San Gabriel Valley
March 7, 2012By Leroy White of West Coast Hoops
While Gahr High and Downey High will certainly make a run at the San Gabriel Valley League title this season, reigning league champion Paramount is still the team to beat.
The Pirates (22-7, 13-2) return pitchers Giovanni Reyes (7-2, 1.56 ERA) and Alex Navarette (6-2, 3.30 ERA with 54 strikeouts), who make up a solid one-two punch on the hill.
Jesus Caporal, the SGVL's co-MVP, hit .414 with 36 hits, 20 runs scored and 19 stolen bases is back and will lead the Pirates.
Steven Espinoza will spend time on the mound and in the outfield, while Frankie Valenzuela will serve as the Pirates closer.
Freshman outfielder Randy Buenrostro and left-handed pitcher Ulices Moreno are key newcomers for Dream Team Coach of the Year Cameron Chinn.
"In order for us to win the SGVL title again, we need to execute offensively and find ways to produce runs," Caporal said. "We have the pitching with the return of our three pitchers (Reyes, Espinoza and Navarette) to keep us in games and need to play good defense."
Chinn believes Gahr and Downey are going to be in the league chase until the end.
"We will have some good battles at the top of the league," Chinn said. "Downey's got some good pitching and Gahr has some quality returning bats. For us to be good, we have to cash in with runners in scoring position.
We'll need consistent efforts from Navarette, Espinoza, Moreno and Reyes to get us to Frankie Valenzuela at the end of games."
Elsewhere in the SGVL ...
Downey (12-16, 7-8) will arguably be the area's most improved team this year with the return of pitchers Anthony Cortez (4-6, 3.25 ERA), who is headed to Cal State Northridge, and David Espindola (3-4, 1.66), and three-year starting catcher Yamel Delgado (.359, 28 hits, 20 RBIs). Senior outfielder/pitcher Erick Parra (.246, 14 hits) also will be critical and the Vikings got the biggest offseason transfer in former Millikan Dream Team pitcher/third baseman Jordan Ybarra. Ybarra was as good as anyone last season with a .402 average, 35 hits and 33 RBIs. He also went 3-3 on the mound with a 2.35 ERA and finished most of the games he started with little run support. After hearing of Ybarra's move to Downey, Paramount coach Cameron Chinn said over the summer, "the San Gabriel Valley League just got better." "I am certainly going to miss my friends and teammates at Millikan and wish them the best, but I am here at Downey now and very excited about the team and where this program is headed," Ybarra said. "All the guys have welcomed me and made the transition so much easier. I just want to drive in runs and do everything I can and that my coaches ask of me to help Downey win as many games as possible." Downey coach Jess Gonzales said shortstop Alex Rodriguez and left-handed pitcher Richard Gomez are expected to make solid contributions in their varsity debuts. "We have a solid pitching staff," Gonzales said. "Cortez and Espindola combined to throw 105 innings last year and with the addition of Gomez and Ybarra, we should be solid. We're still not sure what to expect offensively, but five of our best hitters are back this season. Were going to be a much more competitive team this year and we're very excited to get started."
Gahr (19-9, 12-3) lost ace Jacob Faria and No. 2 starter Darian Dominguez, but Gladiators coach Gerardo Perez always seems to reload and compete each year for the SGVL championship. Arizona State-bound junior Kevin Franklin will lead what is expected to be a big offensive year for Gahr. Franklin hit .369 with 31 hits, 32 RBIs and 21 runs scored en route to a Dream Team selection. Jaime Estrada (.420, 34 hits, 28 runs, 21 RBIs), Edgar Morales (.342, 26 hits, 24 runs), Hector Partida (.384, 28 hits, 20 runs), Anthony Rodriguez (.317, 20 hits, 16 RBIs), Alonso Casillas (.380, 19 hits) and Adonis Morrison (.275, 11 RBIs) will return for one of the area's best hitting teams. Lefty Andrew Encinas (1-1, 4.98 ERA, three saves) and right-hander Richard Rios (2-0, 3.98 ERA) are expected to be the top two pitchers for the Gladiators. "We've been waiting since the last out at San Gorgonio last year when we got eliminated to get back to this point and have an even better season," Franklin said. "Our will power is really solid and we're really strong in a lot of different areas. I think the sky is the limit for what we are capable of this season." Those first-year players expected to produce include pitchers George Castillo, Fred Perez and Adrian Poot, as well as Isaac Garcia, Daniel Gomez and Albert Perez. "I am very excited to see how this team improves as we progress throughout the year," Perez said. "We will be tested immediately in our first three games with Huntington Beach, Bishop Amat and Mater Dei. How we deal with the success or the failure of those games will be the determining factor of how we will finish in league as well as how deep into the postseason we go."
Warren (13-12, 7-8) is in a similar situation again this year in having to compete with the league's big three (Paramount, Gahr and Downey) for a playoff berth. The Bears will be led offensively by Daniel Dominguez (.423), Matthew Barela (.300), Aaron Chavez (.349), Rey Sanchez (.390) and Javier Preciado (.282).
Lynwood (9-9, 5-9) improved greatly last season, but the Knights still look at least a year away from staying with league powers.
Dominguez (0-20, 0-14) is expected to struggle again coming off a winless season in 2011