Due to the number of professional and college prospects on the Yucaipa High School baseball team expect to see an abundance of scouts this season at the school's Tommy Thompson Field. The defending Division II champions have added three potential superstars to an already star-studded veteran roster which will now compete in California Interscholastic Federation Division I.
At first, YHS baseball coach Ralph Grajeda did not seem overly confident that his 2019 edition could duplicate its 2018 championship run but has since acknowledged that his team now has “serious depth.”
The highly touted Thunderbirds own a No. 8 preseason national ranking by Collegiate Baseball News and No. 12 by Baseball America. With talented senior pitcher Tyson Heaton returning those projected rankings make sense. Heaton has already pitched in all-star games at the national, international level, and at the state level was named D2 state pitcher of the year. When not pitching, the big slugger plays first base.
Grajeda says his starting lineup is set with the exception of right field. All-CIF returners Joseph Lomeli and Jordan Andrade have been fixtures at shortstop and second base. Grajeda raved about new third baseman Danny Garcia, a junior who transferred from Grand Terrace.
“He’s a good left-handed hitter who can also serve as catcher.”
Yucaipa will also benefit from the return of left-handed pitcher Julian Alvarez who did not play most of his junior year while going through “growing pains.” Grajeda says that Alvarez and Heaton are already good enough to pitch in college. The second-year coach said junior Bradley Heacock earned the number three spot in his rotation based on his performances in fall, off season games. Sophomore Wyatt Doty has been “ridiculous on the mound” and is expected to see plenty of action in the preseason.
Grajeda scheduled a very aggressive pre-Citrus Belt League season to prepare his team for its venture into one of the nation’s most difficult division’s, beginning with a doubleheader at D-I finalist Foothill on Feb. 9. It will play in the Boras Classic during Easter break in games with teams like Mater Dei and JSerra. YHS plays its home opener on Feb. 14 against Tesoro.
To succeed in this season’s 33 game schedule Grajeda thinks his pitching staff “is pretty deep enough” to go the required distance. He likes the looks of Trevor Stewart, Cody Westphal, and Ryan Bersamin that has absolutely come out of nowhere to win the strenuous job of closer.”
The deep bullpen might be needed also during the CBL season since the league has shrunk to six teams. Every team will now play each opponent three times.
“The CBL is really good so it’s hard to beat anyone three times,” noted Grajeda.
The pitchers will have a good target to throw to in returning All-CIF catcher Michael Carpentier. Keyton Dawson and Anthony Gibbons will return to their starting outfield positions with Bradyn Reed moving in as a spot starter. Trent Luther will serve as designated hitter.
Grajeda says the Thunderbirds are looking forward to the challenge of moving up to D-I and that they cannot rely on last year’s accomplishments for motivation.
“I think we will get punched in the mouth a few times and then we’ll rebound. We’re going for it. You can quote me on that.”