Underdogs Ready To Give It Their All In 3A-16
It’s no debate who the favorite is in this district. Westminster Christian has long been a powerhouse program, and last year the Warriors were a game away from returning to the state tournament. The team fell in a tough game against a guy now pitching in the Major League system, and it returns as strong as ever.
This is a very strong Warriors team this season, with a strong core of seniors who have been contributing since they were sophomores starting together. It is a team that will be tough to beat, and a program that is always working towards winning that next state championship. That wait just may be over this season.
Archbishop Carroll and Palmer Trinity seem lined nose to nose to fight for that second seed, but that is not to say that Marathon could not surprise some teams this season. The Dolphins play a nice schedule, with a lot of road games to challenging venues, and they could be very battle-tested come district playoff time.
2014 Record: 13-13
Manager: Andy Blanco
Key Returners: Matthew Quicuti, James Oporta, Ryan Alvarez, Bryant Austin, Sal Lorenzo, Ricky Alvarez, Paolo Maldonado
Newcomers: Nick Labrada, Alan Alonso, Chris Fernandez
Team Strength: Desire to improve and win
Baseball matters at Archbishop Carroll. There isn’t just a sense of enthusiasm among the players. It extends beyond the ballfield at Carroll, and there’s nothing better than having the support you need to be successful on the field.
“The school is excited in the direction the program is headed from Sister Rosalie O.C.D., who is a die-hard Los Angeles Dodger and baseball fan, to the Athletic Director Juan Hernandez, who has been completely supportive,” Manager Andy Blanco said. “The administration is excited, and the kids appreciate it and feel a sense of pride.”
Blanco isn’t the only one who feels a boost from the positive backing of the administration.
“The support is a huge help for the team,” senior catcher Matthew Quicuti said. “We are very excited because it gives us a goal to bring back a district, or even state championship to our school.”
Quicuti is one of seven returning players to the team. The others are senior pitcher James Oporta, senior pitcher Ryan Alvarez, senior center fielder Bryant Austin, sophomore shortstop Sal Lorenzo, sophomore second baseman Ricky Alvarez, sophomore pitcher Paolo Maldonado. Top newcomers are sophomore outfielder/pitcher Nick Labrada, junior first baseman Alan Alonso and freshman catcher Chris Fernandez.
In addition to the tremendous support of the school, the team has been reaching out to its former players.
“To bring respect and pride to a once-proud program, we have been working hard in trying to involve alumni, and we think it is a step in the right direction,” Blanco said. “Having them involved and around shows our kids that someone cares and gives them a sense of accountability. I think it’s everyone’s goal to win a state title, so short-term goal is to work hard and learn to win putting together all the things we do in practice. We know it is a process and have to be patient and trust each other and the process.”
Longterm, Blanco would like to see that success come every year and possibly lead to a state title. It’s an ambitious goal to be sure, but with determination, the Bulldogs hope it can be done.
But to get there, Blanco has instilled a strong work ethic in his players.
“We just want to go out and play hard every inning and hopefully be on the winning end of a game,” Blanco said. “The story behind this team is that they are passionate and are hungry for some winning baseball.”
“In addition to desire to be successful, another strength this year is the team chemistry,” Quicuti said. “In my opinion, the best trait that our team has going for us is the fact the we are a family and we treat each other as if were a family,” he said.
Attitude aside, the Bulldogs are facing an uphill battle as it has lost a lot of players from last year. The team includes just four seniors, two of whom were every-day starters last year.
Quicuti is the starting catcher, but will start the season as a designated hitter because of an arm injury. He is expected back in the second week of the season. Meanwhile, he is working hard to be a leader for the less-experienced players.
“My approach towards leading the younger players on my team is to show them that there is always another day and to never get frustrated at themselves if they’re doing bad in their at-bats or on the field because that will just lead to more errors,” Quicuti said. “I want to help them expand in their mental aspect of baseball so that they can know what to do in every situation there put in.”
Blanco said he expects Austin to have a breakout year as center fielder. Blanco said he has above-average speed and is a tough out. Alvarez will be the team’s opening-day starter, and Blanco said a lot is expected from him. Oporta is coming back from an injury and has been working extremely hard. Blanco said the plan is to ease him into the rotation and hope to have him at 100 percent by the end of the year.
Outside of baseball, the players are involved in numerous activities in the community. The Walk for Life day is one of the many service projects in which they participate.
“Being a parochial school gives all of us an opportunity to give back to the community, and really take part in all of these charitable activities,” Blanco said.
The team also participated in the Annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning where the students ran a 5K and contributed food items for the less fortunate. There are also plenty of other activities within the school that are required for service hours that the students participate in and represent their school in a positive and Catholic atmosphere.
“All of that time spent together off the field will help the team on it,” Quicuti said. “I feel that from being so active in our community, it helps the team come together more and it shows that we don’t only want to be supported but we will also support when anyone is in need.”
2014 Record: 9-13
Manager: Luis Leal
Coaching Staff: Luis Gonzalez
2014 Record: 14-7-2
Manager: Donnie Harvey
Key Returners: Daniel Chumbley, Jarrett Pico, Nick Font, Blake Miller, Matt Roberts
Newcomers: Nick Sondon
Team strengths: Pitching
2014 Record: 23-5-1
Manager: Emil Castellanos
Coaching Staff: Ben Warren, Billy Comber, Dax Gallegos, Boris Dimare
Key Returners: Ryan Terry, Jakob Zarello, Adrian Mayans, Julian Infante, Anthony Borrego, John Gonzalez, Mike Acosta
Team strengths: Pitching, Hitting, Defense