Golden Eagles thinking small ball

Del Oro Baseball Outlook
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS — A squad that’s slugged its way to consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals is making some quick adjustments to a new style of offense this spring. The Del Oro High baseball team has broken the school record for home runs two years in a row, hitting 15 in 2008 before clubbing 16 a year ago. After graduating seven starting position players and most of that power, the youthful Golden Eagles will need to manufacture their runs if they hope to contend in the merciless Sierra Foothill League and make their third straight playoff appearance. “We’ve really made a conscious decision to play small-ball,” head coach Bret Lachemann said. “We just don’t have a whole lot of guys who are going to hit home runs like we’ve had. We’ve been able to get our bunts down, steal some bases and our defense has played fairly well. It’s going to come down to our pitching and defense.” Del Oro won its opener at Whitney 7-1 last week before playing to a 4-4 tie with Del Campo Monday, a game called in the fifth inning due to darkness. Only three of the Eagles’ 16 hits have gone for extra bases, but senior pitcher Cooper Johnson is confident the team can be successful without the homers. “All these guys coming up are really adjusting well to playing small-ball,” said Johnson, who had a 6.08 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 38 innings last year. “We’re not really worrying about the long ball, and we definitely think we’re one of those top three teams that can make the playoffs. That’s really what we’re looking for. I think that’s a goal we can achieve.” Johnson and senior Cole Perez will see the most mound time. Perez had a 4.12 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings, second only to graduated ace Mason Magleby. “We’re going to be relying on those two guys heavily,” Lachemann said. “We don’t quite have that one overpowering arm that we’ve had in the past but Cooper and Cole pitched more last year than any two other juniors in my time here. They have a lot of experience and they’re both capable of dominating when they have their best stuff.” Juniors Thomas Mullen and Jared Rowe and Brian Bynum, a senior transfer from Granite Bay who sat out last spring, will be in the mix to share pitching duties. A.J. Newby, one of only two sophomores on the roster, will start at catcher. “He’s a real good receiver, especially for how young he is,” Lachemann said. “He’s done a good job getting a lot of information in a short amount of time.” Junior Jessie Lang is a versatile left-handed-hitting first baseman. Junior Max Magleby, one of only two returning starters alongside senior middle infielder Freddie Cargile, will play second and third. Junior Josh Akin is reliable at shortstop while Johnson and Mullen can both play third, depending on who’s on the mound. “We have quite a few infielders who we can mix and match,” Lachemann said. “It’s good from a depth standpoint. I’m still trying to figure out where those guys are going to end up but we have some versatility in the infield.” Junior center fielder Ryan Xepoleus is a catalyst at the top of the order behind Cargile, the leadoff hitter. Corner outfielders Russel Smith, a senior, and Jarrod Rohe, a junior, are also solid at the plate. Johnson didn’t hit last year, but his bat is back in the lineup this spring. “A lot of these guys are capable of playing well and I’ve seen it,” Lachemann said. “It’s just a matter of adapting to the level of play that it’s going to take to do well in the SFL. We still have a long way to go and a lot to learn.” Del Oro travels to Placer Friday for a 6 p.m. game. The Eagles open SFL play against favorite Granite Bay on March 22. “You can lose to anybody in this league if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, and that’s what our group of kids have to realize,” Lachemann said. “One thing that’s good is that with our past couple years of success they kind of expect to win most of the games. That’s good, but we still have to make the right effort to win the games. I hope there’s an attitude that Del Oro baseball’s pretty good baseball and we’re going to battle, but we have to put the work in to equal our thoughts.”