Although Southwestern College’s baseball team finished the 2013 season with a respectable 20-16 record and third place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference, the Jaguars could have done more after an 11-4 start. In this, head coach Jerry Bartow’s final season, the team wants to send him out on top.
One factor in the 2013 slide was the Jags’ poor performance on the road. When playing at home they were 14-7, but away from the Jaguar Junction they were 6-9. Bartow already has his own remedy.
“We always play a lot of those L.A. teams,” he said. “Orange Coast, for example. Sometimes when you get to the playoffs you end up playing them again. Then I like to be able to travel a little bit, because you have to get used to travelling. You have to learn how to play at those other ballparks.”
Ranked 18th in Southern California’s preseason poll, SWC has second-ranked Orange Coast scheduled for a home-and-away series, as well as home games against last year’s state runner-up, Fullerton. Ninth-ranked East L.A. is also on the schedule. Co-head coach Jay Martel said he is not intimidated by the schedule. He called it a blessing.
“The biggest thing about a tough non-conference schedule is that if you can compete against those teams,” he said, “you get into league and you’re already battle tested for the good teams we have in our league. We have Palomar, who’s ranked fourth in Southern California, Grossmont is a pretty good powerhouse in our league.”
The Jags have to navigate their difficult schedule while replacing five players who received university scholarships, as well as two taken in the MLB draft, pitcher Matt DeRosier (24th round, Nationals) and third baseman Hector Montes (33rd, Rays).
“We’re definitely very young this year,” said Martel. “We only have a couple of returners who established themselves. I think we have a very talented group of freshmen. When they get that non-conference schedule they’ll get their feet wet. It could be a pretty good ball club, barring injuries.”
SWC returns three of their five players that hit over .300 last year, second baseman Miguel Solano (.368), outfielder Albert “AJ” Mikell (.326), and first baseman Nicholas Quintero (.318).
“Our strength and our speed is in the outfield with Chris Allen, Daniel Goodrich, Lucero, and AJ. All four of those guys really run well,” said Martel. “They should be a really good catalyst for our infield. We have some question marks on the mound, but we feel good with our arms. They’re just inexperienced right now.”
Bartow said he is not worried about a repeat of last year, despite the new players and the tough schedule.
“Baseball’s just kind of funny,” he said. “It’s like the Red Sox, all the sudden they’re playing better. So that’s where we are. I’m hoping things will work out.”
Bartow said he cannot wait for spring.
“The ballpark’s been reseeded, it looks good now,” he said proudly. “It’s a little bit soft in places. It’s getting better.”
This Jaguar squad is not perfect, he said, but it has also been reseeded. Time to see how the grass grows.