Slugging sensation

Dons sophomore first baseman Tyler Madrid is on an early season hitting tear.

BASEBALL SEASON PREVIEW: The Dons field a high-powered offense, but the pitching staff remains a question.

The Dons baseball team has some deficiencies to address, but at least they can hit.

“Our pitching staff is kind of thin, and we have a lot of freshmen,” sophomore infielder Tyler Madrid said.

Of the 34 athletes on the roster, 22 are freshmen. Only six sophomores played significant roles last season, three position players and three pitchers.

Designated hitter JB Bryant, outfielder Blake Walker and Madrid have set spots in the batting order. As a freshman, Madrid was among the team leaders in home runs, walks, RBIs and strikeouts.

Last season Kagan Richardson, Richard Diaz and Matt Blanchard were all relief pitchers as freshman.

Blanchard pitched primarily out of the ninth inning as the closer for the Dons.

But because of a lack of depth and an unforeseen injury to lefty Bryan Clough, Blanchard will be stretched out as a starter.

The Dons are still looking to fill out the pitching rotation.

In a home win on Feb. 5, Head Coach Don Sneddon used eight pitchers. Sophomore Sean Slettvet picked up the win, facing five batters and throwing 14 pitches.

“It was a planned staff day,” Sneddon said. “We wanted to see how guys handled different roles.”

Sneddon is banking on new blood to revitalize the skill intensive positions.

All three middle-of-the-diamond positions—catcher, shortstop and centerfield—are occupied by freshmen Cody Bistline, Joshua Vargas and Ryan Aguilar respectively.

Last season, the Dons made it to the second round of the state playoffs for the 25th consecutive season before being eliminated in the Super Regional Championships by Rio Hondo Community College, 8-2.

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“‘Skip’ (Sneddon) always finds a way to get the win,” Madrid said.

JB Bryant (Top-Left), Kagan Richardson (Right) and Cody Bistline (Bottom-Left) will anchor the Dons’ quest to retake the Orange Empire Conference.

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