Petaluma High School’s Trojans are likely to play smashmouth baseball this spring with the ball being the smashee.
“There is no easy out in our lineup,” said Petaluma coach Jim Selvitella. “We are solid from top to bottom.”
The question, or rather questions, in the Petaluma resume revolve around the pitching mound. Petaluma has two proven varsity starters in Nick Andrakin and Blake Buhrer. That might be enough to carry them through much of the season, but help will definitely be needed as they compete through a talent-laden schedule that includes participation in the prestigious Boras Tournament.
The search for that help has already begun. After the veterans, Selvitella will build a staff around a group with more potential than experience that includes Nick Siembieda, Jake Duca, Garrett Gehring and Jacob Tuchband, pushing up from the junior varsity.
Two of the Trojan sluggers, Sam Brown and Kempton Brandis, could also help on the hill.
Petaluma’s soon-to-be not so secret pitching weapon is senior Danny Marzo. The left-hander was the Trojans’ best and most consistent starter last season, but he is being asked to be the stopper, shifting into a relief role, this year.
“We think having Danny to finish games gives us our best chance to win,” the coach said. “He is totally on board with it.”
Andrakin was a strong catcher for Petaluma last season, but probably won’t see a lot of action at that spot this spring. As potentially the team’s No. 1 pitcher, he is too valuable on the mound to be behind the plate. When he is not pitching this year, he will take his bat into the outfield.
Junior Jack Gallagher did quite a bit of receiving last season as a sophomore, and will move in as the No. 1 catcher this year.
The versatile Devin Gottschall is also a solid receiver and will see time both behind the plate and at first base.
The starter at first base is sophomore Sam Brown, who was not only good enough to play for the varsity last season as a freshman, but talented enough to star. He returns as the team’s clean-up hitter. Gottschall and Blake Buhrer are also likely to be seen at first base.
This year’s freshman sensation is Garett Lewis, who has been impressive enough at the plate to bat in the No. 3 spot, just ahead of Brown. Lewis drove in the game-winning run in the seventh inning in Petaluma’s 4-3 win over Tamalpais on Saturday.
“Not only is he going to play, but he is going to help us win,” Selvitella said. Lewis will play either third or shortstop.
Team sparkplug Porter Slate is back at second base, although he will move his gifted glove to shortstop at times. “He has a tremendous will to play,” the coach said. “He will play at the next level.”
Newcomers Sam Jacobs, a senior, and David Haulot will also see time in the middle infield. Saturday, with Jacobs not available, Haulot played second with Slate at shortstop, and both made glove contributions to Petaluma’s win.
The Trojans will, at times, start an entire outfield of veterans from the 2012 Petaluma National Little League World Series team, with Marzo in left, Brandis in center and Bradley Smith in right.