2017-03-16 / Sports
Uphill battle for defending champs
Five sophomores start for Agoura baseball squad
The Chargers have snagged five straight league championships, but this will be the toughest title defense yet.
Agoura (3-5 overall at press time) is looking for someone to become a staff ace.
Michael Weisberg, a senior who claimed back-to-back Marmonte pitcher of the year honors, has yet to throw for the Chargers this season. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Cal Berkley commit missed the first month of the season with an injury, but he’s expected to return to the mound for a March 24 showdown against Oaks Christian.
Agoura’s sallied forth without closer Michael Snyder. The senior has missed the past two months with an injury.
“We’re right where we thought we’d be,” head coach Anthony Chevrier said. “We didn’t think we’d be 8-0 out of the chute. We talked all year long about the experience we’d gain early by playing some really good teams.”
This team has a different vibe with five sophomore starters. Agoura, which is accustomed to trotting out big names in the lineup and on the bump, are not favored to win the Marmonte with so many youngsters.
“In years past, those guys were experienced,” Chevrier said. “They expected to be good right away, and they backed it up with their play. This team’s very talented and confident. They’re just going through their learning curve right now, experiencing what they need to do to be successful.”
The Chargers, who put up 23 runs in a season-opening romp over Burroughs, took their licks against Valencia and Chatsworth, and split two games against West Ranch.
“We’ve had a lot of growth within the season,” said Jake Benun, a third-year varsity senior who starts at third base. “We’re a young group and we’ve learned a lot. It’s been a huge learning period so far.”
Agoura is still looking for steady performances from the pitching staff.
“So far, every pitcher has gotten multiple opportunities,” the skipper said, “and they’ll continue to get those opportunities until they fall into their roles by showing consistency.”
Garreth Lautz, Kyle Dumpel and Mitchell Sack are left-handed seniors. Fellow seniors Dexter Wilkerson, who stands 6-foot-2, and Jonny DeLuca, who starts in center field, are right-handed hurlers.
Jeremy Roschko, a junior, and sophomore Justin Esters also see action on the hill.
Chevrier said Agoura’s defense has been solid.
“Compared to years past, this is probably one of the better defensive teams,” the fourth-year coach said.
Chevrier sprinkles sophomores into the starting lineup like Salt Bae seasons a sirloin steak. Taylor Justus starts behind the dish. Aaron Suval tracks down balls in left field. Nick Seyler, a second baseman, and Artin Biageyian, a shortstop with a flashy glove, solidify the middle infield. Nico Della Ripa, a budding football star, is the team’s top designated hitter.
Seyler, a second-year varsity player, said he’s happy with his increased role this season.
“It feels good to be able to help them out more,” Seyler said. “I just try my best in anything that I can do.”
Agoura veterans show the youngsters how it’s done.
Drew Marincic, a junior, starts at first while Spencer Lin, also a junior, patrols right field. Lin is quarterback of the football team.
Senior outfielder Jake Rifkin and junior catcher Connor Kelly boost the squad.
Agoura’s offense has been making contact. The Chargers average eight runs per game.
“It relieves the pressure a bit,” Lautz said. “We can give up a few runs and we’ll still have our offense to put up eight runs a game. We don’t feel all the pressure on our shoulders to pitch one-run games.”
The pressure, however, is on with Marmonte League action underway. Agoura was on the road against Newbury Park Wednesday. A final score was unavailable at press time.
The Chargers will face a plethora of talented pitchers at Oaks Christian, Westlake, Newbury Park, Calabasas and Thousand Oaks.
“There’s a lot of good pitching in our league,” Lautz said. “We’re going to have to be able to string together a few runs. If we can get five across a game, we’ll be in good position to win games.”
The Chargers are taking a different approach at the plate this season.
Players aren’t trying to connect for moon shots. Agoura’s focusing on making contact and driving the ball.
“I try not to do too much,” Biageyian said. “I’ve been trying to stay in the middle and (opposite) side of the field. It’s been working for me lately.”
The Chargers believe that they can compete for a league crown and qualify for the Division 1 playoffs.
“We’re focusing on putting together wins,” Lautz said. “I think we’ll be in a good position at the end of the (regular) season to make the playoffs.”