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By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
BY ESTEBAN RAMIREZ Special to the Californian
After coming up short in the playoffs last year, the Bakersfield College baseball team is excited to start a fresh new season.
"It's a new season. We're excited about it and there are a lot of new faces," said BC coach Tim Painton. "You really don't know how good you are until you get on the field and get tested in an actual game situation, but we like the freshmen that have come in and we have returned some key pieces of sophomores. We like the group that we have."
The Renegades went 24-14 overall and 16-8 to finish third in the Western State Conference South Division last season. Glendale College (27-13, 19-5) took first and College of the Canyons (24-16, 17-7) finished second.
BC made the SoCal playoffs as the No. 14 seed, but was swept by No. 3-seeded Saddleback College in the first round.
"All you hope to do is see growth each week, and I think we have grown as a ball club," Painton said. "We have some players that are versatile that can move around and play different spots."
The Renegades have 18 new players and nine returners.
Some of the key returners are outfielder Jake Verdugo from Frontier, pitcher Joe Bresson from Centennial, JC All-American outfielder Kyle Nixon from Frontier, shortstop Rolando Martinez from Ridgeview, third baseman Erik Williams from Stockdale and outfielder Cole Hallum from Centennial.
Last year, Nixon led the Renegades in average (.371) and hits (59) while adding 21 RBIs. Williams batted .331 with 50 hits, three home runs and 28 RBIs; Hallum batted .301 with 44 hits, three homers and 27 RBIs; Martinez hit .342 with 40 hits and 14 RBIs; and Bresson had a 4.89 ERA in 92/3 innings out of the bullpen.
Painton said some of the key freshmen this year are outfielder Kaidan Meadows from Liberty, shortstop Eddie Torres from Frontier, pitcher Allan Winans from Frontier, first baseman Zach Tanner from Stockdale and pitcher J.J. Santa Cruz from Madera-Liberty.
As seniors last year, Meadows batted .305 with 27 hits, six home runs and 22 RBIs; Torres hit .430 with 40 hits, seven homers and 30 RBIs; Tanner batted .393 with 42 hits, three homers and 32 RBIs; Winans went 9-3 with a 1.98 ERA in 70.2 innings pitched; and Santa Cruz was 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA in 32.1 innings at Madera-Liberty.
"Defensively, we are a much improved ball club, and there are some good pieces (so) we can be a good offensive club as well," said Painton. "I think pitching, as the season goes on, is going to be pretty good as well.
"Everybody has weaknesses, but we don't really have an area I can point to. I would always like to have more team speed. I don't think we have great team speed, but obviously as we go into this thing you hope to improve in every area as the season moves along."
The Renegades open their season by hosting a three-day tournament starting today against Porterville College at 6 p.m.
"There is going to be some nervousness because there always is the first time out, especially with the number of new guys we'll have on the field," Painton said. "Hopefully we can overcome it."