*Editor’s note: This is the second in a 12-part series previewing Davis High’s spring sports.
They went 25-8, were co-champions of the classy Delta Valley Conference — and missed the 2012 section baseball finals by a measly two runs.
But after graduating eight seniors — most of whom contributed mightily — the Blue Devils finds themselves working through competition for a handful of positions this spring.
“There’s a lot of things up in the air right now,” skipper Dan Ariola, in his 18th year at the helm, told The Enterprise.
Looking at DHS position by position, Ariola has a solid nucleus of players back from last spring — with some additions that he thinks will allow the Devils to again be one of the region’s top-ranked teams.
The infield is being juggled, with Bobby Young and No. 1 pitcher Matt Trask taking over first-base duties. Ryan Plumb returns at third with versatile Trey Golston lending a hand. Plumb and Young are seniors; Golston and Trask 11th-graders.
Up the middle, Ariola says the team is blessed to have three guys in the mix who “can play either shortstop or second.”
Joe Murray, another senior and brilliant last year at second base, is being tested at shortstop with junior Brett Bloomfield and freshman Ryan Kreidler working both keystone spots.
A move of note is John Ariola from first base — where he hit .314 with 20 RBI as a sophomore — to the outfield, where he joins second-year varsity performer Chris Daunt and either Jake Miille or Golston.
Behind the plate should be Hayden Duer with Hudson Forrester getting ample playing time.
Ariola says while senior Duer and junior Forrester have some pop in their bats, “it will be difficult replacing the defense that George (Hatamiya) provided.”
Gone with the graduated Hatamiya is a .320 batting average, 28 runs scored, nine stolen bases, two pitching wins and two saves.
Duer, however, hit .325 with a homer last season and added a game-winning hit during the postseason. More at-bats will mean bigger production for the new backstop, who is a member of the DHS basketball squad that begins its playoff run on Wednesday. Bloomfield also is a Blue Devil hoopster, and Ariola says he’s looking forward to getting both back full-time to the diamond, but adds that he wants colleague Dan Gonzalez’s court men to “go a long way” in the playoffs.
And speaking of Hatamiya’s accomplishments on the rubber, the Devils are searching for arms to join bellcow Trask and Young on the pitching staff.
Ben Eckels (7-2, 2.34 earned run average), the 2012 ace, has gone on to pitch in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Jack Shelledy (4-0, 2.88) and relief specialist Reinert Toft (6-1, 2.16 with five saves) also have graduated.
That leaves Trask as the only proven starter back. He was 3-3 with a 1.72 ERA as a sophomore. Opponents hit less than .200 off the big right-hander. So promising was Trask’s season that he already has made a verbal commitment to UCLA.
And Young? He’s another righty who hasn’t thrown at the varsity level, but was once a pitching prospect in Ariola’s program. Arm trouble between his freshman and sophomore years settled Young into a role at third base the past two seasons.
“He was dominant then,” the coach remembers, adding. “He’s throwing well … getting his health back. He’s our No. 2.”
After that, Ariola ticks off a list of potential pitchers, hoping three more starters emerge from the group. Kreidler, juniors Josh Guerrero and Bloomfield and seniors Miille, Daniel Martin, Adam Inouye, Manny Guerrero and DHS’ lone lefty Sandor Richardson are in the mix to earn those other rotation spots.
“They can all throw strikes,” Ariola says. “There is pitching depth … the question is who can step up?”
Ariola and Company scrimmage Pleasant Grove on Saturday before opening the regular season against Woodland at Clark Field on March 1. Davis plays Vacaville in its first home game on March 5.
DVC play begins April 4 at Franklin.
Notes: Ariola liked what he saw in last week’s scrimmage in Stockton against defending Sac-Joaquin Section champion St. Mary’s. “We hit four or five doubles in one inning,” the coach recalls. “We tore the cover off the ball … remember we have six returning position players.” … Ariola praised Kreidler, but cautioned “I don’t want to say too much about him, but he’s the first freshman that I’ve committed to at the beginning of the year.” Hatamiya, a four-year varsity performer, was called up after tryouts began. … Coaches Tom Turay (hitting) and Marc Kenner (pitching) will assist Ariola throughout the season. … DHS has two section crowns: 2000 and 2004.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.