Hitting the Perfect Pitch
Can SCV Baseball Best 2015 Gains?
April, 2016 - Issue #138
courtesy of Shutterstock
courtesy of Shutterstock

This is where we begin a story about 2016.

Something happened last year in the Santa Clarita Valley - an area so rich in baseball history - that hadn't happened in two decades.

To recap, Hart made its first CIF-Southern Section championship game since 1999 and Saugus reached its first semifinal since 1989.
These same two schools played in separate CIF title games in 1989. It was the first time since '89 that two schools that represent the current Foothill League had reached a semifinal.

Valencia reached the CIF-SS Division I quarterfinals last season, making it the first time the Foothill League had three teams in the Division I quarterfinals.

For years, the Foothill has fought for respect in Division I - the most competitive division in California. Did last year prove that Foothill is a force in Division I, and will it be again in 2016?
"I think you have to go out and prove it again," said Hart Head Coach Jim Ozella. "I don't think our league is that well respected. That's just my two cents. Maybe some of the other teams have a different viewpoint than me. We're not Orange County. I don't see us as established as Orange County. If you want to be good in baseball, you have to beat Orange County on a regular basis."
West Ranch's Casey Burrill, always looking on the bright side, said the league indeed showed a lasting might.

"It solidified our belief that our league is great," he said of last year's success.

Furthermore, Saugus head coach John Maggiora is optimistic about this season.

"I think [Foothill] is just as strong, just with guys who haven't proven themselves," he said. "The names have all graduated, but I like the guys coming up."

The teams expected to keep the Foothill League on the map are the same four who were the league championship contenders last year - defending-champion Hart, Valencia, Saugus and West Ranch, which just missed reaching the postseason.

Canyon and Golden Valley are rebuilding with new head coaches - Drew Peterson and Steve Lombardi.

Hart will try and get back to the promised land with its own rebuilt team.

The Indians' shutdown pitching duo of Jack Ralston and Paul Richan are now pitching in college. Pitchers junior Cody Turner and sophomores Bryce Collins and Ryan Carolan are thrown into the fire this season.

Hart is short on returning position players, but returners Nick Plaia, Jake Lewis and catcher Robert Reeves, who became a star in last year's postseason, should supply ample sock for the Indians.

Valencia has the best player in the league returning in shortstop Scott Ogrin.
Ogrin had one of the best offensive seasons in Foothill history last year, and fellow returners Trace Eldridge, A.J. Medina and Ben Fariss will back him.

"We're not going to have the power we typically have, but we will be a pretty well-rounded team," said Valencia head coach Mike Killinger.
Valencia also graduated its top pitchers and Fariss and Anthony Gomez step in to pitch the majority of the innings in 2016.

Speaking of graduated pitchers, Saugus was also hit hard by significant departures.
The Centurions' had the best pitching depth seen in the SCV in years. Now the Centurions' strength shifts to the offense with returners Rudy Aguilar, Joey Mendez, J.T. Heade and Caden Salkeld.

Saugus has some exciting youth on the mound - Tony Jacob and Jacob Lopez.

West Ranch may have the best pitching tandem returning in Timmy Josten and Jack Cunningham.
The Wildcats lost one of the best players in school history to graduation in Jagger Rusconi, but have some punch returning with Jason Drees, Cade Spurlin and Blake Baumgartner and newcomers Christos Stefanos and Will Chambers.
Canyon and Golden Valley will look to a lot of newcomers to boost their hopes, but the Cowboys' Danny Cuevas and Grizzlies' Dylan Rightmeyer made strong impressions on the varsity in 2015.

At least three of these reshaped Foothill teams will make the Division I playoffs where things won't be easy.

The Number One team in the nation is in the division - Huntington Beach, which defeated Hart in last year's Division I championship game. And there's no doubt there will be other minefields for the Santa Clarita Valley teams come postseason time.

Surely they'll be battle tested by then and will walk into the postseason with other teams respecting them, based off at least one reason - 2015.
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