2024 SCV baseball preview 

Castaic senior Tyler Hawn (4) pitches during the third inning of Thursday's game against Trinity on Feb. 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
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The 2024 Foothill League baseball season begins this week with three series, while local Heritage League teams are looking to build off last season, to kick off the highly anticipated year. 

Valencia and Trinity have league titles to defend, while Castaic will look for another deep playoff run.   

Here’s everything fans need to know ahead of the upcoming season in Santa Clarita: 

Young Castaic team gearing up for another run 

Castaic doesn’t have a ton of returners from last season’s CIF championship but has a good mix of key pieces and new talented players for 2024. 

Tyler Hawn returns for his senior season on the mound along with shortstop Ethan Luna. Ivan Estrada and Jack Teoli will share time behind the plate, while Luke Thompson moves to center field. 

New faces include second baseman Travis Van Ness, pitchers Gio Foster, Jayden Broderick and Chad Kober, while Alejandro Flores will man first base when Hawn is on the mound.  

Castaic’s pitching may need to carry the team through games while the bats take time to heat up. Castaic opens up league play on Thursday at West Ranch at 3 p.m. 

New-look Valencia poised for repeat  

The Vikings graduated another big senior class last season, leaving plenty of holes to fill. 

Valencia (4-5-1, 0-1) may seemingly have found its winning recipe just in time as the team has won three straight games heading into league play.  

Sophomore lefty Justin Gaisford will be one of Valencia’s starters while Owen Brunsmann, Michael Mair and Braeden Chen share pitching duties. 

The Vikes also return four-year catcher Aiden Voyles for his final season behind the plate. Senior Chad Stanchfield has also shined early in the year at the plate, at third base and on the mound. Junior Noah Jaquez will be another big bat as the Vikes look to repeat for the first time in seven years. 

Aiden Voyles (9) of Valencia celebrates after hitting a two-run RBI double last season. Dan Watson/The Signal

“They want to repeat, that’s all they want to do,” said second-year coach Brad Meza. “I tell them every day, the hardest thing to do in baseball is repeat; everyone’s gunning for you. The biggest thing that we want to do is just compete every day.” 

Valencia and Hart snuck in a game before the rain on Wednesday morning, in which Hart triumphed 5-0. The two will meet again on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Valencia. 

West Ranch loaded up on talent 

The Wildcats (5-2-1) are overflowing with talent in 2024.  

On the mound, the team will feature 2022 league Pitcher of the Year Jackson Banuelos, USC commit Ben Cushnie and junior Hunter Manning. Ricky Sturm, Mikey Murr and Matthew Castrellon will be some names to look out for in the bullpen. 

“It feels like Jackson has been at our school forever now,” said Cats coach Ryan Lindgreen. “He’s been there and done that, and has taken all the biggest assignments over the years. We’re really excited for him to finish his senior year with an exclamation point and really put his stamp on what has been a remarkable high school career so far.” 

West Ranch’s Mikey Murr (7) tags out Camarillo’s Jordan Gutierrez (1) during the fifth inning of Thurday’s game at West Ranch High School on Feb. 22. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Landon Hu and Brett Ishikawa enter league play on fire, both batting over .400. West Ranch returns stars like Nolan Stoll, Aidan Buntich and Ashton Ishikawa, who will be threats in the order. Buntich led the team last season with a .529 batting average in league play. 

West Ranch opens up league play on Thursday against Castaic. 

Hart looking for special sendoff 

The Indians will look vastly different in 2025 as numerous staples of the program will be departing this year. Seniors Troy Cooper, Brayden Jefferis, Ryan De La Maza will look to finish their long varsity careers with a bang and send off longtime Hart coach Jim Ozella with his 12th Foothill League title before his retirement. 

“Those three guys are kind of the spearhead and leaders of our team,” Ozella said. “For them to perform at a high level is kind of a key deal. When they’re good, we’re good.” 

Cooper is set for another year on the bump before heading to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Jefferis will anchor shortstop for the fourth year before joining Michigan, while De La Maza sets up shop behind the plate. 

Taj Brar, a Biola commit, will be another big arm on the mound while sidearm pitchers Ian Edwards and Tristan Purfoy have gotten off to solid starts. 

Hart pitcher Tristan Purfoy (25) pitches during the fourth inning on Saturday's game against Sierra Canyon. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Hart pitcher Tristan Purfoy (25) pitches during the fourth inning on Saturday’s game against Sierra Canyon. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Senior Eddie Guttierez has led the team at the plate, batting .478, in his first varsity year. Junior Michael Hogen is also on his way to being a four-year varsity player, and has started off hot at the plate, batting .321. 

The Indians (7-3, 1-0) have posted some impressive wins to start the year and are winners of four of their last five heading into league play. Hart will go for the sweep of the Vikings on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Valencia. 

Trinity starts 2024 red hot 

The Knights may have lost a ton of key seniors last season but to say the team has reloaded would be an understatement.  

Heritage League Offensive Player of the Year John Carlson and Defensive Player of the Year Noah Visconti both return for their junior seasons. Both have played well in the Knights’ (7-0) start as standout pitchers, batters and infielders. Carlson has allowed just one earned run and tallied 40 strikeouts in 27 innings.  

Trinity pitcher John Carlson (31) pitches during the fourth inning of Thursday’s game against Castaic on Feb. 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

However, another Carlson is making headlines as freshman Andrew Carlson has burst onto the scene. Andrew is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA while leading the team with a .522 batting average at the plate. 

Junior shortstop Jordan Lovelace has also made an immediate impact and started the season batting .435. Junior Luke Backes, freshman twins Josiah and Isaac Saroughian, and freshman left-handed pitcher Maddox Rice will be some names to keep an eye on. 

