Coming off a 2010 campaign that featured more disappointment than success, City College head baseball coach John Vanoncini feels this season’s squad may be one of the most promising in years.
Despite the low number of 2011 sophomores, who are countable on one hand, it is the freshmen on roster that most excite the Rams’ skipper.
“I think this is one of the top three freshman classes I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Vanoncini said. “The fact that we now get to play and practice at Fairmont Field everyday was a big help in terms of recruiting players of their caliber.”
Despite the Rams’ lack of experience on paper, sophomore Alex Rodriguez said the team will need to rely on fundamentals and an experienced style of play if the players expect success.
“It’s all about executing the little things,” he said. “We’re not a team that’s going to hit a lot of home runs and hit for power. But if we all keep our heads on the same way, I think we can be very successful.”
First-year players will get a chance to show exactly what they are capable of playing in the very competitive Golden Gate division of the Coast Conference, in which the top four teams all had 10 or more wins in conference play in 2010, including state championship runner-up College of San Mateo.
City College finished 9-27 overall last season, while going 6-19 in the conference. This year’s schedule will not be any easier because the first-year players will be challenged immediately in their college careers.
“It’s tough,” Vanoncini said, when asked about conference play. “These guys are going to be thrown into the fire early on. When you have the state champion and state runner-up playing here in Northern California, you know you’re going to be challenged.”
Sophomore and team captain Mark Johnson said the team has improved in both work ethic and chemistry from 2010, and he is encouraged by the way the young team is coming together.
“Everybody is on the same page,” Johnson said. “We’ve all been very active, and our work ethic is as high as it’s ever been. Everyone knows we just need to keep working every day at practice. Nobody has to be told that.”
Johnson also cited new assistant coaches Roland Nazar and Tony Maganini as both having big impacts on practices early in the preseason.
Vanoncini said Nazar will focus on the team’s hitting, while Maganini will serve as his pitching coach.
Nazar will be tasked with improving an offense that scored 167 total runs last season, ranking fifth in the conference. Meanwhile, Maganini will surely look to try and erase memories of the Rams’ 2010 team ERA of 6.91.
The Rams will open their 2011 season when they travel to Oakland for a three-game series at Laney College Feb. 3-5. Their conference opener is scheduled for March 1, when they host Mission College, a team that finished last in the Coast Conference last year.
“We have a good non-conference schedule this year,” Vanoncini said. “We’ve got a lot of tough games early on, and it will be a good test for us.”
Although the Rams are currently in a nine-year postseason drought, Vanoncini feels this team may be very close to turning the corner.
“It’s always a challenge when you lose some pitchers to injury like we did early this year,” he said. “But the talent is there. We’re just going to take it one game at a time, and try to get better every day.”