drew Zebriskie contributed.

“We have guys who can bunt and go oppo, too,” Perkins said.

On the mound, third-year varsity player Ryan Gearing was 5-3 with a team-high 14 appearances last season. He had 37 strikeouts in 43 innings, and he hit .316. The team’s leadoff hitter, he had a 4-1 record in the CVC in 2011.

Austin Call and Justin Garvin also picked up innings as juniors.

Said Perkins, “They want to learn, they want to win, they want to improve, and they throw strikes.”

Valley Christian

The Lions also are coming off a section championship. The Division VII title was their third in four years, achieved after Valley Christian had a string of 13 league titles snapped by Auburn Christian.

That school then closed, and some players transferred to Valley Christian, where they’ll compete for positions behind 6-5 junior ace left-hander Jimmy Shaw and 6-2 sophomore right-hander Jeremiah Moore. Also returning are 6-5 senior right-hander Jake Sween and 6-2 senior catcher Quentin Moore.

“They are very important to the success of the season,” coach Brad Gunter Jr. said.

Shaw will play first base when he isn’t pitching and probably will hit third, according to Gunter. Jeremiah Moore “was huge for us down the stretch,” and Sween could hit cleanup. This will be Quentin Moore’s third season behind the plate.

“For us to succeed, he has to handle the pitching staff this season,” Gunter said.

On the JV level, Casa Roble graduate and former major-league pitcher Jim Converse returns for his second season as head coach.

Woodcreek

Valencia arrived at Woodcreek after 10 years at Wheatland, including five as head coach, and was confronted with one of those “good” problems coaches face.

“We can throw anybody anywhere almost,” he said.

Senior Kyle Dixon, who made a run for the SFL batting title in 2011, is coming off a .443 season. He was second on the team in hits (35) to Austin Hagarty, who hit .386 with 39 hits. Nogosek, known as much for his 90-mph heater, had 30 hits and hit .357. The Timberwolves didn’t have the most home runs in the area (four), but they did have 50 doubles.

Mize, bound for the University of Nevada, got a late start last season because of an injury and hit .452. Milani hit .296.

As Valencia pointed out, when Perry Beaber (.333) is hitting eighth in the lineup, “That’s solid.”

All that hitting will come in handy for Valencia’s first trek through the SFL.

“From what I’ve heard, the SFL is loaded, which is good,” he said. “That prepares the team for the playoffs.”