It's an old baseball axiom you can never have too much pitching but Kansas City Kansas Community College's baseball team will go into Jayhawk Conference play with its most experienced staff in recent years.
Three sophomores who combined to start 34 games last year head a deep and promising mound staff to go along with an experienced infield. "The strength of this team should be our pitching staff," says fourth year head coach Matt Goldbeck. "We have a lot of quality arms and 'plus stuff' as a staff. If we can throw strikes, I think we'll be able to pitch and play defense."
Kept inside by this year's snow, ice and cold, the Blue Devils finally get outside this weekend with a five-game spring trip to the Dallas area where they'll face Eastfield in doubleheaders Friday and Saturday and Brookhaven in a single game Sunday. The home opener will come Saturday, Feb. 23, when the Blue Devils host State Fair in a twin bill.
Goldbeck will build his pitching staff around three sophomore righthanders from Florida – Orlando Ortiz and Victor Gotay, both of Miami Beach; and Carlos Soto of Kissimmee. All were in the starting rotation a year ago when the Blue Devils finished 34-26.
Gotay was 3-3 with a 3.94 earned run average in 10 starts; Soto 4-7 with a 5.05 ERA in 11 starts; and Ortiz 3-6 and a 6.06 ERA in 13 starts. Ortiz struck out 91 in 69 innings but also surrendered 65 walks. Soto had 52 strikeouts in 66 innings and Gotay 42 strikeouts in 45 innings. Each gave up 30 walks.
Osvaldo Mendez, a freshman lefthander from Carolina, Puerto Rico, is expected to fill the fourth spot in the starting rotation with Matt Fred, a freshman righthander from Saint Mary, KS., slated to start in this weekend's fifth game in Texas. Sophomore lefthander Hunter Paxton of Mill Valley, who was 3-1 in five starts last season, will also see starting duty along with soph Maxwell Storch of Olathe South and freshmen Jose Amaro and Zavier Morin of Gardner-Atchison.
Kevin Santiago returns to lead the offense. A sophomore from Puerto Rico, Santiago led the Blue Devils with 11 home runs, 63 runs-batted-in and a .713 slugging percentage while hitting .386 in a banner freshman season. "We're counting on him for a big year," says Goldbeck.
Santiago will be joined on the infield by Eric Hinostroza of Shawnee at first, Trace Harter of Topeka Seaman at second and Kemper Bednar of Saint James at third. All are sophomores but only Bednar saw action last year, hitting .250 in 20 games. Harter is a transfer from Johnson County while Hinostroza is a former Blue Devil returning from military duty.
Three freshmen have won the starting outfield spots – Tyler Henry of Gardner-Edgerton in left, Eduardo Acosta of Puerto Rico in center and Matt Schrick of Atchison in right. Sophomore Brady Holder of Kearney and freshmen Jose Soto of Kissimmee, Trey Hoover of Maryville, Mo., and Kaleb Harrison of Neola, Iowa, will vie for the role of designated hitter as well as infield and outfield duties.
Catching will be another strength. Sophomore J.T. Goodfellow of Broken Arrow, Okla, who caught 30 games last season, will be joined by freshman Griffin Everett of Lincoln, Neb.
"Offensively, this is going to be a team that will try to put pressure on the defense by stealing bases, bunting for hits and using the hit-and-run, all the little things," says Goldbeck. "Santiago, Henry and Schrick will provide some power." Goldbeck is being assisted by veterans Bill Sharp, Dean Long and Ryne McDonald and newcomers Andrew Kreiling and Pedro Leon. All but Leon are former Blue Devils.
The Blue Devils have been tabbed for fifth place in the Jayhawk Conference behind Cowley, which is ranked No. 6 in the NJCAA preseason poll; Neosho County, Johnson County and Fort Scott. The Blue Devils will play a 32-game Jayhawk schedule, four-game series with each other league member rotating on a home-and-home basis on Thursdays and Saturdays.