Leaping into the season

David Denenberg

The CSUN men’s baseball team is looking to improve this season after going 24-32 overall and 8-16 in the Big West Conference last year.

The team has a lot of prospective talent on the roster, including some freshmen and two junior college transfers that are looking to make an immediate impact in the program.

Last year’s Big West Freshman of the Year, infielder Ryan Pineda, is back for his sophomore year to lead this young CSUN team, who was predicted to finish eighth in the conference this year by the coaches’ poll, conducted in late 2008.

Pineda is coming off a year in which he batted .325, scored 38 runs and dropped down 72 hits.’ In order for his team to win in one of the most competitive conferences in college baseball, Pineda will have to bring that same fire.

Another player that CSUN is happy to have back is senior outfielder Richard Cates, who scored All-Big West Second Team Honors.’ Cates posted a .350 batting average and rocked 72 hits to go with 42 RBI’s last year.’ He provides much-needed senior leadership for the young Matadors squad.

Other noteworthy players that will contribute to the team’s offense this year are sophomore infielder T.S. Reed and senior catcher John Parham, both named to the Big West Honorable Mention Team last season.

Reed batted .311 and had 57 hits while leading the team with 16 steals.’ Parham was solid behind the plate as he posted the second highest batting average on the team at .348 and co-led it in hits with 72.’ Parham has the important ability to hit the ball out of the park as he blasted six home runs last year.

Joining the team as junior college transfers are right-handed junior pitchers Bryan Longpre and Ryan McCarney.’ Longpre is coming off a season with Grossmont Junior College in which he was the Pacific Coast Conference strikeout leader with 37 of them.’ There are definitely expectations for him to perform at a high level on the mound this year.

McCarney is an exciting player himself as he led his College of the Canyons team to a Western State Conference Championship last year.’ He also turned down an opportunity to play for the Cleveland Indians – after being selected in the 29th round of the MLB draft – in order to play ball for CSUN.

With a nice crop of freshmen joining CSUN’s team this year, left-handed pitcher Bryan Harper is the coveted prize in what Collegiate Baseball newspaper said was the 40th best recruiting class in the nation.

Also providing the Matadors with some solid offense this year should be sophomore infielder Justin DeMarco.’ Last year, as a freshman, he batted .252 and had 38 hits.
Junior outfielder Billy Swanson also brings a good bat to the CSUN lineup as he posted 32 hits, 12 RBI’s and batted .288 last season.

A lot of the team’s success this year will fall in the hands of the transfer students and freshmen.’ If the new players perform well and the team can get solid numbers from its returning starters, there’s no reason the Matadors shouldn’t compete for a Big West title.

The first game of the season is at Pepperdine on Friday at 2 p.m.’ The following day will be CSUN’s home opener as the Waves travel to Northridge for a 1 p.m. game.’ CSUN will wrap up the series back at Pepperdine on Sunday. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. as well.