This season’s edition of Taft College baseball is young but promising.
That’s the assessment of head coach Vince Maiocco whose team is scheduled to host College of the Siskiyous today and Barstow tomorrow – weather permitting.
“We have a solid group coming back and some promising newcomers,” he said. “I really like this team. I’m anxious to see how they develop.”
The Cougars have 9 sophomores and 17 freshmen.
The top returnee has to be pitcher Allen Sanchez, who missed almost all of last season after breaking his ankle in the opening Central Valley Conference game.
“He was arguably the best pitcher in the conference last year,” Maiocco said. “We’re expecting a lot out of him this season.”
Another returning pitcher who will be in the starting rotation is P.J. Matha “who throws hard and is very deceptive.”
Matha, at 5-foot-7 the smallest player on the team, was solid last season as a relief pitcher.
“He was very effective last year as a reliever,” Maiocco said.
Exactly who emerges as the third starter in the rotation remains a question mark.
The candidates include freshman Brandon Van Stone (Henderson, Nev.), Allan Hancock College transfer Michael Vaquera, and sophomore Matt Gunderson.
Sophomore Brad Smith “could be a closer for us,” Maiocco said.
Another promising newcomer is left-hander Kevin Little, who played at Kern Valley High.
“He had a great senior year but developed arm problems,” the coach said. “He didn’t throw in the fall but if he is healthy he could be pretty good. We’ll give him opportunities early and choose our spots.”
Maiocco likes the guys who will toil behind the plate.
Sophomore Josh Hickle has the edge from a defensive standpoint with newcomer Adrian Rodriguez swinging a more potent bat.
Getting the start at first base is Taft High product Clint Jorgensen, who has made the move from left field.
“We expect good things from Clint this year,” Maiocco said.
Newcomer Shane Sudsbury (Frontier/Bakersfield) has the inside track on the starting second base job and is a solid hitter.
Luis Trinidad returns as the starter at shortstop.
“He hit nearly .300 last year and has stepped up his game defensively,” Maiocco said. “He’s not flashy but makes the routine plays consistently.”
Canadian Roman Testani has a handle on the starting third base position and is expected to be one of the team’s more potent hitters.
Another newcomer Maiocco expects a lot out of is centerfielder Travis Tessandori (Tehachapi), who is solid defensively and can swing the bat.
“He’s a sparkplug type of kid,” the coach said. “He’s hard working and capable of being a real team leader.”
Sophomore Tyler Meditz will start in left field and newcomer Josh Roelofs (Las Vegas) will get the nod in right and has emerged as one of the team’s top hitters. He’s being pushed by freshman Pierce Skinner (Tehachapi).
Tyler Adkins, a freshman from Taft High, also is in the mix as an outfielder.