MODESTO — The Modesto Junior College baseball program mirrors its graded and resodded infield these days new, refurbished, looking ahead.
The Pirates have hit the restart button and, the way they see it, are building something that will last.
"We want to do this the MJC way," said assistant coach Zeb Brayton, in his 10th season on the staff. "Everything will be done the right way."
It is a page-turning spring for MJC baseball. On the field, the Pirates (8-9, 1-5) have struggled since the start of the rugged Big 8 Conference schedule.
A glimmer of light peeked through the fog Saturday, however, when the Pirates snapped a six-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over San Joaquin Delta.
Still, Modesto averages only 4.6 runs per game and has topped the four-run mark only six times. If its pitching and defense are not just right, its chances to win are slim.
Then again, MJC also is addressing long-term goals. Bo Aiello, who guided the Pirates from 1983 to '08, has returned as head coach. He replaced Chris Rodriguez (66-79 over four years), who guided the Pirates into the Northern California playoffs one time.
With Aiello, Brayton and ex-MJC products on the staff, the Pirates hope to enhance their brand. They last won a league title in 2006, as members of the Central Valley Conference, so the target is reasonable.
Getting up to speed in the Big 8, however, won't be easy. The last two state champions, Cosumnes River and Delta, are Big 8 heavyweights.
MJC has had some chances recently. The Pirates held a 2-run lead against league-leading Santa Rosa. They rallied from behind to lead Delta 4-3 only to give up five runs in the ninth on Thursday.
"We're doing a good job of getting on base but not so good of a job bringing them in," Brayton said. "It takes a while when you have inexperienced hitters."
Their leading hitter is third baseman Dan Carney (.359, 12 RBIs) along with first baseman Jake Scott (.320). Outfielder Patrick Mulry (.283) and second baseman Gino Franceschetti, both freshmen, have helped. So have sophomore shortstop Jesse Foster and freshman outfielder Kaden Cline.
Ty Galloway, a 6-foot-7 sophomore right-handed pitcher, is 1-1 with a 3.76 ERA. Don Fairchilds (2.75) and Robbie DeVries (4-1) also have enjoyed their moments Devries pitched 8ª sharp innings vs. Delta but the pitching has slumped during the losing streak.
"We have hard workers with great attitudes," Brayton said. "Just getting better game to game is what we have to do."
Women's track and field
Coach: Mary Shea (12th)
2012: Big 8 champion, 4th in NorCal
Key Athletes Lost: Jealinda Mills, Taylor Renee Wilson, Jazveen Brar, Taryn Garza
Key Returning Athletes: Adriana Mendez, Katy Cederlind
Newcomers: Kianna Weinzheimer, Cara McClain, Sarah Mayfield. Becky Hobby
Update: Weinzheimer (Patterson), a transfer from Central Arizona, is ranked No. 2 in California in the javelin (140-8). McClain is No. 2 in the hammer (183-3). Mayfield brings versatility in the 400 and 800, while Mendez hopes to improve on her seventh in the state in the 1,500 last spring. Sisters Morgan and Alyssa McFadden, Mayfield and Olivia Muse-Amiel bring promise to the 4x400 relay. Hobby, fifth in state cross country last fall, tops distance runners.
Men's track and field
Coach: Demetrius Snaer (9th)
2012: 2nd in Big 8, 3rd in NorCal, 7th in State
Key Athletes Lost: Alejandro Garcia, Casey Ballinger
Key Returning Athletes: Kolton Cody, Akim Muhammad, Markus Sanders, Tyler Lamott
Newcomers: Eric Adorno, Strat Stavrianoudakis, Aldo Guzman, Manuel Hernandez
Update: The Pirates are off and running with Muhammad, who's already ranked among the state's top five in the 400, and potentially swift relay teams. Thayer has bounced back from a hamstring injury and strengthens the relays. In the field events, Lamott is ranked No. 1 in the state in the hammer (194-10). Sanders, a former MJC football star who placed third in the state last year in the discus, is No. 1 in the state (163-10). Hernandez placed third in the state as an Oakdale senior.
Coach: Ron Gross (5th)
2012: 4th in Big 8
Key Players Lost: Clayton Aguilar, Taylor Aderholt
Key Returning Player: Kirk Ferreira
Newcomers: A.J. Borges, Ryan Jones, Robert Wikoff
Update: Gross believes this is his deepest team. During a recent match, the Pirates' scores all fell between 78 and 82, numbers Gross says will improve. Borges, a St. Mary's graduate, has jumped to the top of the lineup since he transferred from Cal State Stanislaus. The long-hitting Jones advanced to NorCals as an Oakdale High senior. Modesto totaled a 390, its second-lowest score this season, and placed third last week at Yolo Fliers.
Coach: Shawn Black (10th)
2012: 6-8, 3rd in Big 8-South
Key Players Lost: None
Key Returning Player: Esteban Felix
Newcomers: Alex Jackson, Xavier Lopez
Update: Felix, MJC's No. 1 singles, now is slotted at No. 5 to demonstrate the Pirates' improved depth. MJC (8-3, 4-1) has been solid in the Big 8 despite an opening 9-0 loss to defending state champion Fresno. Jackson, who played for the Pirates in 2011, has returned to the No. 1 spot, followed by Lopez. Felix reached the semifinals of his flight at the MJC Invitational.
Coach: Milan Motroni (9th)
2012: 3rd in Big 8
Key Player Lost: Presli Pilati
Key Returner: Angela Roso
Newcomers: Morlica Long, Hilda Rodriguez
Update: The Pirates (5-4, 3-3) have been more competitive in the Big 8 this season. The top example is their recent 6-3 loss, including two 3-set losses, to talented Reedley. Roso, No. 6 on the singles ladder a year, is this year's No. 1. Long and Rodriguez also are featured. Pilati (Escalon) plays golf for Hawaii Pacific.
Coach: Kelly Nasrawi (6th)
2012: 21-19, 12-9 Big 8
Key Returning Players: Roxy Corella, Micayla Laupua
Newcomers: Mady Adams, Kasidi Barcelos
Update: The Pirates (6-17, 0-5) have struggled due to physical and mental errors. Pitcher Roxy Corella, 19-18 last year, mirrors the team's sluggish beginning. "We committed only two errors against Reedley and won. We can get better," Nasrawi said. One bright spot is left fielder Mady Adams, who's been steady at the leadoff spot.