MORAGA, Calif. - The collection of talent returning for the Gaels in 2012 might make up the most talented team during head coach Jedd Soto's tenure. Saint Mary's boats seven returning starters including three players who were recently named to the Pre-Season All-West Coast Conference Team.
The heart of the Gaels order will likely including junior third baseman Patrick Wisdom, senior first baseman Troy Channing, and junior rightfielder Brenden Kalfus. All three players were named to the pre-season all-conference team as voted on by the head coaches from around the WCC.
Wisdom has seen a bevy of pre-season accolades, as he was recently named to Baseball America's Pre-Season All-American Second Team. The native of Murrieta, Calif. led the Gaels in nearly every statistical category in 2011 and kept up the torrid pace over the summer, leading the Alaska Baseball League in home runs. Wisdom already sits eighth all-time in career home-runs with 20 and is just outside the top-10 in several other offensive categories.
Channing returns for his senior campaign already the all-time leader in home runs (43) and RBI (156). With Channing and Wisdom back in the fold it is the first time since Albert Richmond (76-78) and Curt Cannedy (77-78) played together on the same team that the Gaels have had two active players in the career top-10 home run list on the same team.
Up the middle the Gaels must find a way to replace Michael Gastelum at shortstop. The smooth fielding middle infielder was a huge reason for the Gaels being ranked 45th in the country in double players turned per game. Gastelum was also very handy with the bat, he ranked 25th in the country with 15 sacrifice bunts. Looking to replace him is sophomore infielder Ricky Boas and senior infielder Chris Murphy. Murphy has played in 144 games, starting 124 in his three year career. Last season, he posted a career-best .962 fielding percentage.
Boas started 20 games for SMC last season as a true freshman. For the year he hit .267, while scoring 17 runs. He was named to the All-West Coast Conference Freshman Team after hitting .310 in conference play. Boas was named a CollegeBaseball360.com Primetime Player of the Week for his efforts in the road series victory over No. 24 Gonzaga last season.
SMC also brings in several talented freshmen this season who are very capable with the bat and the glove. Bryce Greager a native of Fountain Hills, Ariz., was selected by the Texas Rangers in last year's MLB First Year Player Draft. When he finished up his senior season he set four Arizona high school record for runs scored (60), RBI (75), home runs (17), and slugging percentage (1.366). Collin Ferguson, Darian Ramage and Nikko Saenz will also compete to see time in the field.
Behind the dish the Gaels return a pair of trusty catchers in Toby DeMello and Riley Heinzer. DeMello was named to the All-West Coast Conference Honorable Mention team as junior, in which he tallied career-highs in every statistical category. Defensively he was a gem, as he picked off 11 base runners in 2011. Heinzer is a very capable backup, throwing out 50 percent of the base runners who attempted to steal against him last year, and has earned the trust of the pitching staff. A new addition behind the plate is freshman Trevor Ellison from Santa Cruz, Calif., he finished his prep career with 12 home runs and helped guide his team to a league championship in his senior season.
The outfield is arguably the second deepest position for Saint Mary's in 2012. Back is Kalfus who will man right field for the Gaels. The Temecula, Calif., native finished second on the team in nearly every statistical category in 2011 en-route to being named to the all-conference honorable mention team. This summer he was named a Top-15 Position Player for the Cal Ripkin League according to CollegeSummerBaseball.net.
Coach Soto has several options to join the switching Kalfus in the outfield. Returning are seniors Donald Collins and Markus Melgosa, as well as junior Cole Norton. Norton has been an extremely tough out for the Gaels pitching staff in intersquads this fall and spring. Last summer, he tallied 62 hits, which was second in the West Division of the West Coast League. Collins and Melgosa are two of the all-time great base stealers in school history, both having swiped career-bests last season. Joining the Gaels in the outfield are redshirt freshmen Nick Rosso and DonAndre Clark. Rosso was drafted by the Oakland Athletics out of high school and Clark's range in the outfield is unparalleled.
Saint Mary's finally gets under way tomorrow at 2:00 p.m., when the Gaels take on Southern Utah at the new Louis Guisto Field. There will be an opening ceremony before the game with former Gael and major league pitcher Tom Candiotti throwing out the first pitch.