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STEVEN GEORGES , CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Servite's Austin Lim (7) and teammates are hoping they have a lot to celebrate in their upcoming Trinity League games.

Baseball notes: Trinity teams begin daunting five-week trek

STAFF WRITER

Buckle up, hang on and try to enjoy the ride.

Those probably aren’t comforting words for the coaches of the six Trinity League baseball teams, but they seem appropriate given what’s about to happen to them.

This week, the Trinity teams start a five-week stretch of league play, which guarantees everyone involved a roller-coaster-like ride in terms of emotional highs and lows.

“It’s not scary,” said second-year Servite coach Shawn Gilbert. “If it’s scary, you shouldn’t be doing it. We look at it as a challenge.”

The league favorite is JSerra (12-4), which is ranked No. 3 in the state by MaxPreps.com. Orange Lutheran is ranked No. 4 in the state, and Santa Margarita (No. 22) and Servite (No. 30) are also ranked in the state’s top 30.

With that many talented teams, every game takes on the feeling of a playoff game.

“I think everyone understands, these are the 15 most important games of the season,” Gilbert said, “and you’d better be ready to play every day.”

Unlike other leagues in the county, the Trinity League is set up to have its teams play each other three times in the same week.

“That way a team can’t ride just one pitcher,” Gilbert said. “You get a true look at everyone’s team.”

This week’s matchups: Mater Dei-Servite, Orange Lutheran-St. John Bosco and JSerra-Santa Margarita.

NEW STRENGTH

Servite started the season looking at its pitching and defense as its two biggest strengths.

After going 10-3 in nonleague games, the Friars have learned they’re also strong in another area.

“We didn’t win a lot of close games last year,” Gilbert said. “This season, we’re winning a lot of the close ones. The guys are finding ways to get things done. They’re just competitive.”

Gilbert gave a lot of the credit for the team’s success, which came despite health issues on its pitching staff, to a trio of players - catcher Connor Clancy, and outfielders Aaron Simpson and Tanner Smith.

“We play good defense and we compete at the plate,” Gilbert said. “Those are the things we need to keep doing to win in league.”

WATCH OUT FOR WESTERN

The stats for some of Western’s players are eye-catching.

They’re also a warning to the rest of the teams in the Empire League, according to Pioneers coach Lonnie Smith.

“Don’t look past us,” Smith said. “If you do ...”

The Pioneers haven’t made the playoffs “in a long, long, long, long time,” according to Smith, in his seventh season as the team’s coach. But this year, he said, “we’ve got the players to do it.”

Western won only one league game last season, but it goes into its league opener today against Kennedy with an overall record of 11-8 and a lineup that features three of the top hitters in the county.

Anthony Equiarta (.591), Garrett Scott (.583) and Jeremiah Vison (.538) are in the top five for batting average. Scott, a senior catcher, is tied with Vison for the most hits (28), and he has 14 RBI. Equiarta, a junior, has 12 RBI.

Vison, a 5-foot-3 senior shortstop, leads the county with 28 stolen bases. He had 41 a year ago.

“He might be the best small player in the country,” said Smith, who compared him to Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.

Scott and Vison have started every game since their freshman season.

“They’ve been through the wars. They know what it’s like to play at this level,” Smith said. “That’s priceless.”

READY FOR THE SPOTLIGHT

Huntington Beach will play its first game in its renovated baseball stadium on Friday afternoon against Marina.

The changes to the stadium include new seating, dugouts and bullpens.

The school is still working out the details for a pregame ceremony that includes a ribbon-cuting ceremony and other festivities.

THE BAT IS A BONUS

Maybe the Oilers should have done a ribbon-cutting last week, too, for Nick Pratto.

In his first week of being eligible to play for the Oilers, the USC commit hit a home run in his first at-bat (vs. Newport Harbor), pitched a four-hitter and earned a victory (vs. Los Alamitos) and hit a three-run homer (vs. Fountain Valley).

The Oilers were expected to get a big boost from his pitching, but his bat could end up being just as valauble for a team considered one of the favorites to win the CIF-SS Division 1 title.

Contact the writer: bpatterson@ocregister.com


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