Season Preview

COUGARS #18 IN PRESEASON BASEBALL POLL-

Opens 2015 Campaign in Riverside

 

SAN LUIS OBISPO (January 29, 2015)— The Cuesta baseball team is set to begin its 13th season under Coach Bob Miller (309-197-2/13th).  The Cougars are ranked #18 in the pre-season poll and expect to bounce back after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1995.  The Cougars return seven players from last season and the roster boasts ten players with a season of collegiate baseball under their belt.  The Cougars are once again loaded with talent and hope to avoid the injury bug that plagued their 2014 campaign.  Coach Miller says, “This is a close team.  They are ambitious and ready to compete.  We are better (this year) athletically and better on the mound,” he continued, “We had a really good fall, going 15-4, and a good starting nine.”  Miller noted that the leadership of his sophomores has allowed the team to leave behind last year’s struggles, “We have leaders on the field that have been conscientious of keeping (the goals of the program) together.  The others have grabbed onto the program.”   The Cougars will be tested early in the season with their first 13 games coming against ranked opponents. 

The Cougars will open the 2015 campaign with a three-game homestand against four-time State Champion Riverside.  The Tigers enter the season ranked 8th in the CCCBCA Pre-season Poll.  The Cougars and Bengals open the season on Thursday (4 PM) and also play Friday (3 PM) and Saturday (1 PM). 

 

Pitchers

The Cougars’ rotation has more experience this year and should be strength for the team.  Coach Miller says, “I am excited to see our staff.  They are not overpowering, but will throw strikes.”  Sophomore Alex Fagalde (El Dorado Hills) leads the staff after redshirting in 2014.  Miller says, “He had a good summer (playing in Victoria, CAN) and that has carried over.  He is a “lead the team into battle” guy and can carry a pitch count.”  Fagalde was the Cougars’ top bullpen pitcher in 2013 and posted a 1-1 record with a team-high two saves, while also posting an outstanding 1.86 ERA.   Sophomore Tyler Skinner (Dos Palos HS) ended the 2014 season with a pair of starts and despite a 0-1 record and bloated 6.75 ERA, he improved all season long and is ready for a larger role.  Miller says, “He has earned the opportunity.  He has better command, velocity and movement.  A lot of things are in there.  He has the most potential (on the staff).”   Sophomore Jackson Gentes (San Diego) was second on the team in starts (6) and innings (47.2) and should hold a spot in the rotation all season.   He was only 2-5 year, but owned a respectable 4.15 ERA.  Miller says, “He throws strikes and fields his position well.  The Cougars will also use 2014 All-WSC Pitcher Cameron Trichka (Elizabeth, CO) as a spot starter.

Bullpen

The Cougars bullpen phone will require a long distance plan, because they will be getting their help from the Rocky Mountain State- Colorado.  Closer James Kannenberg (Littleton, CO) and 2014 All-WSC pick Cameron Trichka (Elizabeth, CO) will be on speed dial if the rotation falters.  Kannenberg redshirted in 2014 and hurled only three innings, in three appearances, in 2013.  Miller has seen a lot of improvement and plans to use the hard throwing right-hander in the late innings.  Miller has a lot of confidence in Trichka and he will see a lot of action this season as the Cougars’ top fireman.   Trichka possesses a moving fastball and adds an effective slider and curveball to his repertoire.  He posted a 2.48 ERA last year with a 1-1 record and a save in 29.0 innings.  Two-way players Brendan Jenkins (Pleasanton) and Cayce Rocco (Santa Maria: Righetti HS) will also be used to bridge the gap to Kannenberg.  Miller says of Jenkins, “He has shown a lot of stuff and (his fastball) is in the upper 80’s.”  Rocco is penciled in as the Cougars’ rightfielder, but the southpaw can come in as a match-up guy.   Former all-SLO County choices Dan Beavers (Los Osos: Morro Bay HS) and Jake Niezen (SLO HS) join fellow righties Nick Tigner (Bakersfield), Neil Uskali (Westlake Village) and Kyle Haigwood (Henderson, NV) to provide quality depth in the Cougars’ bullpen.  Miller says, “They are all solid strike-throwers with a bright future in the program.”  The Cougars will also use Fresno City transfer JP Caprioglio (Fresno) from the leftside in match-up situations. 

