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(New) boys of summer

Foothill League teams get a look at future stars thanks to summer VIBL

Posted: July 20, 2009 11:01 p.m.
Updated: July 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hart senior J.T. Barnes is one of several Indians who have made an impression this summer in the Valley Invitational Baseball League and will take the reins of the Hart baseball program next spring.

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Valencia is already the reigning Foothill League baseball champion, and the Vikings already have a roster loaded with young talent.

By most accounts from the Valley Invitational Baseball League, that talent pool is growing.

Several Vikings who either played on junior varsity or didn’t see much varsity time last spring are starring this summer.

Junior Jake Roberge is one such player.

The Viking pitcher saw spot duty this past season, but his improvement over the summer could lead to a permanent spot in Valencia’s rotation.

“He’s really stepped up for us this summer,” said Valencia head coach Jared Snyder. “He’s pitching really well, and he can hit and play first base, too.”

Someone Roberge might see behind the plate next season is sophomore catcher Brian Mundell, who Snyder said has a great arm behind the plate and a great bat on offense.

“He’s had the best summer of any of our kids that I know of,” Snyder said. “We knew he was going to be good. We’ve been pleased with how fast it’s come about. He’s got a lot to work on still but he’s done a great job.”

Snyder also mentioned senior pitcher Justin Hanks as having shown improvement and several Foothill League coaches mentioned junior Shane Zeile as a versatile player who should find a spot on the field.

Golden Valley head coach Scott Drootin also noted the emergence of Valencia sophomore Timmy Lopes, young brother of Valencia Christian Lopes, who was the CalHiSports state sophomore of the year.

“Timmy has really quick hands,” Drootin said. “He just looks like he’s ready to break through for them and have a great season.”

For the Grizzlies, freshman Billy Fredrick has contributed immediately after dominating Canyon Country Little League the past few years.

“He’s really stepped up and played a lot of innings this summer,” Drootin said.

Golden Valley also has to replace Nicholas Rhoades, who was the team’s top pitcher last spring.

Senior Josh Smith may be ready to take the torch.

Smith struggled in Foothill League play last season, but thanks to more experience this summer, he caught the eye of West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill.

“I think he’s going to have a real solid senior year,” Burrill said. “He’s real tall and has a good, solid build. He also has real good command of his fastball.”

Burrill also praised Canyon senior Thomas Kratky, who was in and out of the Cowboys’ lineup last season but a VIBL All-Star at shortstop.

“I thought he was a really good athlete,” Burrill said. “I think he’ll have a real good year.”

As for the Wildcats, sophomore left-handed pitcher J.C. Cloney appears ready to move into the rotation.

“He’s the one that’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this year,” Burrill said. “He’s been putting up some amazing numbers for us. Offensively, he’s been fantastic as well.”

Cloney is hitting .423 this summer with two homers and 14 RBIs in 30 at bats, and he has a 1.08 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched.

Another sophomore, third baseman Josh Heinz, is hitting .457 in 35 at bats. Heinz is used to playing catcher, but the Wildcats are deep at that position and thin at third.

“He’s taken to third base,” Burrill said. “He’s another bright spot.”

Hart has a couple of bright spots emerging this summer in J.T. Barnes and Daniel Dietz.

Barnes, who is heading into his senior season, became a fixture in Hart’s lineup toward the end of the 2009 season, and Indians head coach Jim Ozella has been impressed by his offense over the summer.

“He’s started to come on with his bat and he’s taken charge with the bat,” Ozella said.

Dietz is a junior speedster who can play both the outfield and infield. He came up late from junior varsity last season and found his way into several games, but he has a good shot at becoming a starter given Hart’s graduation losses in the outfield.

“He can really run,” Ozella said. “He can throw from the outfield and go get the ball. He’s really developed as a guy who can get on base.”

In addition to Barnes and Dietz, seniors Nolan Simons and Pat Valaika will assume more of a leadership role next spring.

“Those are the four guys who have really kind of stood out for us in the summer,” Ozella said.

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