New faces, same expectations for young Buchanan Bears
The Bears will feature a true ace on the mound in Isaac Ayon but will trot out on the field a young, inexperienced but yet hungry squad.
Head Coach: Brad Fontes
Record at School: 26-4 (second year)
Key Returners (stats from last season):
Sr. Isaac Ayon, RHP
- Signed with Oregon. 49 IP, 8-0 record, 1.43 ERA.
Jr. Austin Young, C
- .298 batting average, 2 triples, 7 RBI
Jr. Temo Becerra, SS
- Verbally committed to Stanford, .293 batting average, 8 doubles, 13 RBI.
Sr. Nick Marchini, Infield
- .318 batting average, 6 RBI.
Brady Hormel, SS
- Three-year starter. Hit .371 with 7 doubles, 23 RBI, and 3 HRs
Brock Jones, OF
- Three-year letter winner, .346 batting average, 15 stolen bases
Miguel Ortiz, OF
- Three-year starter, .298 batting average, 26 RBI, 5 HRs.
JD Ortiz, OF
- Three-year letter winner, .304 batting average, 2 HRs.
Jake King, RHP/1B
- Three-year letter winner, TRAC Player of the Year, .395 batting average, 26 RBI, 5 HRs.
TJ Fondtain, 1B/LHP
- Three-year letter winner, 22 RBI, 3 HRs. 56 IP, 1.75 ERA, 8-1 record.
Marcelo Saldana, LHP
- Three-year letter winner, 31 IP, 1.81 ERA, 36 Ks.
Newcomers to watch:
Jr. Josh Williams, OF
Jr. Sky Collins, OF
Soph. Evan Wallace, Utility
Soph. Colby Evans, 1B/RHP
Soph. Corbin Ybarra, OF
Soph. Max Bernal, 1B/LHP
Soph. Jett Ruby, Infield
Frosh. JP Acosta, Infield
Buchanan enters 2020 having lost more talent than any other team in the section, and maybe the state.
With just four seniors on the roster this year—and most of them being pitchers–the Bears will have to rely on their 2021 and 2022 classes sooner than expected.
Though they’ll be young, the expectations remain the same for the Buchanan baseball program (National titles in 2011 and 2016) now under head coach Brad Fontes. Fontes just completed his first full off season and preseason as the Buchanan head coach after being thrust into the head coaching role in mid-February of 2019.
Offense: This lineup will look quite different than years past. With most of the household names now playing college baseball, Buchanan will turn to their junior and sophomore classes to shoulder the load. Junior righties Austin Young and Temo Becerra have the most varsity at-bats returning and their experience will be leaned on, especially early on. Young has shown the ability to be a steady, gap-to-gap hitter and his consistency shouldn’t be overlooked. Though he didn’t have any home runs last year, don’t be surprised if he ends with a handful in 2020. Becerra will look to be more consistent staying on the ball and pressuring the defense every at-bat. Becerra has the speed to challenge a defense whenever he puts the ball in play. Fellow juniors Josh Williams (son of former San Francisco Giant Keith Williams) and Sky Collins figure to be mainstays in the lineup with their speed and athletic ability. Williams, a lefty, has some pull side power, but he will also be a factor in the short game. He was named one of the Clovis Sports Report’s “Newcomers of the Year” in our D1 Preview. Collins, who might be the fastest player in the section, has as much raw talent as anyone, but is still working on making his craft more consistent. This is the first year that neither are playing basketball and with their focus only on baseball, it should speed up their developmental process. Numerous sophomores will be in and out of the lineup throughout the year and all bring a different set of tools to the plate. Keep an eye on Evan Wallace and Corbin Ybarra, who might be the most impactful. Max Bernal has also shown promise. Nick Marchini is the only senior on the roster who received more than ten varsity ABs a season ago. Marchini will most likely have a spot in the middle of the order all year long. Though this offense won’t be as reliant on the long ball in 2020, there is more overall team speed and they will look to create runs in more dynamic ways.
Defense: There are lots of uncertainties about what the Buchanan defense will look like. Having Young behind the plate is something the Bears can hang their hat on with few issues to worry about. Becerra is expected to make the move from third base to short stop. His range and arm will be showcased even more in the 6 spot. The rest of the infield gets interesting with multiple people battling for three spots. Many of the sophomore infielders are diverse enough to play different positions. Evan Wallace and Jett Ruby will fight for the second base job along with talented freshman JP Acosta. Acosta is the cousin of the Ortiz brothers who just finished their time at Buchanan. Wallace and soph Drew Smith are also options for third base. Nick Marchini started games at 2B a season ago, but he’ll be in consideration to compete and play at either of the corner spots depending on the situation. In addition, Colby Evans and Max Bernal will see time at first base. The Bears have a hole to fill at SS when Becerra pitches (likely as a closer) and the players competing for second base will also be tried at short stop for moments like this. For as much inexperience as there is in the outfield, expect this unit to be among the fastest and most athletic in the section. Josh Williams, Sky Collins, Corbin Ybarra, and All-Clovis football player Hayden Peterson will all compete for time. Evan Wallace can also be used in the outfield if needed. There is little concern with this group.
Pitching: Isaac Ayon is the ace of this staff. Despite the youth of this year’s team, the Oregon signee has the ability to beat anyone on any given day. Though Becerra wasn’t used much last year as a pitcher, he has a loose arm on the mound and is expected to eat up late innings in tight situations. After that, the Bears will have all of February to see who steps up. Senior Chris Lenocker has developed over the last couple of years and will have an opportunity to cement himself as a contributor. Colby Evans has shown the ability to hit spots and throw his off-speed for strikes at a consistent level. Look for either Lenocker or Evans to step up and be the #2. To go along with those four, left-hander Max Bernal is an upcoming talent while Evan Wallace could be another late inning guy with his proven ability to attack the strike zone. Recent El Diamante transfer Austin Watson must sit out 30 days, but his mid-80s fastball and commanding off speed pitches will be used once TRAC play rolls around.
Bottom line: Though youth will certainly be an issue early on, look for the Bears to peak in the month of May and be in the thick of things at the end of the year. Most of these current juniors and sophomores were part of a JV team who went 25-1 in 2019. There is more than enough talent for this offense to be dynamic. The hope is that the pitching develops fast enough to win close games. You’d rather play the 2020 Bears at the beginning of the year, than at the end.
Key non-league games:
2/13 at Bullard
- Buchanan’s first road game of the year is with Bullard Knight assistant coach Tom Donald in the opposing dugout. Expect a playoff-like atmosphere between these two teams in an early season showdown.
2/15 home vs. Memorial
- Panthers come in as one of the section’s top teams as they make the move to D1.
2/22 at Redwood
- Bears make consecutive trips to Redwood in back-to-back seasons. Rangers took down Buchanan at home a year ago.
3/3 home vs. Liberty-Bakersfield
- The first leg of a home-and-home mini-series. Bears and Patriots get together in the regular season for the first time since 2011. Huge playoff implications in this one.
3/10 at Liberty-Bakersfield
- Round II.