Catcher

Two-time All-Sunset League Catcher TK McWhertor (Costa Mesa) and Sophomore RJ Hassay (SLO HS) will share time behind the plate for the Cougars or fill in as the designated hitter.  Miller says of McWhertor, “He is (good) on both sides of the plate.  He can catch and he can hit.”  Hassay was the Cougars’ primary backstop last season, but hit only .218.  Miller says, “His hitting has improved and he could DH (too).”  2014 All-SLO pick Nate Javine (Atascadero HS) will provide depth for the Cougars this season.

 

First Base

The Cougars have not solidified first base this season and may slide Josh Falco (Sacramento) over from the hot corner.  Falco was the Cougars’ starting third baseman last year and hit .304, however was shut down due to injury after only 20 games.  Falco can also play outfield, but will certainly have a spot in the line-up.  Miller says, “He will play every game.” Falco’s fellow third baseman, Josh Medina (Bakersfield), can also slide over to first base if needed.  The Cougars will also use Brendan Jenkins (Pleasanton) at first base.  The 6’4” Jenkins presents a big target for the Cuesta infielders and offers corner infield level power at the plate.  He led the Cougars in home runs during their 19 game fall schedule. 

 

Second Base

All-SLO Country pick Garrett Giovannelli (SLO HS) will hold down second base for the Cougars.  Coach Miller says, “He will bat 1-2-3 in the line-up.  He is our best hitter and base stealer.”   Fellow freshmen Zach Brown (Arroyo Grande HS) and Sebastian Guillen (Soledad: Righetti HS) and sophomore Christian Priore (Woodland Hills) will provide infield depth for the Cougars.  Coach Miller feels all three players are versatile enough to fill in anywhere on the diamond.  Priore is another talented defender and hit .182 in 77 at bats as a freshman in 2014.

 

Third Base                            

The Cougars will have two true third baseman in their line-up Sophomore Josh Falco (Sacramento) and Freshman Josh Medina (Bakersfield).  Both players can also move to the outfield or across the diamond to first base, but are projected to be in the line-up everyday.  Coach Miller says, “The have range, arms and athleticism.  They are both hitters and will play every game.”   Freshmen Zach Brown (Arroyo Grande HS) and Sebastian Guillen (Soledad: Righetti HS) and sophomore Christian Priore (Woodland Hills) will provide infield depth for the Cougars.  Coach Miller feels all three players are versatile enough to fill in anywhere on the diamond.

 

Shortstop 

Sophomore Steven Pico (Lompoc HS) will hold down the pivot this season as the Cougars’ starting shortstop.  Coach Miller says, “Pico has great hands and strong arm.  He will anchor a very strong middle infield.”  Pico hit .220 last year, which was just below the team average of .227. Freshmen Zach Brown (Arroyo Grande HS) and Sebastian Guillen (Soledad: Righetti HS) and sophomore Christian Priore (Woodland Hills) will provide infield depth for the Cougars.  Coach Miller feels all three players are versatile enough to fill in anywhere on the diamond. 

Centerfield                 

Sophomore Josh Sidley (Poway HS) spent last year split between Oregon State and Cardinal Strich and ended up playing shortstop for the Strich Wolves.  He hit .288 and scored 21 runs in 37 games for the NAIA school.    Coach Miller says, “He has leadoff-type speed.  He can play in the infield, but will start the season in centerfield.”  Freshmen Zach Brown (Arroyo Grande HS) and Sebastian Guillen (Soledad: Righetti HS) and sophomore Christian Priore (Woodland Hills) will provide depth for the Cougars.  Coach Miller feels all three players are versatile enough to fill in anywhere on the diamond.

 

Rightfield                 

Freshman Cayce Rocco ((Santa Maria: Righetti HS) is penciled in as the Cougars’ rightfielder.  He is the lone switch-hitter on the roster.  He also provides a strong arm with the ability to reach any spot on the diamond.  Freshman Brendan Jenkins (Pleasanton) and Andrew Pifferini (Fresno) will provide depth at the corner outfield positions. 

 

Leftfield                  

Freshman Dustin Miller (Concord) begins the season in leftfield for the Cougars and adds another bat from the leftside. Freshman Brendan Jenkins (Pleasanton) and Andrew Pifferini (Fresno) will provide depth at the corner outfield positions.