After losing in the playoffs last year, the Selma baseball team couldn’t wait to get back on the diamond for the 2019 season.
“I’ve been waiting since the day we lost to get back on the field and start the new year,” senior catcher Ryan Naranjo said.
Last season, the Bears were eliminated from the CIF Central Section Division III playoffs as the No. 3 seed after losing 7-4 to No. 14 seeded Madera South in the first round.
Returning players Eddie Avalos and Ethan Wenter said members from last year’s team wants to put that loss behind them by aiming for a deep playoff run in May.
“It motivated us a lot,” Avalos said. “It has us wanting it more.”
“That loss motivated us to work a little bit harder, extra reps after practice” Wenter said. “So it’s definitely meant a lot to us.”
Despite the playoff loss, it was a successful season for the Bears that included winning a co-Central Sequoia League championship after going 10-5 in league play. Overall, the Bears finished with a 16-11 record.
This year’s team will feature eight returners that includes seven seniors, but majority of those returners will lack the playing experience unlike last year’s squad. Last season, the team featured 12 seniors that had the bulk of the playing time.
Naranjo and Wenter are some of the few seniors that played significant innings last season. Avalos, a junior, is the only underclassman on the team with varsity playing experience.
Naranjo is the only returning player on the lineup while Wenter is the only senior with the most pitching appearances last season. Wenter and Avalos each had 15 pitching appearances and both thrown for a sub 2.00 ERA. Wenter had a 1.28 ERA while Avalos thrown for 1.89 ERA.
“We’re inexperience as far as playing time,” Selma head coach John Hollett said. “That’s going to have to be the big thing that we’re going to have to replace. We have experienced guys, but the 12 seniors that we had last year, they had the bulk of the playing time and we’re replacing a lot of that.”
With majority of the team featuring newcomers, Wenter said “leading by example” will be important for the returners this season.
“You just have to come together and realize something needs to be done and you just have to do it,” Wenter said. “I think we’ve done a great job of that so far.”
Along with Avalos and Wenter, George Arroyo is another senior that was on last year’s pitching staff. Arroyo made eight appearances on the mound and thrown for a 3.39 ERA.
With three pitchers back from last year, Hollett expects the pitching unit to be the team’s strength this season, along with its defense.
Last season, Avalos, Wenter and Arroyo were used in relief roles, but Avalos and Wenter also split time between the infield and the mound. Avalos and Wenter expect to play in those positions again, but will be ready to start a game when called upon.
“It’s a little different of a role, but I’m willing to adapt to it,” Wenter said.
Last season, the CSL featured five playoff teams including two that competed for a Valley championship, who were Immanuel and Exeter.
Hollett said the CSL schedule is never easy, especially this year with the league expanding to seven teams by adding Hanford West. He added that the Division III playoffs will not get easier this season with schools from the central coast area joining this year.
He expects his team to qualify for the playoffs, but he said team chemistry will important if they want to have a successful season.
“If we don’t come together as a team, then we’re not very good,” Hollett said. “I feel like this is a good group of guys that want to come together as a team, but when the games start, that’s when we’ll know, but we’ll get them going.”