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Orange Lutheran will start the season ranked No. 1 in Orange County. The Lancers have a roster loaded with talented players, including, from left, Garrett Mitchell, Zach Busalacchi, Tristan Hanoian and Brenden Avventino. (Photo by Sam Gangwer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Baseball preview: Orange County top 10

STAFF WRITER

OCVarsity is releasing its 2017 baseball preview.

Here is the Orange County preseason top 10.  

O.C. PRESEASON TOP 10

1. Orange Lutheran: The Lancers have an abundance of NCAA Division 1 signed and committed players. They return nine starters from last year’s year that finished 22-9, tied for second in the Trinity League and advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals. Among the returnees are senior center fielder Garrett Mitchell, who signed with UCLA. Senior shortstop Tristan Hanoian, a Texas Christian commit, is a four-year starter. Senior pitcher/infielder Brenden Avventino (UC Riverside) was an all-league selection last season. Junior second baseman Zach Lew, a Cal State Fullerton commit, has been a starter since his freshman year. “I like our experience,” Lancers coach Eric Borba said. “We’ve been looking forward to this year because we know there is an opportunity to have the best team we’ve had in a while.” Pitching is a bit of a concern, as 2016 All-County pitcher Chris Burica graduated, but there is plenty of potential on the roster.

2. El Toro: The Chargers might have the best pitching staff in Orange County, led by left-handed senior starters Noah Fluman and Sam Glick. Both were All-South Coast League last year, as were senior infielder Josh Zamora (.310, 16 RBI in 2016) and senior catcher Jake Jackson. El Toro has seven NCAA Division 1-bound players. The Chargers were 25-6 last year, won the South Coast League championship and reached the CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinals.

3. JSerra: The Lions lost seven starters to graduation but still should contend for the Trinity League championship. Senior shortstop Royce Lewis is on everybody’s preseason All-America team. The pitching staff is deep as usual. Colin Townsend pitched to a 5-0 record in 2016, was named All-Trinity League and can play other positions. Senior right-hander Cole Samuels was 7-1 with a 0.94 ERA last year. JSerra will play many non-seniors but that is a talented group.

4. Huntington Beach: It looks like another strong season for the Oilers. They have two returning All-Orange County first-team players, Hagen Danner and Nick Pratto, both of whom can contribute in a variety of ways. Huntington Beach has pitching depth, is strong defensively, and has power up and down the batting order. The Oilers finished 20-11 overall last year and were second to Marina in the Sunset League with a 9-6 league record.

5. Mission Viejo: The Diablos have one of the county’s top pitchers, Tanner Bibee, who was All-CIF last year and is a Cal State Fullerton signee. Junior pitcher Jake Spillane was 7-0 with a 1.20 ERA in 2016. The Diablos were Sea View League champions and CIF-SS Division 2 quarterfinalists last season, but they are in the South Coast League and Division 1 this year.

O.C. BASEBALL PREVIEW

6. Mater Dei: It has been a couple of seasons since the Monarchs were as good as they should be this season. Senior third baseman/pitcher Jonathan Schiffer, who signed with Washington, was All-Trinity League first team in 2016 when he drove in 23 runs. Pepperdine-signed senior catcher Blake Hunt last season batted .298 with 25 hits. Mater Dei finished 17-14 overall last season and tied with Orange Lutheran for second in the Trinity League.

7. Aliso Niguel: The Wolverines usually have terrific pitching, and that should be their strength again this season. Junior right-hander Ethan Reed has committed to USC, and sophomore righty Evan Fitterer is a UCLA commit. Senior outfielder Hunter Jump, an All-South Coast League selection last year, committed to Arizona State. Aliso finished second in the rough-and-tumble South Coast League last season and went 21-11 overall.

8. Santa Margarita: Pitching and defense will be the Eagles’ strengths as they try to grab a playoff spot in the stacked Trinity League. Junior pitcher/first baseman Chandler Champlain, who committed to USC, could be one of the county’s better two-way players. Santa Magarita was the best O.C. team to not make the playoffs in 2016, as it finished 20-10 overall but missed the league’s third and final playoff berth by one game.

9. El Dorado: The Golden Hawks should be able to mash the ball with the best of them. Senior outfielder Jesse Lopez was Crestview League offensive player of the year in 2016 as he batted .389 with 16 RBI. Senior outfielder Augie Mattei was All-Crestview League first team last season as he hit .309 and drove in 18 runs. The pitching could be fine, too; returnees Kyle Luckham and Austin Spinney were all-league second team last season. El Dorado went 16-16 last season and finished second in the Crestview League.

10. Cypress: A fixture in the O.C. top 10, the Centurions again are the team to beat in the Empire League. Among the returnees are All-County right-handed pitcher Raul Salazar and standout shortstop/pitcher Isaiah Parra. Cypress went 10-0 in the Empire League last season and advanced to the CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinals.

Others considered: Beckman, Corona del Mar, Dana Hills, El Modena, Foothill, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos, Servite.

Contact the writer: sfryer@scng.com


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