Knights coach Trevor Brown’s team rosters just one senior and 13 underclassmen, leaving a lot of uncertainties before the 7-0 start. 

“I think that I have a lot of high expectations for these guys,” said Brown. “We definitely lost a lot of key pieces last year, but we still had our same starting rotation. We picked up our shortstop Jordan Lovelace from another school. So the big question mark was, how are we gonna get some production from this very young team? These young kids have come out and helped us get wins.”  

Trinity is aiming for its fourth straight league title and opens Heritage play Tuesday at the Hart baseball complex against the St. Monica Crusaders at 3:15 p.m. 

Golden Valley trending upward 

The Grizzlies have had tremendous success in their non-league schedule under third-year coach Adrian Rios.  

Golden Valley (5-2-1) is hoping that translates into Foothill League play, where the team has struggled. The team is aiming to make 2024 the first season the program makes the playoffs. 

“The goal for me every single day I put on this jersey is to get this team to the playoffs,” Rios said. “That’s all I want for this program. The program needs it and the school needs it to just show that we’re not just kind of a mail-in win for all the other programs. They’re gonna have to come and play.” 

The Grizzles return leaders like ace Jack Steidl, shortstop Brayden Brewer and outfielder Tyler Tait. Golden Valley returners Bryce Gayles, Skylar Sears, Connor Anderson and Mike Lizzari will all be tasked with bigger roles this season and are off to solid starts. 

Golden Valley’s Jack Steidl (33) pitches during the third inning of Wednesday’s game against Taft on Feb. 28. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Steidli, Tait, Brandon Wright and freshman Ayden Renstrom will see time on the mound. 

Freshman Jerin Haro has also already made his way onto varsity and has already proven to be one of Rios’ standouts in the middle infield. 

The Grizzlies will take their league bye in the opening week but will stay busy with some non-league games before hosting Castaic on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. 

Saugus looking for turnaround in league play 

The Centurions are off to another slow start but have their heads high heading into league play. 

Saugus (0-7) is confident the team can turn the tides in the Foothill League. Centurions coach Carl Grissom has seen his team struggle at the plate against some tough teams to start the year but believes the group has pitched lights-out to start the year. 

“We’ve pitched really well, starting with Wesley Yim,” Grissom said. “He’s probably our No. 1 so far this year but we just haven’t done anything to back it up. I’m hoping that turns with the start of league play and for us to get going. The good thing about them is they’re still very into it. They’re still optimistic. They believe we can win league but we gotta hit.” 

Yim has been rock-solid to start with his 1.68 ERA, 11 strikeouts and having given up just one extra-base hit. Sophomore pitcher Parker Allman returns to varsity along with Gio Garfalo. 

Saugus will be led by shortstop Derek Hughes, Jason Zepeda, Kaden Haag and sophomore Matt Carta. 

Derek Hughes (33) of Saugus makes the stop on a ground ball at short stop in the third inning at Saugus High last season. Dan Watson/The Signal

Haag is a transfer along with his twin brother Kaleb Haag. Kaden will likely start at third while Kaleb will be eligible after the sit-out period and will be a boost on the mound alongside Yim.   

Saugus has been in every game so far this season and will look for its first win on Thursday when the Centurions hit the road to face the Canyon Cowboys at 3 p.m. 

Canyon ready to take big step 

Canyon baseball has already shown signs of improvements in 2024. The Cowboys have surpassed their total wins from last season. Second-year coach Zach Newman returns to lead the team and has seen immense growth as the coach got his first full off-season with the program. 

“We’re building something that this year is the first real step I think into rebuilding a Canyon baseball program that’s kind of gone a little awry,” Newman said. “This year has been a terrific learning experience for me and the players and it’s been a good opportunity to get the best out of each player all the time. I’m not saying we’re going to win league but we do say that we are going to compete with everything we’ve got.” 

Canyon (5-5) is led by two-way standouts Brody Bayliss, Tsukasa Ozaki and Danny Montero. While the latter two are seniors, the sophomore lefty Bayliss leads the team with 13 hits in 10 games, batting .419 and has held opponents to a .164 batting average while on the mound. 

Tsukasa Ozaki pitches against Taft. Photo Courtesy of Cole Franquiz.

Ozaki leads the team, batting .440, and has been solid on the bump with a 2.77 ERA. Montero boasts a 1.08 ERA with 16 strikeouts in three outings while batting over .409 at the plate. 

Catcher Benny Santos, center fielder Phillip Curiel and freshman Ryder Brown will be a few other names that will help fuel Canyon. 

The program is looking for its first playoff appearance in over 10 years.  

“Everybody’s super excited to get out there and show Santa Clarita what they’ve got,” Newman said. “Canyon’s a great school. It does have a big history. I’m the son of an old Canyon teacher and I remember when Canyon baseball was a force to be reckoned with. I think the players know that it’s heading in that direction.” 

Canyon hosts Saugus on Thursday at 3 p.m. 

SCCS program growing  

After fielding a team with just nine players who could never come off the field last season, Santa Clarita Christian has upped its numbers and now rosters 14 Cardinals. 

SCCS had no upperclassmen last season but still fought its way to nine wins. The Cards now roster several juniors and one senior as the team looks to return to its Heritage League glory. 

This season, the Cards (2-4) returned the bulk of last year’s roster including Wyatt Waldron Jr., who led the team with 31 hits on a .492 batting average and hit the team’s only home run. 

SCCS also returns strong hitters in Cayden Rappleye, Wyatt Shields and Greggory Michilin. 

Zane Stauffer has made an immediate impact in his first season with the team. Stauffer leads SCCS batting .529 and has struck out 26 batters while on the mound. 

The Cardinals dropped their league opener with Desert Christian and will look to bounce back against the Knights on the road on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. 

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