Last season Vanguard baseball had its best season in the last 25 years, going 34-20 (22-14 in GSAC) and advancing to the NAIA Tournament for the first time since 1985, partly as a result of third-year coach Ralph Grajeda taking over the program.
The Lions lost a number of key seniors in the off-season such as Eric Krzysiak, who set the school record for hits at 86 and was first team all-conference as a designated hitter.
Pitcher Peter Birdwell is another key member of the Lions squad who will not be returning this year after being drafted in the 25th round by the New York Mets.
Another senior, Lance Abbott, was signed by the Seattle Mariners as a free agent.
Key new members to this years team will be senior catcher Bryson Rahier and new pitchers Gabe Garcia and Joseph Vega III. Senior Tyson Leighton, Brandon Young, and Corey Kohnke will look to fill the voids lefts by the departure of Zachary Leighton, Billy Hamilton, and Brandon Godfrey from last years squad.
“We expect to play as a team, get to nationals, and win a national title,” senior pitcher Bryce Reid said.
The Lions’ first test of the 2010-2011 season was against La Sierra University at home and was easily handled by the Lions in a 15-0 trouncing of the Golden Eagles.
A more formidable opponent, the Cougars of Cal State San Marcos, matched up against the Lions for a three game series as their next games of the season.
The Cougars won 7-8 in a late game comeback with 4 runs in the 9th inning to take the victory out of the Lions’ grasp.
“After we got up, we put it in cruise control, and thats why we lost,” senior Brandon Pesante said.
After losing focus the previous game, Vanguard had two chances at home to answer San Marcos’ narrow victory and capitalized on one of them.
In the first inning of the teams second meeting, San Marcos Cougars’ second baseman Trent Jemmet scored on a throwing error. Similarly, the Lions scored their third inning run on an error.
After that both teams allowed only four hits until the bottom of the 9th inning. Extra innings looming, the Cougars walked designated hitter Jeremiah Mejia, who advanced to third off of a single to right field. He then was batted home off a walk-off single.
The second game of the double header started out well for the home team with a run in the first inning by left fielder Brandon Young. The Lions continued to look strong but then conceded a quick 5 runs in the top of the 5th inning off of 3 hits and an error.
The Cougars continued to capitalize on their chances, putting away a run in both the 5th and 6th innings and putting a comeback further out of the Lions’ reach.
Despite an attempt at a rally in the 7th and final inning of the double header, the series of bases hits, errors, and stolen bases proved to be too little, too late. The Lions lost 7-2 to bump their record to 2-2 overall.
“We’re upset we lost, but we’re just working out the kinks and we’re gonna come back stronger and work harder,” Reid said.
The next matchup is at Cal State University East Bay for a three-game series on Feb 4 and 5. Their next home game is against Cal Poly Pomona on Feb 12.