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Cougars Look to Build on Momentum

Posted: January 29, 2008 2:03 a.m.
Updated: March 31, 2008 2:01 a.m.
The heat started to build in mid-March.

By that point, College of the Canyons baseball was on its way to another season spent at home in the postseason.
Something clicked, though.
Head coach Chris Cota said it was his offense that turned around, especially after players were only allowed to hit off a tee in practice for a while.
Nevertheless, the Cougars streaked into the postseason, going 19-6 in the final 25 games, finishing second place in the Western State Conference South and making their first playoff appearance since 2004.
Though they fell to Orange Coast College in the Southern California Regional Playoffs and finished 24-21, all were building blocks to this season.
Now, Cota boasts a sophomore-heavy lineup with a solid mix of offense and pitching.
"I expect us to have a good year," said the eighth-season head coach. "You never can tell how other programs are, but I think we have a nucleus of players that are experienced and ready to compete at this level everyday."
Only two freshmen will likely be in the starting lineup when the Cougars start the season.
Returning, though, are three of the top four offensive producers from last season and a fourth player who joined them on the all-conference first team.
The only exception is Casey Stevenson, who left after his freshman season to join former COC head coach Mike Gillespie at UC Irvine.
Sophomore infielder Kyle Harris led the team with a .410 batting average and 50 RBIs.
The other two top producers were selected in June's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft - John Hay and Tyreace House.
Hay, a 39th round selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and House, a 49th rounder to the Atlanta Braves, decided to return to the Cougars.
Hay, a 2006 Canyon graduate, built up some steam toward the tail end of the season and went on a home run tear.
He finished with a team-leading 10 home runs.
"Being a year older and a year baseball wiser, hopefully he can pick up where he started," Cota said.
House led the team with nine stolen bases and hit .403, though he was bothered by injuries as the season neared a close.
Luis Perez, an All-WSC South catcher, has some pop and is strong behind the plate.
The likely biggest addition to the team is third baseman Brian Hernandez.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound transfer from Cal State Los Angeles, batted .383 with eight home runs and 56 RBIs playing at the NCAA Division I level.
It should be interesting to see how his game translates to the junior college level.
Another drafted player should lead the pitching staff in left-hander Mike McCravey.
The sophomore hurt his shoulder after pitching just twice last season and missed the remainder. His stuff and potential was still considered good enough that the Florida Marlins selected him in the 40th round.
But the 6-foot-3 pitcher decided to return to COC.
The rotation could include a combination of China McCarney - a high-potential pitcher at Vasquez High, and a pair of locals - Saugus grad Kody Kurowski, who was a solid arm out of the bullpen in 2007, and Canyon grad Anthony DiGiacomo.
Cota said he expects his pitchers to be ahead of the hitters because the Cougars weren't allowed to play games in January.
In years past, fall ball, which got them ready for the season, lasted into mid-January.
As far as the conference landscape is concerned, Cota is unsure.
Canyons does have the most returning all-conference plays, though, if that's an indication.
COC hasn't won conference since 2003.


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