Improved outlook for MJC baseball

ragostini@modbee.comFebruary 9, 2014 

The Modesto Junior College baseball team took a step forward last year and, a year later, still shows a confident forward lean.

The Pirates have opened the 2013-14 season with a 4-0 burst via three wins over De Anza and another over Mission. Better still, MJC plated 40 runs against only 10 by their opponents.

For a team that hasn’t won a league title since 2006, that’s a promising a start. Not surprisingly, Modesto figures to be better this spring.

Bo Aiello, the MJC coach from 1983 to ‘08, returned last spring as MJC fought to an 18-18 record and 11-13 for fifth place in the Big 8 Conference. But look closer: The Pirates opened with five straight conference losses but finished with four wins in their last six to squeeze into the NorCal Playoffs.

“We were inexperienced last year but we maxed out and got hot at the right time. I thought we overachieved and changed the culture of the program,” assistant coach Zeb Brayton said. “We have the same qualities but more talent this year.”

Modesto can thank a large contingent from Escalon High’s strong program: Returners Gino Franceschetti (second base), Patrick Mulry (center field) and newcomer Aaron Pangilanan.

Pangilinan, a first baseman-pitcher, sat out last year after he played the year before for a JC in Texas (he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox but did not sign). He’s already made a big impact for the Pirates.

Also with the Pirates are ex-Cougars Josh Miguel and Nathan Chunn. Miguel, an infielder and former prep football star, bounced back to Modesto after he suffered a broken leg in the 2013 baseball season opener for Merced. Chunn, a catcher starred for Escalon last year. Mulry batted .277 with a team-leading 26 RBIs for MJC last season, while Franceschetti hit .254. Also back is right fielder Kaden Cline.

Here is the rest of the MJC spring sports scene:

Women’s Track

Coach: Mary Shea (13th)

Last Year: 1st in Big 8, 3rd in NorCal, 5th in state

Key Athletes Lost: Kianna Weinzheimer, Katy Cederlind, Sarah Mayfield

Key Returners: Cara McClain, Becky Hobby, Tory Dickerson, Morgan McFaddin

Key Newcomers: Omara McBride, Yajahira Valdivia

Prognosis: The Pirates chase a third consecutive Big 8 title with three reigning Northern California champions in hammer thrower McClain, Hobby in the 1,500 meters and Dickerson in the shot put. Hobby placed second at State in the 1,500. McClain, fourth in the state in the hammer, went on to win the USA Junior Outdoors title and was fifth at the PanAmerican Junior Championships. The versatile Dickerson also placed second in the shot put and sixth in the hammer at State. MJC will enjoy more success if the field-events stars deliver along with some help on the track from McFaddin and McBride.

Men’s Track

Coach: Demetrius Snaer (10th)

Last Year: 2nd in Big 8, 4th at NorCal, 7th at State

Key Athletes Lost: Markus Sanders, Tyler Lamott, Akim Muhammad

Key Returners: Tommy Wright, Eric Adorno, Strat Stavrianoudakis, Kolton Cody, Aldo Guzman, Austin Funk

Key Newcomers: Jordan Lyons, Lavell Hamlin, Ronnie Holley

Prognosis: Replacing Sanders, a state champion in the hammer throw and discus, is impossible, and Lamott was third at State in the HT. The replacements are solid in HT state finalists Guzman (fifth at State in the discus) and Funk. Wright hopes to improve on his fourth at State last year in the triple jump. The sprints will be in good hands with Cody, who’s back after reaching the 2012 state finals in the 100 (10.48), Adorno and Lyons. Hurdlers to watch are Stavrianoudakis (NorCal finalist in the 400 H), Hamlin and Holley.

Softball

Coach: Kelly Nasrawi (7th)

Last Year: 9-30, 3-18 in Big 8 (7th)

Key Players Lost: Roxy Corella, Micayla Laupua

Key Returners: Leah Layman, Amanda Deigan, Emily Davis, Brooke Hawkins

Key Newcomers: Illiana Cajias, Briana Villa

Prognosis: Modesto opened with lopsided losses to San Mateo and Foothill. The Pirates hope the return of Hawkins, the Pirates’ leading hitter two years ago, fills out a capable outfield with Adams and Rios. Elsewhere, Nasrawi looks for a spark from freshman ss Villa, 2b-3b Cajias, 1b-P Deigan, INF-P Davis and INF-P Layman.

Men’s Tennis

Coach: Shawn Black (11th)

Last Year: 10-4, 6-2 and 2nd in Big 8 South, 5th in NorCal

Key Players Lost: Esteban Felix, Alex Jackson

Key Returners: Austin Tay, Rick Peloso, Bryce Purser, Javier Lagarde-Soto

Key Newcomers: Zachary Woerner, Cory Purser

Prognosis: The Pirates, fifth in NorCal a year ago (they lost to Chabot in the first round of NorCals), hope to improve this spring with the return of Bryce Purser from the 2011 team. The rest of the lineup, in order, features Tay (also No. 2 last year), Peloso, Woerner, Lagarde-Soto (from 2012 team) and Cory Purser (Bryce’s brother). Experience and depth is a nice combo.

Women’s Tennis

Coach: Milan Motroni (10th)

Last Year: T-4 in Big 8 South

Key Player Lost: Angela Roso

Key Returner: Monique Origel

Key Newcomers: Chiara Adamo, Brittany Leon, Allyssa Eggen

Prognosis: Motroni says the Pirates, 2-1 thus far, should be better in 2014. It starts with Adamo, a Tracy High product who reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 doubles quarterfinals last year. Leon (Pitman) is slotted at No. 2, followed by Origel (a Pirate in 2012), Eggen (Modesto) and Rebecah Jacobson (East Union).

Men’s Swimming

Coach: Kurt Olson (10th)

Last Year: 4th in Big 8, 9th in state

Key Swimmers Lost: Tim Richard, Darius Ford

Key Newcomers: Michael Montalvo, Bradley McCain, Ethan Heacox, Chance Haueter

Prognosis: Richard, now at Oklahoma Baptist, was a 3-time state champion (100 and 200 breaststroke and 200 IM) who broke seven MJC records. He’s replaced by a freshman-dominated roster featuring Heacox from Salinas (100 back, 500 free) and Pitman grad Montalvo (100, 50 free, butterfly). He looked good during their win over Las Positas and second in a 4-way meet. Haueter, a top-10 diver in the section from Grace Davis, also will help.

Women’s Swimming

Coach: Kurt Olson (10th)

Last Year: 5th in Big 8, 14th in state

Key Swimmer Lost: Alex Wheeler

Key Returner: Kristine Groteguth

Key Newcomers: Tori Spears-Tasho, Miranda Knobloch, Camarin Waite

Prognosis: Gone is Wheeler, who won the Big 8 in 100 and 500 free and placed at State in the 500 free. Olson rebuilds with freshmen such as Spears-Tasho (50 back, 50 fly), Knobloch (200 free, 500 free) and Waite (50 fly, 100 fly).

Men’s Golf

Coach: Ron Gross (7th)

Last Year: 4th in Big 8 (won Big 8 tournament)

Key Player Lost: Michael Sturgis

Key Returners: Robby Wikoff, A.J. Borges, Philip Simpson, Austen Cardoza, Ryan Jones

Key Newcomers: Kyle Head, Tyler Gomes, Carson Ellington

Prognosis: Gross anticipates a finish in upper half of Big 8 with an experienced and deep lineup. Sturgis will miss the season due to an injury, but Wikoff will lead a potent lineup. The Pirates, who barely missed qualifying for NorCals as a team last year, will use that as fuel this spring.

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