The Southern Section baseball season begins Friday with four of the Glendale-area's seven member schools under the guidance of first-year coaches.
Jim Delzell of Hoover, John Yakel of St. Francis, Jon Leizman of Flintridge Prep and Ric Desotell of Ribet Academy have joined a fraternity that also includes 10th-year Coach Gary Lievre of La Canada and fourth-year Coaches Chris Axelgard of Glendale and Tony Zarillo of Crescenta Valley.
None of the Glendale-area teams figure to be powers this season. All, however, will likely be contenders for playoff berths. Unlike the format for basketball, baseball playoff berths go only to the top three finishers from each league.
Here is a look at each team:
The Dynamiters, who open their season at home Friday against defending 4-A Division champion San Luis Obispo, are coming off one of their best seasons in years.
Glendale finished 17-7-2 overall and 10-4-1 in Pacific League play last season, only a half-game behind perennial power Arcadia.
Lost through graduation were Danny Gray--the league's most valuable player--and all-league players Brent Overfelt, John Strauss and Marco Rivas.
Axelgard hopes senior pitcher/infielder Lance Evans, senior first baseman Bill Kirk and senior outfielder Rene Rangel will offset the Dynamiters' losses.
Junior Jason Greenberg and sophomore David Sofro both will pitch and play shortstop. Matt Leising, who played tennis the past three years, will open the season as the cleanup hitter.
"Going into last season, we expected to do well and we did," Axelgard said. "This year, it's wide open. We don't know what to expect. I can see us finishing anywhere from second to fifth in league."
The Tornadoes lost three All-Pacific League players--infielders Mickey Moreno, Jose Robles and Steve Avilas--from last year's team, which finished 8-13 overall.
Delzell, a former standout hitter at Occidental College, hopes a somewhat experienced pitching staff can compensate for the loss of offensive production.
Junior right-handers Kevin Deitch and Young Park and senior left-hander Rob Walley will be key players for a Hoover team Delzell describes as, "young and untested."
The Tornadoes, who play St. Francis on Friday, have good team speed and will use it to offset a lack of power.
Senior infielder/center fielder David Pardo, sophomore first baseman Nathan Dishington, junior third baseman Joby Lewis and senior outfielders George Rodriguez and Alan Mendoza are expected to be the offensive catalysts.
"If our three pitchers come through, we're going to be all right," Delzell said.
A fourth consecutive playoff appearance is likely for the Falcons, despite the loss of all-league players Shane Cowsill and Ryan Kadletz.
Last season, Crescenta Valley finished 12-12 overall and 9-6 in Pacific League play after losing its final three regular-season games.
"We'll hit fairly well and we're OK defensively," said Zarillo, whose team plays La Canada on Friday night at Stengel Field. "Right now, pitching is a tremendous question mark."
Senior right-handers John Breckow and Brian McBride are the top pitchers and senior Andy Saltzman is the catcher.
Sophomore Brendon Cowsill, who played third base and designated-hitter last season, moves to shortstop while senior Ernie Diaz is back at second base.
Junior Josh Canale will play first base and also pitch.
The move from the Del Rey League to the San Fernando Valley League proved a good one for the St. Francis football and basketball teams.
In baseball, however, the Golden Knights are joining a league that includes El Segundo, traditionally one of the finest programs in the nation.
Yakel, 24, has three key returning seniors in catcher John Willis, right-handed pitcher Paul Gomez and center fielder Shawn Haney.
Junior right-hander John Workman and junior left-hander Ermilo Cervera, both of whom saw extensive action last season, augment the pitching staff.
Yakel also expects good things from sophomore shortstop Rudy Martinez.
"We're going to be an execution-style team," said Yakel, an assistant the past two seasons. "We don't have the great pitching we had last year nor the great offense we had two years ago, but we're balanced and solid everywhere defensively."
Only three players return from last year's team, which was 11-10 overall and 10-5 in Rio Hondo League play.
Senior outfielder Rick Siegler, senior shortstop Brian Coppola and junior catcher K.C. Matthews form the nucleus of a team dominated by juniors.
Third baseman Kenny Burns, outfielder Brent Ballard, first baseman Matt Lievre, outfielder David Traughber and middle infielders Jason Charmin and Sonny Kuliwad should make La Canada competitive for the next two years.
"We'll hit-and-run because we don't have a power hitter," Gary Lievre said. "It'll be pitching by committee and they're all young."
Leizman inherits a program that lost six players from last year's team, which finished 10-6 overall and second in the Prep League.