Pitching staff, depth in place for Glendale Community College baseball success
Vaqueros will attempt to win fourth consecutive WSC title with four All-Americans on board.
GCC third baseman Randy Medellin catches the ball and tags out Lino Lares at third base in a scrimmage against the other half of the GCC team at Stengel Field in Glendale on Wednesday, January 22, 2014. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / January 25, 2014)
The Vaqueros have won three consecutive Western State Conference Southern Division championships, they just had four players named to the preseason All-American list and they’re ranked in the top 10 by the California Community College Athletic Assn.
Their success has been noticed by high school athletes wishing to continue to play at the next level and other community college players, including David Whitaker, a Crescenta Valley High graduate who transferred to Glendale college from Pasadena City College.
“It’s exciting,” said Whitaker, a right-handed pitcher. “It’s why I came here.”
Whitaker is one piece of what might be another talented Vaqueros pitching staff that will be anchored by returning Western State Conference South Division Pitcher of the Year Angel Rodriguez, who went 8-3 in 14 appearances a year ago with a 2.25 earned-run average.
The staff features right-handers Keaton Leach, AJ Monarrez and Carl Daniels, as well as left-hander David Lira. They will be put to the test when the Vaqueros begin their season with a nonconference home contest at 2 p.m. Monday against Oxnard College at Stengel Field.
Rodriguez, Leach and DJ Milam were all selected to the preseason All-American team by the CCCAA and will make up one of the most talented staffs that Cicuto has had in his 11 years at the helm.
“This is by far the best talent on the mound that we’ve had,” said Cicuto, whose team will start division action March 4 at College of the Canyons, but will do so without Milam who is out for the season with an injury. “The kids are hyped. The pitching staff should be the strength of our team.
“The strength of our program comes with our depth.”
There’s depth on offense, too.
The offense will continue its philosophy of working counts and frustrating opponents with it patience, Cicuto said.
Cicuto rattled off a list of players in the outfield, infield and behind the plate that will contribute, including outfielders Jay Sheeley — the fourth Vaquero on the preseason All-American team — Raul Camas, Carlos Robles and Jerry Ismerio, and infielders Oscar Tinjaca, Eddie Munoz, David Garcia and Chris Carlin.
“We’ve got some talented players up and down the lineup,” said Cicuto, who saw the Vaqueros finish 27-13 and 19-5 in the division before topping Grossmont College in the Southern California Regionals and then being eliminated in the super regionals.. “We have a handful of guys who are going to make an impact.
Cicuto mentioned he has four catchers — Cam Silva, Mark Strazzerri, Jonah Jarrard, and Lino Lares — who he can rely on to handle the pitching staff.
“The depth is humongous,” Cicuto said. “They’re all baseball players. They’re all going to come up big at some point.”
The point of the season that Cicuto is concerned about is when conference play begins.
By then, he said, he’ll have a better idea of his starters on offense and he’ll know who to insert for key relief situations.
He also knows that his team is one of the favorites to win a fourth consecutive division championship, but he shied away from making bold statements.
“No predictions,” he said. “I predict our guys will rally up and come to work everyday with a hard hat and a lunch pail and will work hard to improve each day.”
His players talked about what the Vaqueros need to do to win another division crown and advance to the state playoffs.
“We all need to know our roles,” Tinjaca said. “All of the pieces are coming together. The pitching will be there and we know that the hitting will come through.
Said Monarrez: “We gotta be mentally tough. That’s what gets us through games.”
The goal is to go “all the way,” to state, Whitaker said.
“We have all the tools,” he added. “We have all the players.”