Los Banos baseball opener tomorrow

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comFebruary 22, 2013 

Los Banos' baseball team came a couple of games away from the playoffs last year, but a 4-3 loss to Livingston in the last game of the season left the Tigers on the outside looking in.

That loss is a memory that hangs above practice as the Tigers prepare for tomorrow's season opener against Delhi.

"It hit us pretty bad," first baseman Gabe Lopez said.

"They didn't like that taste in their mouths," added coach Mike Lemos. "Especially the way we lost to Livingston that last game. Great game, just didn't go our way."

This season, as with every season for the second-year coach, Lemos' goal is to compete for a league title. The preseason includes Dos Palos twice, David-Modesto once and Gustine twice before opening league play with defending champion Central Catholic.

"We have a pretty good balance of games we can compete in and some tougher ones where we can see where we stand before league," Lemos said.

The Tigers have a few returning players -- notably catcher and team captain Tyler Slayday, who Lemos hopes will assume the role of a general on the field -- but there are a lot of new faces.

Gone is the experienced middle infield duo of Garrett Guilford and Javier Garcia (who is redshirting this year at Monterey Peninsula JC). Competing to replace them are senior Delvonte Moore, who didn't play last year while he competed in track and field, sophomore Brevin Welch and junior Cristian Garnica, whose arm makes him a hot commodity in a number of spots.

"Hopefully I can find someone to replace him in the outfield, because he's got a very strong arm, then I move him to short," Lemos said. "We'll piece that together. We've also got some JV kids that can play second and short."

Where Garnica's arm may be most valuable is on the mound, where Lemos sees the fireballer as the team's ace. Garnica's not sure exactly how fast he throws.

"I don't know. I haven't been gunned yet," he said. Teammate Gabe Lopez described it as a "fast fastball."

The pitching staff includes junkballer Chester Amaral and freshman Vinny Greco, who is nursing a strained knee from the last basketball game.

"They're going to be young, but we have good talent," said Slayday, the one person who may have the best insight into the pitching staff. "We have Chester, then a bunch of younger kids like Garnica, (Anthony) Euly, Vinny, Matt (Brennan), Chris Castillo."

The Tigers got their first taste of action Saturday with a scrimmage against Firebaugh, and Lemos liked what he saw -- both with a varsity team that played tough against the senior-heavy Eagles, and a sophomore team that hit the ball all over the field.

"They held their own and didn't get rattled," Lemos said. "I was really pleased on the bus ride home, and that's not common for me."

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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