(Walnut, CA) This time of year is the most exciting for baseball coaches of all levels, as they are just days away from the opening game of the season.
Opening day for Mt. San Antonio College and seventh-year Head Coach John Knott is this week on Friday, January 27, as they host Barstow College. The next day, Saturday, the Mounties also host a team from the high desert, Victor Valley. The first pitch for both games is at 2:00 pm.
"We're very excited to get started," Knott said. "We have a unique mix of returning players and new players.
"As a whole, this is a very athletic group and looking to repeat as South Coast Conference Champions"
Knott begins his fifth season of a full schedule of baseball due to the two partial seasons during the pandemic in 2020-'21. He was also selected as the SCC North Coach of the Year for the third time in seven years.
In only his second season, the Mounties advanced to the CCCAA State Championships in 2018 for the first time in 52 years and the So Cal Sectionals the following year.
Last season was a team-high for wins since the state appearance with 33. The Mounties lost only 10 times the whole season.
With multiple season awards handed out last season to the 2022 team, one very important returner is South Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year Michael Flores.
Four players were also selected to the All-SCC first team last year.
Flores, who is a left-hander, was selected as All-State and All-American and finished with an 11-2 record, a 3.11 ERA, and 67 strikeouts.
"(Flores) is coming off a great year for us," Knott said. "It's not easy to repeat as Pitcher of the Year. He's ready for the challenge. He's as impressive as anyone and doesn't have any holes in his game. He is very efficient and competitive."
Last year's team had winning streaks of 11 and 10 games and led the state with runs scored (409) and an on-base percentage (.446).
Also returning for this season is an everyday player from 2022, Eli Pelayo. "He is very athletic and a good defensive shortstop and had a good season offensively," Knott added. Pelayo batted .329, which included 56 hits, 13 doubles, 34 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases.
Sophomore CJ Ontiveros will do some catching and play in the outfield. "He had a good year (2022) offensively and was one of our best hitters."
Ontiveros batted .317, had 40 hits and scored 30 runs, 36 RBIs, and 25 walks.
Also returning is SCC All-Conference, a second-team selection, Trent Merrill. Merrill, a left-handed relief pitcher, was 4-0, appeared in 23 games (40.1 inns.), and had a 2.90 ERA.
"(Merrill) and Damian Torres (3-1, 24 APP, 34.1 Inn, 24 Ks, 3.67 ERA) led our team in appearances and both are back," Knott said.
Knott welcomes two sophomore transfers from Rio Hondo – Gabe Rico (3B/1B) and right-handed pitcher Blake Johnson. Rico batted .342 with 50 hits, 24 runs, 19 RBIs, and 7 doubles, while Johnson was 4-1, in 18 appearances with 50 innings pitched, 51 Ks, and a 2.88 ERA.
Rico will play third base along with Alex Reynoso, who is a sophomore and batted .407 with 22 hits, 14 RBIs, and five doubles.
Four freshmen include RHP Joey Peralta, who was Athlete of the Year at Santa Fe in 2021. "He will make an immediate impact on the mound as a starter or reliever," Knott added.
Three South Hills players will also add to the depth of the Mounties roster – RHP Ray Northey – "He is a 2020 graduate of South Hills but has been one of our best pitchers this Fall and has done well and come a long way," Knott said.
Andres Mitat (C) and Gilbert Morales (1B) also came from South Hills. Mitat was the 2022 Huskies MVP. "He has also come a long way in Fall ball and will see time behind the plate."
Follow Mt. SAC Baseball on Twitter @mtsac_baseball
For additional information, please contact the Mt. SAC Sports Information Office at 909.274.4630.