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COC baseball preview: Nice to see you again

Cougars feature an array of former area high school stars from Valencia and West Ranch

Posted: February 18, 2013 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 18, 2013 1:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons baseball players, from left, Quincy Quintero, Trey Williams, Alex Bishop and James Bonds all used to play for the same Valencia High School team which won back-to-back Foothill League championships.

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It’s 2011.

The Valencia High baseball lineup card features four guys who are considered vital to the team.

It’s 2013.

The College of the Canyons baseball lineup card is supposed to feature four Valencia High graduates who are considered vital to the team.

“It’s interesting. Playing high school baseball, it gets competitive. Especially playing Valencia. Everyone wants to beat Valencia. That’s the team to beat,” said West Ranch graduate and COC No. 1 starter Steven Farnworth. “But playing with them is definitely a plus. They’re all good players.”

Those four players as well as a roster heavy on Santa Clarita Valley products is what leads the College of the Canyons baseball team into the 2013 season.

The four — third baseman Trey Williams, infielder Quincy Quintero, catcher Alex Bishop and outfielder James Bonds — won two Foothill League championships playing together as a group in 2010 and 2011.

Williams, who was seen a year ago at this time as a potential first-round pick in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft, slipped to the 11th round with the St. Louis Cardinals and opted not to sign.

The power-hitting baseball prodigy also didn’t go to Pepperdine University, where he had committed.

Quintero, a gap-to-gap hitting infielder and power pitcher, was at Pepperdine last year and left, seeking another direction to his baseball career.

Bishop, a contact-hitting defensive stalwart, caught for Moorpark College, but came to COC after the baseball program folded at Moorpark.

Bonds is the only COC holdover of the three. He hit .351 with three home runs and 23 RBIs last year.

Injury has bothered Williams, Quintero and Bonds early this season, but the hope is that these four will bolster a COC lineup that figures to be the Cougars’ strength this season.

“This team’s amazingly talented. We have a lot of guys. Coach (Chris Cota) even said it’s hard to put out nine guys in the lineup,” Bishop said. “We’re a hard-working group. The will and drive is there.”

An interesting addition to this team is Georgia-native and Arizona State transfer Daniel Lee — a guy who can play a lot of positions and whose reputation as a prep player was built on speed.

Second baseman Chad DeLaGuerra is the Cougars’ top returning offensive player.

He hit .357 with three homers and 22 RBIs last season.

“Honestly I’ve never seen a hitter as consistent as Chad,” Farnworth said. “Every time he swings that bat he hits it hard.”

COC experiences two big losses in Jake Jelmini, whose .407 average, six home runs and 28 RBIs led last season’s team, and hard-throwing Cory Jones, who was 6-0 with a 2.79 ERA.

Williams has the capability to step in and replace the now University of Oregon infielder Jelmini’s output.

Jones will be tougher to replace.

The fifth-round draft pick by the same St. Louis Cardinals team that drafted Williams struck out 89 batters in 61 1/3 innings.

That type of out-getter is absent from this team.

“I think we have more depth than last year,” Cota said. “We don’t have the Cory Jones to pitch 95 mph and dominate a baseball game, but we have a good group of pitchers who will keep us in games.”

Farnworth is at the top of that list.

The ground-ball pitcher played for Sonoma State last season after a quiet career at West Ranch, because he was behind hard-throwing Ryan Keller and left-handed star J.C. Cloney.

Much is expected of Farnworth, though.

The No. 2 starter is Kennedy High graduate and right-hander Ryan Cruz.

After that, there is competition for a third spot.

Cota said he is confident in his bullpen, which has seen freshman Julian Cruz ending games early in the season.

With the lack of a strikeout pitcher, the emphasis for COC is on playing defense.

The team is expected to hit.

The difference for the team might be what it does in the field.

COC finished 20-16-1 overall and 12-9 in the Western State Conference in 2012, losing a play-in game to the Southern California Regional Playoffs.

Another difference for the 2013 squad could be how quickly this team comes together — especially with one group already knowing each other very well.

“It’s crazy. I feel like I’ve been playing with these guys for four years,” Farnworth said of the team. “You think you won’t be as close. But we’re really close.”

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