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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.