Teams to watch: Johansen, hurt by a late-season slump last year, has high hopes for an MMC title this season. Matt Keydeniers (.373, 22 RBIs; 2-2, 3.11 ERA) will bat No. 3, while SS Tyler Love (.989 fielding percentage) is one of the best in the district. Nick McCann (4-1, 1.69 ERA) is on the mound, while Kevin Dix (.340) will play both corner spots. Look for the Vikings to steal more bases. ... Beyer expects a big year from P Kyle Barrett (7-0, 1.02 ERA, 71 Ks), with Blake Barber (.346, 8 2Bs), Joey Roy (.317, 23 SBs) and Vince Roberts (.337, 4 HRs) providing the hitting. ... Waterford looks to improve on last year's second-place finish in the Southern League, with juniors C.J. DeDeaux (.353, 2 HRs, 14 RBIs) and Kyle Hopper (4-1, 2.69) among the five returning starters. Mike Erickson drove in a team-high 16 runs. ... Modesto Christian will need to score in bunches to stay in the TVL race, and it should with a quartet of hitters -- Cisco Green (.467 avg., 27 SBs), J.T. Teixeira (.363), Beyer transfer Patrick White (.397, 20 RBIs) and Ryan McConnell (.371). ... Jack Thomson returns to coach Sierra, after a year off, and he's ready to battle section Division IV champ Oakdale. Sierra started three sophomores last year -- P/1B Jordan Ribota (.258), INF Andy Scott (.293) and P/OF Mark Perusse (.232) -- and the 'Wolves have a power hitter in Andrew Gabriel (.389, 4 HRs, 23 RBIs). Sierra also has six pitchers, three righty and three lefty. ... Escalon fell to Central Catholic in last year's D-V final and has aspirations of returning with an offense led by Jacob Caton (.337, 35 runs), Nick Aprile (.302, 35 runs) and Leighton Pangilinan (.486, 4 HRs, 31 RBIs). Ace Jimmy Zepeda (80-1, 3.11 ERA) returns for his third season, with three sophomores behind him. The TVL gets only two playoff spots -- and there are four quality teams.
Players to watch: Los Banos is led by a trio of hitters (Julio Cortez, .328 avg., 6 2Bs; Michael Wyrick, .362; Phil Etcheverry, .371), but is looking to develop a pitching staff. ... Manteca's Toby Fox (.450, 18 SBs) and Beau Fryer (.451, 12 SBs) provide speed, and the Buffs have ace Eric Watts (8-2, 2.97 ERA). ... Downey is lacking depth, but the Knights feature SS Kirk Rocha (.329 avg., .490 on-base) and righty Mike Fletcher (3.15 ERA, 24 Ks in 33 innings). ... Davis returns its entire pitching staff, led by all-MMC pick Ryan Stice and Tim McCoy (4 wins, 3 saves), but the Spartans need to rebuild their lineup. ... Pitman features one of the district's best in SS Austin Keaton, an all-district second-teamer. Nathan Gonzalez is back on the mound, and should get help from Delhi transfer Lincoln Clapper and junior Tyler Snodgrass. ... Gustine has a thrower in 6-3, 210-pound junior Clint Manzo. ... SS Chipper Lemmo (.439 avg., 15 SBs) is reason enough to see Modesto, though it also has power-hitting Kevin Grimes (6 HRs, 19 RBIs). ... Enochs has its first varsity team, with junior Mike Stewart (.448 avg., 24 RBIs, 1.98 ERA on the JVs) and Matt Walsh (.450 avg., 24 runs, 15 RBIs) leading a young group. Enochs expects to use five junior pitchers. ... Travis Goldberg (.313 avg.; 6-2, 2.6 ERA) is a solid two-way performer for Bret Harte, as is T.J. Bradley (.325 avg,, 18 SBs; 3.2 ERA). ... Turlock has only five seniors -- led by P/INF Jared Serpa and INF Sergio Perez -- so it will have to look to the future in the CCC. ... Central Valley's Martin Gomez (64 Ks in 58 innings, five complete games) fired a six-hitter to knock rival Ceres out of the playoffs on the final day of the regular season last year, so he's the real deal. Garrett Riley (.333) and Rick Rogers (11-for-11 on SBs) will get offensive help from Brian Creek (JV MVP). ... Julio Cortez (.328, 6 2Bs) is a nice line-drive hitter for Los Banos, while Michael Wyrick (.362; 34 Ks in 29 innings) is back on the mound.
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