As the spring season approaches, California Baptist University’s baseball team has been hard at work preparing to improve on last season’s campaign. Last season, the team fell short of a conference title, falling to Holy Names University and knocking the Lancers out of contention to the title.
This season, the Lancers are projected to win the PacWest, producing the PacWest Player of the Year for the 2016 season.
Last season, Antonio Chavarria, senior undeclared major and infielder, was named the PacWest Player of the Year. This year, Chavarria is projected to receive the honor once again and was named to the Preseason All-PacWest Team alongside Tyson Miller, junior communication studies major and right-handed pitcher, Mark Sanchez, junior business administration major and catcher, and Stephen Lohr, junior psychology major, catcher and third baseman.
Sanchez returns to the team this year after coming off an injury last season, joining Andrew Montoya, senior criminal justice major and shortstop, who was also out last season. Gary Adcock, head coach of the baseball team, said having the pair back on the field is going to help the defensive end of the team tremendously.
“Last year, if you look at the stats, we were the leading offense overall in the league and we led in pitching, but we were not anywhere close defensively,” Adcock said. “Bringing back Sanchez behind the plate and Montoya at short, I think we’ve shortened that up there. When you have a catcher and shortstop that you can trust, defensively you sleep a little better because those guys handle the ball more than anybody. It’s been comforting to know they’re there, but if they go down we go next man up and we’re all good in those areas.”
Adcock said he does not discredit the team’s work last season. Because of the injuries sustained, players were shifted into their secondary positions rather than primary.
“When Montoya was hurt last year, Lohr, our third baseman, had to go catch, our first basemen went to third and our second baseman went to short,” Adcock said. “We haven’t really changed those cast of characters, we just put them back in their original spot. Last year, we had a lot of people shifted out of position so I think we’ll see a benefit out of that.”
Montoya and Sanchez both agree that being back on the field is a great opportunity.
“Being out last year took a lot out of me,” Montoya said. “I feel like I owe the team a lot this year from being out last season. It’s a great opportunity and I just want to grind and win.”
Sanchez said he is confident in his team and coaching staff and is ready to take on the competition.
“Being out last season was the hardest year of my life,” Sanchez said. “Being back is awesome and to be back with my teammates, I’m ready to compete.”
Along with returners, the team has brought on new talent from its extensive freshman class which, according to Adcock, will impact the season’s success.
Sheldon Borson, freshman undeclared major and infielder, has secured a spot as an everyday player, competing for second base with veteran player Jake Gallaway, senior kinesiology major and infielder. Two other up-and-comers include Justin Montgomery, freshman mechanical engineering major and right-handed pitcher, projected to be the season’s closer, while Seth Kaneen, freshman sociology major and left-handed pitcher, will be one of the first out of the bullpen.
Miller, Jeremy McDonald, senior kinesiology major and left-handed pitcher, and Dylan Stowell, junior business major and right-handed pitcher, will lead at the forefront throughout the season. Adcock said by intermingling new players with veteran players, the group of pitchers will add some depth to its bullpen.
The season opens Feb. 4, against California State University, Los Angeles, at Totman Stadium in a three-game series. Adcock said the series will be a big challenge.
“Every year they’re tough,” Adcock said. “We take it one game at a time and there’s truth to that. There’s some exciting series deeper into the season coming up.”
Along with CSULA, the Lancers will face several tough opponents throughout the season, including Colorado Mesa University, Point Loma Nazarene University and Azusa Pacific University. Adcock said he plans on keeping his team prepared and ready.
“We’re trying to ride the wave we built last year,” Adcock said. “Of the six teams in the regionals, four were in the PacWest and that was a reversal from the year before. That was a great wave we created.”
This season, the Lancers will open its three-game series against PLNU April 20 at Angels Stadium, a program-first. The remaining games in the series will be played at home. Montoya said playing in a major league stadium will be a good opportunity for the team to showcase their skills.
“A lot of people don’t get that chance, it’s going to be awesome,” Montoya said. “It’s going to be good for our team and open our eyes.”
The team shares a goal this season of making it to the College World Series, but will take it one game at a time.
“I want to win every single game,” Sanchez said. “No team wants to lose; we’re going out there every game ready to compete.”