Valencia's Ben Fariss throws a pitch during a baseball game against Saugus last March. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Every Foothill League baseball contender has arms.

Valencia High has two high-level Division 1 pitchers.

West Ranch has Cal State Fullerton signee Timmy Josten and other promising arms.

Hart High has a University of Arizona-bound slinger and a stellar submariner. Saugus has two sophomore sensations.

How deep the field of title chasers really is, though, depends on whether a couple teams pick things up at the plate.

With Foothill League play set to open Wednesday, here’s a look at each Foothill baseball team in the order they finished last season:

Valencia

It’s hard to argue the reigning co-Foothill champs don’t have the league’s most vaunted staff.

With NCAA Division 1 signees Ben Fariss (UC Santa Barbara) and Chase Farrell (UCLA) returning, there’s little guess work around who’s starting each week.

“Here’s our two guys and here we go,” said coach Mike Killinger.

The Vikings (5-2) started the season at No. 5 in the first CIF-Southern Section Division 1 poll, but fell out completely after losses to Harvard-Westlake of Studio City and Oaks Christian of Westlake Village in the semifinal and consolation game of the Easton tournament, respectively.

Valencia still has to be considered a favorite in league, as its staff is backed by a talented offense.

Fariss, one of the best two-way players in Southern California last season, returns in right field after hitting .449 as a junior with five home runs and 46 RBIs.

Senior shortstop Trace Eldridge, a Long Beach State signee, is back after a .375 campaign.

Junior Tyler Erne made the switch from first base to third this offseason and is 11 for his first 25 at the plate.

West Ranch

The Wildcats won 17 of their last 19 games a year ago on their way to a co-Foothill League title and a spot in the Division 1 semifinals.

Coach Casey Burrill knows his team can’t rely on that kind of finish, again.

“If we’re going to be a balanced team, I think consistency is going to be important,” he said. “I don’t think we can get off to the start we had in league (last year). I don’t think we can be at 2-3 or 1-4 by spring break and think we’re going to be in the mix for a league title at the end. I don’t think we have those type of horses.”

The Cats (4-3) do expect to be balanced. Senior ace Timmy Josten (Cal State Fullerton), the reigning Foothill League Pitcher of the Year, gives West Ranch a front-line starter.

Senior righty Dom Eberle and junior lefty Alex Burge give the team other solid starting options, with one of them available to close.

And the offense presents pests like sophomore Jovan Camacho and power bats like Will Chambers (UC Santa Barbara) and Christos Stefanos, who transitioned from third base to catcher for this season.

The Wildcats also hold a certain level of momentum having won three straight entering league play.

 Hart

The Indians boast talent on the mound, at the plate and in the field. One rival Foothill coach went so far as to label Hart the favorite.

Hart’s Cole Roederer (18) slides safe into third base after hitting a two run RBI triple in the 5th inning against West Ranch last season. Dan Watson/The Signal

Still, coach Jim Ozella hasn’t been overly pleased with the hitting.

“We’re treading water on offense,” he said. “We’ll get some offense for an inning or two, then go into a deep slumber. We need to be more consistent.”

Still, Ozella likes this bunch.

Hart is 4-1 with a team batting average of .281. Center fielder Cole Roederer (UCLA) has been the best of the group.

The junior is eight for his first 14 at the plate with two doubles and a home run.

Senior Matt Elser is 7-for-16. More impressive, though, has been his seamless move from first base to catcher, where he replaced the graduated Robert Reeves.

“He’s been outstanding,” Ozella said of Elser, who played behind the plate growing up.

As for Hart’s staff, junior Bryce Collins (University of Arizona) is healthy again after missing the tail end of 2016 due to injury. He’s allowed six earned runs in eight innings but possess a live fastball and the ability to lead Hart’s rotation.

Hart’s Brendan Henry will make a big impact for the Indians either out of the bullpen or as a starter. Signal file photo

Cody Turner and Ryan Carolan are Hart’s other main starters. Brendan Henry, the submarine-throwing hero of Hart’s postseason run last year, hasn’t allowed an earned run in 8 1/3 innings.

He’ll be valuable out of the pen or as a starter.

Saugus

The Centurions (1-6) can pitch. It’s yet to be seen if they can hit.

Sophomore left-hander Tony Jacob Jr. (Vanderbilt) tossed six one-hit innings against Harvard-Westlake on Feb. 28. Saugus lost 1-0.

Sophomore left-hander Brandyn Cruz tossed five no-hit innings before a rough sixth innings on March 7. Saugus lost 4-0.

Saugus returns Kyle Dawson behind the plate, Chase Lindemann on the infield and Matt Diaz in the outfield, but graduated a host of bats.

Saugus’ Chase Lindemann watches the ball as it heads for his glove during a game last year. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal.

The team is hitting .158 through seven games, but there’s hope the Cents can get it going.

“The last two days we have been trying to get them confident (during batting practice),” said coach John Maggiora. “… We just need a couple guys to get going.”

Jacob Jr. and Cruz, who also start in the field, are joined in the pitching rotation by Davis Brown, a sophomore right hander.

Canyon

The Cowboys (0-4) are in the middle of a building season.

“I think we’re going to take our licks, and we’re going to give some as well,” said second-year coach Drew Peterson. “We’re looking to make progress and build on that.”

Canyon graduated innings-eater and slugger Danny Cuevas and shortstop Eddie Rodriguez transferred to Golden Valley.

Against a tough schedule, the Cowboys have been outscored 40-1 through four games.

But after a 1-0 loss to Warren High of Downey on March 9, Peterson still has reason to be excited.

Freshmen C.J. Dowell and Noah Blythe impressed Peterson over the summer and will start at second base and left field, respectively.

Shortstop Charles Harrison and right fielder Steven Cornell, both sophomores, contribute to the young core, while Matt Serrano, the team’s No. 2 starter last season, will lead the pitching staff.

Golden Valley

Golden Valley (3-2) came up in nearly every preview conversation with league coaches. The message: Don’t sleep on the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies carry 18 seniors, with familiar faces all over the diamond.

Second year coach Steve Lombardi knows the program still has a long way to go to reach its goals. But progress has been made.

Golden Valley’s Captain Kanan (22) throws a pitch during a baseball game against Buena Ventura on March 2. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

“I’m happy with where we are in the process,” he said. “We’re still a new program compared to everyone else.”

Golden Valley has a varsity returner at third base, second base, first base, catcher, left field, center field and right field.

Center fielder Dylan Rightmyer is off to the best start, going seven for his first 15. First baseman Jake Schroeder and left fielder Seth Ferrari are each hitting over .400 early.

Michael Stephan returns at third base after a second-team all-league season a year ago.

Captain Kanan leads the pitching staff, with Andrew Holt as the No. 2 starter.

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Mason Nesbitt
Mason Nesbitt is The Santa Clarita Valley Signal's Sports Editor.
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