Diamond Kings of Santa Ana

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BASEBALL PREVIEW: Dons gearing up to defend its conference title.

The baseball team has issues to muddle through, but the team still has the state finals in mind.

“We want to win the Orange Empire Conference. That is our expectation every year. Our first goal is to win that,” said Head Coach Don Sneddon, whose 31 years at the helm has produced major league all stars, including Angels lefty C.J. Wilson.

The pitching staff is inexperienced. About half of the 15 pitchers are freshmen. The young staff does not have set roles yet, sophomore right-handers Jarret Porter and Garrett Wilson are guaranteed spots in the rotation.

“We are still experimenting with that,” Sneddon said. “We got one out of Porter. Wilson, who was our reliever last year, is going to go into a starting role.”

The Dons options after the starting nine are minimal. Minor injuries have thrown some of the regulars out of the loop at the start of the season.

“We are real thin. We don’t have much depth on the bench at all,” Sneddon said. “We have no speed to run or play defensive-wise. Injuries have really depleted our bench.”

The returning sophomores will attempt to carry the load, building off strong freshmen seasons that could buy the young team time to mature through live-game experience.

Last season, third baseman Adrian Garcia hit .345 in 40 games, scoring 35 runs while socking nine doubles. Shortstop Trevor Magno hit .317 in 39 games, driving in 20 RBIs. Centerfielder Dylan Jones hit .276 in 42 games, smacking five triples while driving in 23 RBIs.

“Our ultimate goal is to get to Bakersfield and show why we are the No. 1 team in the state and Orange County,” said sophomore catcher Konnor Armijo. “If each guy does what they are supposed to be doing who knows what this team could do.”

The Dons last trip to the state finals came in 2009, when the team lost to Diablo Valley College and San Joaquin Delta College in back-to-back games to end its season.

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DH: TYLER MADRID:   Freshman Tyler Madrid is playing his first season of organized baseball since the spring of 2008.“I haven’t played in a while, but I expect to have a solid season as a team and individual,” Madrid said.Shaking off the rust to get back into game ready shape is pivotal for Madrid’s and the Dons success. Tyler Madrid
C: KONNOR ARMIJO:   Sophomore catcher Konnor Armijo is set to lead an inexperienced pitching staff through the season.“It is a young team, so we are still trying to figure out what our character is going to be like,” Armijo said.His goals are to be a dual threat backstop — a catcher who can hit and defend — for the Dons.“First I need to stay healthy. I want to hit over .300 for sure and get my on base percentage up,” Armijo said. “If you’re on you have a chance to score. Catching-wise I want to throw out at least 50 to 60 percent of my runners.” Konnor Armijo
LEGENDARY COACHING:   Head Coach Don Sneddon is in his 31st season at SAC. Under Sneddon the Dons have earned numerous accolades. In his 30 seasons, the Dons have won 16 Orange Empire Conference titles and three state championships. Last season, Sneddon coached his 1,000th victory. Over 100 different players have signed professional contracts during Sneddon’s tenure. Coach Don SneddonCoach Sneddon photo by Daniel Hubert
/ el Don Photo Editor

WINNING TRADITION:
  The Dons have won the OEC Championship in five straight years. Under Sneddon the Dons have boasted a streak of 29 seasons with a .500 winning percentage or better — including 21 seasons better than .700.

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