First published in the Feb. 19 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
By Nathan Cambridge
It’s time for Pacific League baseball, and the area teams are getting geared up and ready to go.
The season’s outlook is a bit of an unknown at Crescenta Valley High.
“The kids have done a great job to prepare. It’s a very inexperienced group, so I don’t know how fast we’ll get out the gate,” Falcon coach Phil Torres said. “You can practice and practice and play summer games and play winter games, but it’s not the same as what they are really in for. It will take a little while to get going, but we’ll figure it out.”
That said, the goal for this season has not changed from last year or the years before.
“I think the goal here is always to win the [Pacific] league championship. After that, everything else comes as gravy. That’s our goal every year, to win the league championship, and that’s what we get ready for.”
The Falcons have 28 games scheduled, and the preleague slate is an ambitious one that includes Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, Vista Murrieta, the South Hills Tournament, Granada Hills and La Cañada.
“It’s always a hard balance: How do we test our kids without losing our confidence?” Torres said.
This campaign will feature a lot of new faces. “Both of our first two [pitching] starters don’t have a lot of experience, so we’re just going to see how that goes along,” Torres said. “Our catcher is new. Our middle infielders are new. Our outfielders are new. These are all guys that watched other guys do it last year, so they’ve put the time in. They’ve lifted, they played all summer, they played all winter, but you never know until you get going.”
Junior Connor Campbell and senior Jameson Ferraro will be the anchors of the pitching staff. Both of them started last year and have much more experience than the rest of the staff. Kris McCollum will be the starting catcher.
Senior Noah Shorkey will be a first-time centerfielder. Junior Nico Terenzi will once again be in the middle infield. “He needs to play like a guy that has been in the program for three years,” Torres said. Jacob Deno will also be in the infield, once he returns from injury. A newcomer on the scene, freshman Chris Torres, will also be in the infield mix: “He’s earned it,” according to the coach.
The Nitros have one central thing on their collective minds for this season. That is to make the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs.
Just so it does not slip anyone’s mind, team members all wear wristbands reading “#D6 playoffs.” If they accomplish the goal, it will be a long time coming.
“Glendale High hasn’t made the playoffs in 22 years, and we think we have a really good chance to make a playoff run this year,” said David Addis, who is an assistant on coach Marcus Whithorne’s staff.
In line with that goal is another: to finish in the top four of the Pacific League because “the top four teams go to the playoffs.”
Glendale promises to be good in the field and well stocked with arms on the mound.
“Our defense is our biggest strength,” Addis said. “[Additionally,] we are deep in pitching this year. Not a lot of top-of-the-line pitching, but we have a deep staff in terms of how many guys can throw this year.”
Senior Milan Burgarin will be the Nitros’ No. 1 pitcher and leaned on heavily.
Senior Danny Villela will be starting in centerfield and batting leadoff: “We need him to hit about .400 this year and just terrorize the basepaths.” Junior Frankie Malagon will be handling the catching duties and batting third, and will be looked to to supply power at the plate. Matthew Vega, a sophomore, will be starting at second base and batting in the cleanup spot. Junior Erik Chavez is also a standout and will start at shortstop.
“That is our big thing this year,” Addis said. “We want to make the D6 playoffs to show our program is headed in the right direction.”
The Tornados have a new coach to lead the program in Louis Mele, and he likes what he sees so far.
“We have a really strong team,” Mele said. “We have a lot of leaders on the team. We have kids that have played together through Jewel City and other local Little Leagues, so there is a lot of chemistry with the players. We have talent. The school, too, has been very supportive of what I’m doing.”
Mele is aiming to at least break even this season and possibly reach the playoffs.
“We want to be a .500 baseball team. That is our goal and to potentially make a playoff run,” the new coach said. “It’s been quite a few years since Hoover baseball has made a playoff push, so we’re really trying to push for that this year… We want to be competitive in every game.”
A slogan Mele has implemented is “Tradition Never Graduates,” meaning lessons learned through baseball can be carried forward in life.
Hoover’s top players include senior Tony Torrez, who is “strong defensively” and will be playing shortstop and pitching in relief. Another is senior Tristan Ulloa, who will be handling the catching duties. Also, senior Ethan Tobey, who “has good speed,” will patrol in the outfield and sports a 4.0 GPA. Joining Tobey roaming the outfield will be centerfielder Joaquin Rodriguez, who also carries a 4.0 GPA.
Proving hardball is not just for the boys, senior Natasha Cohen will once again suit up for Hoover, play second base and pitch, where “she has a real good feel on the mound.”
The Pacific League will prove to be a challenge for Hoover, but the Tornados are prepared for it.
“We play in the Pacific League so it’s good competition, but we’re ready for it,” Mele said.