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New faces give hope

College Baseball

Mound depth, outfield are projected strengths for Vanguard in 2012.

February 10, 2012|By Barry Faulkner

There is a lot of energy, drive and competition in the Vanguard University baseball dugout this season. One thing there is not a lot of is reminiscing.

The Lions lost 22 lettermen, including 14 seniors from last season's unit that finished 22-26 and missed the postseason. Only two players remain from the 2010 team that finished 34-10 and made the program's first appearance in the NAIA Tournament since 1985.

But fourth-year coach Ralph Grajeda said a full-scale recruiting effort has produced a roster that boasts as much potential as novelty.

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"We were very depleted, so we pounded [the recruiting trail] pretty good during the summer," said Grajeda, who has compiled a pitching staff that may prohibit opposing teams from doing much pounding.

The Lions, who play host to Oregon Institute of Technology in a nonconference doubleheader Saturday beginning at 11 a.m., have opened the season 2-1 with a staff earned-run average of 1.44. Those two wins included a 10-0 shutout that featured seven strong innings from returning All-Golden State Athletic Conference left-hander Gabe Garcia, and a 9-3 triumph in which starter Scott Simmons surrendered no hits in his six innings.

Simmons, a junior transfer from Mt. San Jacinto Community College, is a diamond in the rough, Grajeda believes. He is the brother of James Simmons, a right-handed pitcher drafted in the first round (26th overall) by the Oakland A's in 2007, who is working his way into prospect status.

Ruben Orosco, a junior left-hander who played at Santa Ana College last season after pitching at UC Irvine in 2010, is another projected starter, as is senior right-hander J.R. Bromberg, a Cal State Los Angeles transfer who has been drafted twice.

Garcia was 7-5 with a 2.00 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings last season and Grajeda believes the 5-foot-11 lefty has professional potential.

"He's a bulldog," Grajeda said. "If he were 6-foot-1 or 6-2, he'd be in the weekend rotation for a Division I school."

Kevin Ponzo, a junior right-handed transfer from Rio Hondo Community College, is expected to anchor the bullpen that also includes senior left-handed specialist Tucker Woods, junior Cody Green, as well as freshmen Nik Klungreseter and Spencer Wells.

No everyday position players return from the 2011 unit, but Brandon Young, a senior outfielder, was a starter in 2010, when he earned GSAC Gold Glove honors in right field.

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