BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
Much of the roster has changed but the expectations remain the same for the 2013 Bakersfield College baseball team, which opens its season at 6 p.m. today against Porterville at Gerry Collis Field.
Despite returning only two starting position players, the Renegades are confident that their experienced and talented pitching staff can lead them to a successful season. For BC that means a berth in the postseason and possible state final four appearance.
"We have high expectations as everybody does this time of year," BC coach Tim Painton said. "But I think there is a little bit of an imbalance. We're very experienced on the mound and a little less experienced position-player wise. But I think that will even out over time."
BC, which went 25-12 and finished tied for second place in the Western State Conference South Division last year at 13-8, enters the season ranked in both the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association SoCal Pre-Season Poll (No. 10) and ABCA Junior College Pacific Association's Division Pre-Season Poll (No. 24).
Painton said much of the preseason acclaim is based on last season's success. "A year ago I think we started unranked and ended up as high as No. 4," he said. "The journey will separate the teams that can and can't play."
Gone from the 2012 squad are All- American pitcher Tyler Painton, the coach's son (who transferred to Oregon State), and star shortstop Brent Peterson, who led the team with a .374 batting average, then was drafted by and signed by the Cincinnati Reds. Several other solid contributors departed but the Renegades also added several promising newcomers.
BC's biggest known commodity is its pitching staff, particularly projected starters Brad Lindsley (Frontier), Justin Kelly (Stockdale), Ryan Stapp (Bakersfield), and Darion Nunn (Bakersfield Christian).
All four played a big role in the Renegades registering the second-lowest team earned run average in the conference last year (3.34).
Lindsley (5-4, 2.34 ERA) and Kelly (5-2, 4.10 ERA) combined to make 17 starts, while Stapp and Nunn worked out of the bullpen.
Stapp (3-1, 2.88 ERA), the team's closer in 2012, tied a school record with 11 saves.
Nunn (1-0, 3.71 ERA), a left-hander, averaged a team-high 1.1 strikeouts per inning pitched.
"Justin is a guy that we're going to lean on," Painton said. "He's left-handed, throws in the low-90s and has just tremendous stuff."
Lindsley, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, will battle Kelly for the top spot in the rotation.
Logan Campbell, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound, redshirt sophomore from Highland High, is expected to take over Stapp's closer role.
Winston Ives (West), Sean Deweese (Reno-Bishop Monogue), Daniel Lamoureaux (Boron), and Darrien Leal (Tulare Western), will handle most of the Renegades' middle relief duties.
Bolstering the offense will be returning first baseman Blayne Ontiveros (Frontier) and right fielder Jordan Turner (Stockdale).
Ontiveros was second on the team in batting average (.340) while Turner led BC in home runs (6) and slugging percentage (.556). They will once again give the Renegades plenty of punch in the middle of their batting order.
Frontier products Kyle Nixon and Jake Verdugo, along with Cal State Northridge transfer Cole Hallum (Centennial), are the Renegades' three other starting outfield candidates.
Nixon, a left-handed batting speedster, is just beginning to round back into form after being out with a hamstring injury during the fall.
"He's an outstanding athlete that adds a running dimension to our offense," Paintin said.
Verdugo and starting shortstop Rolando Martinez (Ridgeview) are also capable of getting on base at a steady rate and stealing bases.
Hallum, who hit .400 with 10 home runs as a senior at Centennial in 2011, along with freshman second baseman Erik Williams (Stockdale) and sophomore third baseman Luc Pomales (Frontier), gives BC three quality run producers to supplement Ontiveros and Turner.
Rounding out the starting lineup at catcher will be either Justin Martinez (Centennial) or Aaron Myregard (Stockdale).
"We have guys hitting in the (No.) 7 and 8 spots that were (No.) 3-4 hitters in high school, so I think there's some depth to our lineup," Painton said.
Verdugo and Pomales are the only position players other than Ontiveros and Turner to get significant playing time with BC last year.
"We like their talent level but until you get into the grind of playing Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday every single week, you just don't know how they'll respond," he said."
"If there's an area that's lagging a little bit behind right now, it's our defense," Painton said. "...The speed of the game from high school is the biggest transition. When the game speeds up, we see mistakes. We have to get them to play at a faster speed and it will all take care of itself."
If the defense improves as expected, the Renegades should be good in all three facets of the game.