Palomar College baseball is looking to defend its title as the Pacific Coast Conference champs and do it all over again in 2014.
“We expect to win Conference and compete in the post season. That is what we expect every year,” Baseball Head Coach Buck Taylor said..
“Last year we started 3-8 and we got hot and made a turn around of 26-6.”
Palomar, ranked No. 5 in Southern California in the pre-season by the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association, went 29-14 overall in 2013.
“I know that when the Orange County teams come to play our conference we are the team to beat. Teams play their best against us. I guess you could say we are battle tested,” Taylor said.
“Coach Buck has a good handle on the team,” player Vincent Mori said. “He has a good balance of getting to know everyone on the team, but at the same time he establishes that he is still the coach.”
Most notably, closer Zach Wilkins will be returning for 2014 (All American, 13 saves), Taylor Miller (long relief pitcher), Dylan Smith (a top hitter), Matt Matlock (infielder) and Anthony Fernandez who will play first base and the outfield according to Taylor.
“We have a bounce back pitcher Gary Cornish (University of San Diego) who pitches 90-92 mph… he is likely to be our number one starting pitcher,” Taylor said.
Michael Jordan (Cal Berkeley) who pitches 88-92 mph, will be the number two or three starting pitcher according to Taylor.
Freshman Jake Barnett will get a shot at the rotation as the number four pitcher. Barnett came out of Orange Glen High School in Escondido and will get a start in one of 10 non-conference games.
Josh Larrinaga joins as a new addition to the coaching staff this season and will be working with the outfield, replacing former outfield coach Rich Graves who recently retired.
Catcher Francis Christy is a top prospect from Northern California and is a projected major asset to the team.
“He is a physical, left-handed hitting catcher that is a real prospect this season,” Taylor said.
Although this will be Christy’s first season with the team, he realizes expectations are high.
“This year is really important,” Christy said. “I wasn’t here last year but I want to help this team make it to the next level, so this year is really important.”
Chris Stratton from Chaparral High School in Temecula will play second base.
Returner Dennis Morton will be playing third base this year, according to Taylor.
“I am very impressed with Christy, Stratton and Morton,” Taylor said. “Dennis came back in great shape and came ready to work hard…The majority of the players are doing a great job but if I had to single out three these are the guys.”
Palomar has welcomed back former Comet and Major League Baseball (MLB) players for workouts with the current team this offseason in preparation for this year’s push for success.
Ben Rowan is a first year pro-pitcher from the Texas Rangers, he participated with the team in workouts during this offseason.
“Josh (Larrinaga) is my trainer in the offseason and the coaches and staff have been very welcoming,” Rowan said.
“I played catch with Michael Jordan… He had a pretty good arm. His story is similar to mine as he went to a four-year college and came back to a smaller school,” Rowan said.
Palomar baseball alum BK Santy who is now a top rookie for the Minnesota Twins organization made a workout appearance as well.
“Palomar is a good place to come and work out, I used to come here as a student,” Santy said.
The Comets’ home opener is scheduled for Feb. 1 vs. Golden West at noon at Myers Field.