Baseball: Talented pitching staff to lead Long Beach in 2012
The 2012 Long Beach City College baseball season gets underway on Saturday (Feb 4) as the Vikings travel to Barstow Community College for a 12 pm non-conference game. Head coach Casey Crook returns for his 19th season leading the Vikings and expects some great things out of his 2012 ball club.
Just four players return from last year's roster, but some familiar faces from 2010, along with some nearby JC transfers, will mix with a group of hungry freshmen to form a team that Crook hopes can capture Long Beach's first conference title since 2009.
Just as in years past, pitching looks to be a strength of this year's team. One only has to look to a talented duo returning to take the mound in sophomores Steven Gallardo (Hamilton HS) and Omar Jimenez (Lakewood HS).
Gallardo (pictured, left) was named the 2011 South Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year while Jimenez was a first-team all-conference selection.
Gallardo had one of the finest freshman seasons in LBCC history, posting a 5-2 overall record with a 1.93 earned run average. He appeared in 13 games, starting 11, and struck out 73 batters in 79 1/3 innings. In seven SCC starts, Gallardo was even better as he went 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA and struck out 46 in 51 1/3 innings of work.
Jimenez (pictured, right) split time as a starter and was also used out of the bullpen in late-game situations. He compiled a 5-3 record with a 2.38 ERA. Jimenez struck out 38 in 56 2/3 innings.
But the talent doesn't fall off there. Crook will begin the season with a four-man starting rotation. Freshman Jake Angus (Pacifica HS), Saturday's opening-day pitcher, is a 6-7 lefty that Crook says "has a chance to be really good."
Rounding out the rotation is sophomore Edwin Santiago (Jordan HS), who missed last season after a solid freshman year in 2010. Santiago went 2-4 with a 4.17 ERA, and struck out 33 in 45 1/3 innings. Santiago was impressive with the bat, leading the Vikings with a .360 batting average (31 for 86) after cracking the starting lineup midway through the schedule.
Crook also expects freshman David Aispuro (Jordan HS) to contribute out of the bullpen to start the season, but could make his way into the rotation. David Aispuro is the younger brother of former LBCC football standout quarterback Alex Aispuro.
With solid pitching in place, the offense will need to improve for the 2012 Vikings to return to the postseason. Last year, LBCC ranked seventh out of eight SCC teams with a .256 team batting average and was last with just 130 runs scored (3.6 per game avg.) in 36 games.
"I think our offense will be much improved than what we've had the past two years," Crook said.
Crook expects good offensive seasons from sophomore Justin Moore (Los Angeles University HS), Santiago, and freshman Stefan Miladinovich (Wilson HS).
Moore, who also missed 2011, has a standout freshman year in 2010 when he hit .345 (41 for 119) with six doubles, three triples, and 12 RBI. Moore will start the season in centerfield but will also see time at shortstop.
Miladinovich could be the power bat that the Vikings have sorely missed in years past. "Stefan might have more power than anyone on the team," Crook said.
Sophomore transfers Daniel Catalan (Warren HS/East Los Angeles College) and Jeremy Ruiz (Downey HS/Cerritos College) will also be expected to contribute.
"It's a good group of guys," Crook said. "Ever since the team got back from winter break, I have been impressed with their level of competition and enthusiasm."
Following Saturday's season-opener, LBCC will begin a three-game series with Orange Coast College. The Vikings play at OCC on Feb 7 at 2 pm, then host the Pirates in their home-opener on Feb 9 at Joe Hicks Memorial Field at 2 pm before closing out the series back at Orange Coast on Feb 10, also at 2 pm.
Photos by Chris Ruiz