Prep baseball previews: Gilroy and Christopher High

Gilroy residents will have a chance to meet three players from

Capsules of the 2012 Gilroy and Christopher varsity baseball teams with a look back and glance forward.

Expectations raised at Christopher

With 14 returning varsity players from last season’s squad – 10 of whom are seniors (part of the first senior class) – CHS manager Ryan Dequin is faced with a quandary some managers only hope to have to sort through.

“With this year’s talent, I have the welcomed challenge of having too many guys who can play with not enough positions for them all,” wrote through email this week.

The Cougars held their own during their inaugural varsity campaign a season ago. But now that Year 1 is out of the way, expectations have been raised for Year 2 – and rightly so.

“With this team, I have a lot of expectations of each and every one of the kids,” Dequin said. “I have enough talented guys who can fill different roles at different times. I expect almost every one of our position players to be able to play and excel more than one position at any given time.”

Monterey went 18-0 in league and ran away with the MBL title in 2011. Monte Vista Christian finished second (14-4 league) and North Monterey County was third (13-5.) The Cougars placed fourth.

“Having a year of varsity-level experience under our belts, I expect us to make some waves in our league. My assistant coaches and I have been amazed by how much our boys have grown and matured over the past year,” Dequin said.

2011: 9-18 overall, 7-11 Monterey Bay League

Key returners: Patrick Valdez – Junior/Center field: Valdez, a returning all-league selection, led the Cougars with 33 hits last season. Bryant Cid – Senior/Utility: Cid missed most of 2011 with a knee injury. He will bolster the middle of the lineup and serve in multiple positions in the field. Brian Ransom – Junior/Pitcher: Ransom has been the Cougars No. 1-starter on the mound since Day 1 two seasons ago. Nathan Davis – Senior/First base: Contributed a team-high 14 RBIs last season. Brandon Pickens – Senior/ Second base: Prototypical middle infielder with good hands and a spark out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

Who to watch: Brandon Irby (Catcher/Pitcher), Ryan Fredricks (Catcher), Mario Talamante (Pitcher), Robert Driscal (Outfield/Pitcher)

So far: The Cougars are 1-3 in the early stages of the season. Two of the three losses are by a combined three runs.

Fresh start has GHS anxious for season

Consensus around the Gilroy High Mustangs varsity baseball team is that the 2012 season comes as a breath of fresh air.

Even before hitting the field, first-year manager Jared Gamble, who takes over for Johnny Ramirez, and the Mustangs were able to raise $12,000 through fundraising efforts, which allowed the program to alleviate itself from a considerable amount of debt.

“We were hoping to get the debt taken care of over the next couple of years,” Gamble said. “So that’s really the most exciting news for us right now.”

On the field, Gamble has called in an entirely new varsity coaching staff – Troy Swartzle, Billy Holler and Dennis Castro – and with it, restructured methods in striving toward a turnaround season. “I think this year the kids are excited with a fresh start to a new season,” Gamble said. “Changes were made to practices and (to the) approach to the game. They work hard and understand what it takes to be successful.”

A potent offense carried GHS through 2011 and made up for deficiencies on the mound and in the field. The Mustangs again will swing a heavy bat but steady Improvements have been made in the latter two facets. GHS totaled 195 runs in 2011 – tied for second in the TCAL.

“I think this years team is well rounded. They hit the ball really well, they know what they are doing on defense –and pitchers can throw too,” Gamble said.

San Benito is the defending league champion for the sixth time in a row. Gilroy finished fourth last season.

2011: 15-13 overall, 10-8 Tri-County Athletic League. Lost 9-8 to Westmont in the first round of the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs.

Key returners: Bubu Garcia: Senior/shortstop – Two-time first-team all-leaguer and the TCAL’s reigning Most Valuable Player put up staggering offensive numbers in 2011 with league-highs in home runs (six) and RBIs (36.) The vocal leader and catalyst. Jordan Dexter: Senior/First base – Looking to rebound from a subpar offensive season. Transitioning from catcher to first base this season. Ryan Alba: Senior/Pitcher –  Alba, a returning first-team selection, will be the Mustangs No. 1-starter and hit lead off. Brenden Holler: Junior/Pitcher-Outfield – Slotted in as No. 2 in the rotation. Fundamentally sound and fast.

Who to watch: Jaylan Gallardo (Pitcher), Sammy Aptekar (Catcher), Bubba Lara (Second base)

So far: The Mustangs played their first game Thursday at Milpitas and

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