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The Santa Maria Valley high school baseball teams have swung into action for the 2018 campaign.

Santa Maria, the 2017 CIF Southern Section Division 6 champion, has several regulars back. Righetti, the Division 3 runner-up, was hit harder by graduation. However, the Warriors do have some prominent returnees.

St. Joseph, Pioneer Valley, Orcutt Academy and Valley Christian Academy will all try to make a run toward the playoffs.

Here is a look at some Santa Maria Valley teams.

Santa Maria

The Saints have a lot of the core back from the squad that beat Moreno Valley 9-0 for the 2017 Division 6 title. Santa Maria is off to a 4-1 start this season under second-year coach Rick Hebert and is 2-1 in the Los Padres League.

Isiah Garcia, Tommy Herrera, Trevor Garcia, Marc Estrada and Slim Lopez all hit above .300 for the Saints last year, and they all return. Trevor Garcia was Santa Maria's No. 1 starting pitcher last year. All-around standout Paul Navarro, Santa Maria's No. 2 man on the mound last year, graduated.

Trevor and Isiah Garcia (no relation) are seniors. So are Lopez and Estrada. Herrera, who was a steady catcher as well as a clutch hitter last year, is a junior.

Robert Ruiz hit .296 as a junior last year. He's back.

Marcos Rodriguez, a regular field position player, was also a part-time pitcher for the Saints last season. He graduated, so the Saints are thinner in the pitching department than they were last year.

However, Lopez has a lot of pitching experience and he has already turned in some good pitching performances this year.

Freshman Brayan Nunez has been productive for the Saints as a catcher and infielder.


The bulk of the starters for the 2017 team, including all-everything pitcher Matt Sauer who wound up being drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round, graduated.

However, veteran coach Brian Tomooka does have some productive 2017 regulars back. The Warriors (2-0) began their 2018 season by sweeping Simi Valley Royal 7-2, 4-2 in a doubleheader at Royal.

Center fielder Jaden LyBurtus, Righetti's lead-off man, hit .356 besides covering a lot of ground in center last year. A finger injury hampered the second half of LyBurtus' season.

LyBurtus has signed a National Letter of Intent with Cal State Sacaramento.

Besides Sauer the Warriors' other starting pitchers last year, Mitchell Bagby and Alex Castellanos, also graduated. Josh Glazewski did pitch some for Righetti last year, and he returns.

Besides LyBurtus, senior second baseman-outfielder Weston Hammell and senior first baseman-outfielder Brandon Giddings are other regulars who return for Tomooka. Hammell hit .344 last season. Clayton hit .291.

Two part-time players for the Warriors last year, infielders Bryce Trump (senior) and Luke Ramos (junior) are back.

St. Joseph

The Knights are off to a 2-2 start this season under veteran coach Cody Smith. They will try to improve on a 2017 campaign in which they went 10-20, including 7-14 in the PAC 8 League.

Their No. 1 pitcher from last year, Isaac Baez, is back. The senior right-hander went 4-4 with a 1.94 ERA last year.

Miles Enos was 3-6 for St. Joseph in 2017, but his ERA was just 3.46. The junior hit .349 last year.

Catcher Marc Rubalcaba hit .340 in 2017, and the senior returns. Zach Morris, another senior, is back after hitting .325 last year. Morris is a pitcher-outfielder.

Junior infielder-outfielder Chris Cervantes (.314) is another .300-plus hitter who returns for the Knights. Senior pitcher-utility player Eddie Aldridge is another returnee. He hit .400 in 10 games last year.

The Knights have 14 returners from 2017.

Valley Christian Academy

Three .300-plus hitters return for a Lions team that went 5-9 and made it to the playoffs last season. VCA finished second in the Coast Valley League at 4-2 last year.

The hitters in the .300 club who return for VCA are infielder-pitcher Andrew Sparlin (.367), senior catcher Nick Dyer (.353) and center fielder Jared Moore (.306).

The Lions have seven returnees, and four seniors, this year. They won their season opener, 12-7, at Ojai Valley Thursday. The game was called in the bottom of the fourth because of darkness.

Orcutt Academy

The Spartans struggled last year, going 6-23, including 2-19 in the Los Padres League.

Orcutt is 0-2 this year. Both of its games have been LPL ones.

The Spartans have a solid pitcher back, Marc Valdez who had a 2.62 ERA as a freshman in 2017. Two of their leading hitters from last year, Jared Sutton and Tyler Zafris, have returned. Both hit .286 in 2017.

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Sports Reporter