Lions aim for encore

Vanguard's best season in 25 years may be a tough act to follow, but Grajeda is optimistic.

January 24, 2011|By Barry Faulkner,
  • Eric Krzysiak leaves a big hole in the Vanguard University lineup after setting school hitting records in 2010.
Eric Krzysiak leaves a big hole in the Vanguard University… (KENT TREPTOW, unknown )

The best season in a quarter century resulted from the Vanguard University baseball program making great strides in 2010. This season, third-year coach Ralph Grajeda wants his Lions to walk the walk of a perennial postseason contender.

"The group we had last year was very competitive and very driven," said Grajeda, whose team started 15-1 on the way to a 34-20 finish that included a school-record 22 wins in the Golden State Athletic Conference. Vanguard advanced to the NAIA Tournament for the first time since 1985, an occurrence Grajeda hopes can become a yearly ritual.

"We mapped out what we wanted to accomplish last year and we did it," Grajeda said. "Everybody bought in and it was gigantic. Probably nobody believed we would do what we did last season except our kids, because there was no body of work behind it.

"The kids who have returned understand what we need to do to be in the postseason and the kids we have recruited come from programs where they won and that helps when you're trying to change the culture of a program," Grajeda said. "Now that we're where we want to be, those strides are going to be tougher to get — inch-by-inch."


Grajeda said a dozen seniors departed last year, including GSAC batting champion Eric Krzysiak, who hit .439 with a school-record 86 hits and was first-team all-conference as a designated hitter.

Other departed standouts include catcher Kip Masuda (nine homers and 40 runs batted in), shortstop Zach Leighton (.318, seven homers, 33 RBIs) and starting pitcher Brandon Godfrey (8-4 with a 3.94 earned-run average), as well as pitchers Peter Birdwell (drafted in the 25th round by the New York Mets) and Lance Abbott (signed by the Seattle Mariners' organization as a free agent).

Topping the returners are senior pitcher Robert Purpura, senior center fielder Tyson Leighton and senior outfielder Brandon Young.

Purpura earned all-conference honors last season, when he went 2-1 with seven saves and a 4.50 ERA. He ended the year in the starting rotation, where he will remain this season. He is expected to be the lone right-hander among the four primary starters, Grajeda said.

"He did a great job," Grajeda said of Purpura, who transferred before last season from Irvine Valley College. "He was our best pitcher at the end of the year."

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