"Last year, everybody and their brother wanted to play for us, and we had close to 90 guys in the fall," Altobelli said. "I think that watered down the process and didn't allow the guys who wound up playing to get enough quality cuts and the reps they needed. This year, we made a conscious effort to keep the numbers down. We started with between 40 and 50 kids. They got more reps and bonded more quickly as a team. It has been a much better experience for the players and coaches."
Three starting position players return, as does staff ace Ryan Doran, who is one of only two pitchers back who logged any innings in 2010.
Doran was 6-1 with a 2.98 earned-run average as a freshman, when nine of his 15 appearances were starts. He allowed just 51 hits and 13 walks in 571/3 innings. He struck out 31 and collected one save.
Among the returners is sophomore center fielder Kevin Cho, who led the Pirates with a .374 batting average and eight stolen bases last season. He made 33 starts as a freshman, producing a team-best 52 hits while driving in 21 runs.
Jordan Beck returns at shortstop after batting .368 with 22 RBIs in 30 games last season, including 27 starts.
Sam Michaels, who hit .354 with one home run and 22 RBIs in 32 games last season, is back at third base, giving the Pirates some proven offensive weapons to build around.
Steven McMichael is another sophomore who saw action last season. The outfielder, slated to be the backup in left to UC Irvine transfer Chris Carlson, hit .304 with two RBIs in 46 at-bats last spring. He stole seven bases without being caught.