Gimenez expected to lead inexperienced Mustang diamondmen.
GILROY – A rocky 1-4 start in the pre-season has the Gilroy High baseball team scrambling early – but, with a line-up full of inexperience, it is nothing new or unfixable for veteran skipper Clint Wheeler.
“This is my fourth season and it might be my toughest,” said Wheeler, who is coming of a 14-14 campaign last season that saw the Mustang diamondmen fall in the first round of the CCS Playoffs to Saint Francis. “We’re trying to gain experience in a hurry.”
Coach Wheeler had his boys play a 12-inning intrasquad scrimmage this week to “give the guys game experience, as much as they can as fast as they can.”
Senior first baseman/pitcher Todd Gimenez is back for his third varsity season – bringing his lefty bat and arm to the table for the Mustangs.
“As of right now, he’s our number one. He’s throwing strikes. He’s doing pretty well,” said Wheeler of his team captain. “If we’re going to be successful, he has to be one of our RBI guys. He’ll bat in the four, or five hole all year long… He does a great job around the bag and helps out our infield alot.”
Senior speedster Brian Collom returns to centerfield as well as the top of the order for the Mustangs. Wheeler said he experimented with Collom in the three hole, but anticipates him leading things off once again this season.
“He’s probably one of the fastest in the league. He definitely has speed from the left side,” said Wheeler of Collom, who throws right and bats left. “He’s going to be one of the guys that sets the table for us. He goes the other way. He drag bunts. He can do a lot things, especially with his speed.”
Also back for Gilroy is senior second baseman Greg Lucio – who platooned at second base last season with senior Eric Gonzalez. While Lucio is fighting for the second base job, Gonzalez is slotted to play either shortstop or third base this season.
“We’re 1-4 right now so nothing is set in stone but (Lucio) is definitely one of our leaders in the infield,” Wheeler said. “(Gonzalez) is a defense guy.”
Gonzalez is getting challenged for an infield spot by sophomore standout Jordan Newton – who is up from last year’s junior varsity squad.
“It definitely pushes them,” Wheeler said. “(Newton) is another kid who plays hard. He’s always hustling. He’s not afraid to lay out or take a ball in the chest. He doesn’t play like a sophomore. He’s pretty tough.”
Junior catcher Ben Hemeon, late-season call-up last year, steps behind the plate again – bringing a solid glove as well as a hard hitting bat to the Gilroy line-up. Hemeon is a three-sport athlete – playing football, basketball, and now baseball.
“He’s solid back there. He got a late start coming out of basketball, but he does a good job,” said Wheeler, who plans to use Hemeon in the number three hole in the order. “He drives the ball probably the hardest of anyone – the most consistently hard… He’s a great athlete.”
Another late-season call-up starting out on varsity this season is sophomore infielder/right-hander Peter Mickartz.
“The biggest thing he brings is a great arm,” said Wheeler of Mickartz. “He’s a battler. He plays hard every day and he loves to compete.”
Along with Collom in centerfield, there are a host of Mustangs in the outfield mix – including seniors John Kirkish, Richard and Ruben Chavez, Kyle Costa, and Tony Casalegno, as well as juniors Derrick Fellows and Ron Colmon, and sophomore Maurice Sustaita.
On the mound, the Mustangs have a starting rotation of Gimenez, Mickartz, and Kirkish in addition to Brandon Winters – who will be solely used as a pitcher.
“They’ll all be battling for innings this year,” said Wheeler, whose pitchers are having trouble finding the strike zone in the early season. “Right now (Gimenez) is our number one, but I can see it going by committee.”
The new Tri-County Athletic League format has teams playing back-to-back, home-and-home games the first time through the schedule and then has teams play for a third time in a single-game format to finish up the year.
“It assures you to see their number two guy. A lot of times the better teams are stuck seeing the number one guy all the time,” said Wheeler, who is once again backed by assistants Rich Furtado and Josh Garcia. “I’m hoping we should split the first time through and the second time hopefully win the close ones.”
The Mustangs will partake in their annual alumni game Saturday at 10 a.m. and then open their T-CAL schedule Wednesday at home against Salinas.