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Dominating preseason for Southwestern College baseball team Mary York | Tue, Feb 19 2013 01:18 PM

Southwestern College’s baseball team has been pouncing on preseason play, claws bared. With spirits high, the Jaguars are 6-2 and climbing.

Southwestern wants to prove itself championship worthy by making a deep post conference run this season, after being bumped early in playoffs last year.

“Hopefully we’ll come away with the title and do better at state,” said sophomore catcher Cody Sos, who was named first team All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference last season. “I feel like we have a lot more talent than last year. Our hitters are just way better.”

With only three returning hitters from last year’s line-up, the Jaguar rookies are proving they can keep the line moving. In the second game of SWC’s doubleheader against Cerro Coso College last Saturday, the Jags cashed in nine runs during the fourth inning alone.

The season’s powerhouse hitting line-up includes infielders Hector Montes and Sheldon Gabriels, who hit balls and bag plates with comforting consistency.

Coach Jerry Bartow feels there is a legitimate chance of cruising in the postseason with his freshman-filled ball field, and this is coming from a guy who has coached SWC’s ball club longer than any of his players have been alive.

“Our biggest strength is that we’ve got two pretty good pitchers and a few guys who can swing the bat,” Bartow said. “We’re just a little bit short. We have no left-handers, but I think we’ll be in the thick of it. Our club is going to be all right.”

Kiki Medina, closer for most of last year’s games, is likely to be the leading pitcher this season. He received an honorable mention for All-PCAC first team in 2012.

Newcomer Agustin Lopez is a strong defensive player, both pitcher and first baseman, and a welcome relief for the squad after losing playoffs last season because of a hole at first base. His sticky gloves and circus catches do as much to wow the crowd as they do to reassure his teammates. First base is in good hands this year.

“I’m very excited about the season,” said Lopez. “We have a good offensive team but I think our pitching is going to help us out.”

According to the players, Bartow says 85 percent of the game is in the pitching.

“Forty (Bartow) is a great coach,” said infielder Miguel Solano. “He’s really supportive. We’re finding some pitches to hit, driving it to the gaps and we’re doing pretty good at that right now. We’ll stay in the game and hopefully we can win something this year.”

The Jags begin conference play on Feb. 26 with a home game against Palomar College but they still have a week of tough non-league competition.

“We’ve won a few games but they’ve not been against really good ball clubs,” said Bartow after sweeping Cerro Coso.

Bartow said Palomar and local rival Grossmont College both have decent squads this season with competitive returning players, but the real test will be the last few weeks of playoffs were the Jags will face off against Los Angeles and Orange County teams.

Sos said he is looking forward to the challenge. “Next week we’ve got all these L.A. teams that are better than the teams we’ll hit in conference,” he said. “We’ll find out exactly where we stand when we hit them.”

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