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SPRING SPORTS SPOTLIGHT

The name of the game for Casa is pitching

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 at 2:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 15, 2013 at 2:25 p.m.

Even with their best arm out of commission, the 2013 Casa Grande High School baseball team has pitching, pitching and more pitching.

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Anthony Bender, last season’s Most Valuable Player in the Sonoma County League, moves with the Gauchos to the North Bay League this season and also moves from first base to shortstop.

SUMNER FOWLER/FOR THE ARGUS-COURIER

The pitching thus far has been backed by a revamped, but strong defense. The question — actually multiple questions — are hitting, hitting and hitting?

One outing into his season, Casa Grande lost senior pitching ace Kevin George, a left-hander who was impressive enough as a junior to be recruited by several colleges. During the summer he committed to pitching next year at Santa Clara University. He will move to college without playing his senior high school season after suffering a season-stopping injury while taking infield practice at first base prior to a game.

“We'll miss Kevin,” says Casa Grande coach Paul Maytorena. “He was our leader, but we till have strong pitching.”

Left is senior Anthony Bender, the Sonoma County League's Player of the Year last season. As a pitcher, he was 6-0, compiling a 2.29 earned run average and a .216 opponets' batting average. He struck out 46 in 49 innings, while walking just 19.

He is only one of several players who are being counted on to step up in George's absence. “We'll lean on Bender, but we have five quality pitchers,” points out Maytorena. So deep is the Casa pitching that Bender has pitched only two innings.

In brief action last season, senior Nick Marks had a 1.17 earned run average, striking out five in six innings.

Matt Becker had a 2.33 earned run average in six innings. Both he and junior Dominic Garrihan have thrown well in the early going. The two combined to shut out Napa, 1-0, last Saturday and Garrihan beat Petaluma, 2-1, earlier in the season, allowing just three hits.

The Casa Grande pitcher with perhaps the best potential is sophomore Eric Parnow, who has been lights out as a reliever so far, but has the strength and skill to be an effective starting pitcher as well.

Toss in sophomores Tyler Moore and Casey Longager and junior Justin Toavs and the Casa pitching corps is not only talented, but very deep.

Hitting is the puzzle. So far, the Gauchos have managed to win four of five games with not a lot of offense.

“We need for Francis, Bender and Iggy to hit,” says Maytorena.

Francis is catcher Francis Christy, an all-league choice who led the team with a .421 batting average last season, hit seven doubles, two triples and led the team with five home runs.

Playing first base when he wasn't pitching, Bender batted .372 with 29 hits in 78 at bats. He hit three home runs and led the team with eight doubles and 29 RBIs. He had a .429 on-base percentage.

Iggy is outfielder Iggy Llorence, who was a happy surprise last season, batting .360 with seven doubles, two triples and a home run. He drove in 24 runs.

Jake Ielmorini, Nate Bills, Casey Longaker and both Parnows, Eric and outfielder Charlie also figure to help once they get the early season out of their bats.

Defense should be solid, despite a new look infield.

Christy is as good as it gets behind the plate. There is none better blocking pitches in the dirt. He has a cannon for an arm and isn't afraid to use it.

When George got hurt, Casa Grande lost not only its best pitcher, but one of the best defensive first baseman in the area.

In his stead, junior Bills has shown a good glove of his own. His pick of a bouncer into the dirt of a Christy throw following a game-ending strikeout saved Casa Grande's win over Napa. Eric Parnow also has a good glove and will see time at first base.

Bender, who stands 6-feet, 3-inches tall, gives Casa a big shortstop as he moves from first base to the middle infield.

He has the athletic ability to play the position and brings to the middle of the diamond a very strong arm.

Junior Isiah Ayala has been getting the majority of the playing time at second base and looked good at the position.

Senior Josh Adams and Moore also help in the middle.

Longaker and senior Anthony Garetti have both played well at third base.

Senior Charlie Parnow will be a fixture in center field. An excellent glove man with good range, he is being counted on to anchor the outfield.

Ielmorini's bat and competitiveness will keep him in the lineup in the outfield or as designated hitter, and the same can be said for Llorence.

Senior Zack Shimek, junior Richard Lile and speedster Taylor Gomez are also in line for outfield play.

“We have a good mix of veterans and younger players,” Maytorena says. “We know we have strong pitching, the questions are our hitting and defense. One of them has to come around for us.”

Maytorena is looking forward to moving into the North Bay League, where every game will be a challenge, but with the Gaucho pitching, every game with them figures to be a challenge for their opposition as well.

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