Returning two All-Americans is a luxury few California Community College baseball programs have ever been afforded, but that's a reality for the 2020 Pasadena City College Lancers as they enter the season led by centerfielder Gabe Arellano and infielder Marco Martinez.
Arellano was the PCC All-Sports Men's Athlete of the Year in 2018-19 as well as earning South Coast Conference North Division Co-MVP honors. The 6-1, 175-pound Monrovia High product led the state in hits with 75, a new PCC school record, scored a school-record 46 runs, batted .395 and drove in 31 RBI. He earned All-State and then 2019 Pacific Association All-American 3rd Team honors.
As a freshman in 2019, Martinez was an All-SCC First Team selection playing third base (will move around including playing second base this year), then All-State and finally All-American. The 6-2, 210-pound power hitter from Maranatha High batted .338 with five home runs, 10 doubles, and 37 RBI. His 36 walks drawn in 39 games is a new PCC record for a season. He scored 40 runs, which is the third highest total in Lancers history.
While PCC and head coach Pat McGee is excited to have the dynamic duo return for their second season, the '20 Lancers have a far different look than a '19 team that shared the SCC North Division title and had the most productive Pasadena offense in the 21st century. Last year, PCC 12 times won games by 10 or more runs. Six times the Lancers reached at least 16 runs scored. PCC averaged 7.5 runs a game (314 overall, beating his teams' previous high by more than 100 runs) and batted a McGee-coached high .303. The team's .416 on-base percentage was #7 in the state and PCC's 83 times hit by a pitch was 10th in the state. The pitching was also McGee-best with a state #11 ERA of 3.33.
McGee also sent an impressive 11 players to 4-year universities, including SCC North Pitcher of the Year and All-State pitcher Gordon Ingebritson to UC Irvine and outfielder Frank Yokas to USC.
But with the loss of so many sophomores, the Lancers have only five other returning players in pitchers Benny Olguin (2-1, 2.35 ERA), Benny Torres (2-1, 2.49 ERA, 18 Ks in 21 IP) and Cody Crowder (2.25 ERA in six relief appearances), reserve catcher Brennen Mace and backup outfielder Revin Diego.
The list of newcomers is long and begins with local sensation and frosh leftfielder Aryonis Harrison, from Muir High. Harrison made the 2019 Pasadena Star-News All-Area First Team after hitting .397 as a senior and is expected to add a dimension to the Lancers offense that hasn't been a part of Coach McGee's in his tenure--a true base stealer. Rightfielder Tai Walton is another member of that First Team as a .323 batter at La Canada.
Maybe the area's best pitcher last year is top mound recruit Ryan Graves (8-3, 1.89 also from La Canada HS), who bounced back to PCC after originally signing with San Jose State. Graves was the Rio Hondo League Player of the Year as a senior.
At shortstop, the Lancers have a sophomore transfer gem in Jacob Ogle (Riverside Arlington HS), who as a freshman last year at NAIA University of Antelope Valley batted .354 with 11 doubles and 34 RBI and was an All-California Pacific Conference First Team selection. Another sophomore transfer is Dino Miranda, a first baseman who two years ago had nine multiple-hit games including four hits v. a tough Riverside City College team while playing as a freshman at South Coast Conference rival Mt. San Antonio College. Miranda (Charter Oak High) is another big stick that can complement Martinez in the power department.
PCC has a familiar name at second base in freshman Erik Lewis (Temple City High), the younger brother of former Lancers All-SCC middle infielder Ryan Lewis (2018-19), now at Cal State Los Angeles. Another newcomer with a good bat is lefty hitter Thomas Kolling, from Los Osos High. As as senior, he batted .317 but also had a terrific .453 on-base percentage. An outfielder, Kolling will see time at designated hitter.
While All-SCC catcher Cole Pilar (now at Azusa Pacific University) is a tough player to replace, McGee will take a look at freshman backstopper Matthew Gokey early on who will have competition with the letterman Mace. In 2018, Gokey had a key hit to help Verdugo Hills High win that school's first-ever LA City championship at Dodger Stadium. Gokey hit .352 (.487 OBP) as a senior and drove in 22 RBI.
After carrying two stalwarts last year in Ingebritson and PCC single-season wins record holder and All-SCC hurler Patrick Pena (nine wins last year, now at Cal State Dominguez Hills), McGee and pitching coach Nico Calderaro have a tough task in getting consistent performances from what is mostly a young staff this year. McGee talked about his team's early forecast.
"We have an offense that has the ability on paper to be potent, and at the same time we may need it as our pitchers develop," McGee said. "I expect some high-scoring games. If we can get the young arms to settle in and play good defense behind them, that will put us in a better situation to win games. Because we are now back to being one conference after split in divisions the last several years, the competition becomes that much greater to finish high in the standings. As a coach, I welcome the challenge and I think all the South Coast Conference teams will be in in a similar boat. It will be a dogfight for sure."
McGee directed the Lancers to SCC North Division titles last year and in 2017. PCC has advanced to the postseason in each of the last three seasons. The Lancers were rated No. 15 in the pre-season SoCal Regional Coaches Poll.
MARTINEZ GRAND SLAM HIGHLIGHTS SEASON-OPENING WIN OVER CITRUS
It didn't take long for Martinez to get his sophomore season going as the power-hitting corner infielder launched a grand slam over the left-field fence in the third inning and added a RBI double in the eighth as PCC outlasted host Citrus, 14-8, on Friday in the '20 season opener. Martinez, who also walked twice, was 2-for-4 with four runs scored and five RBI.
Arellano was 2-for-5 as the entire lineup hit safely in a 14-hit attack. Kolling's collegiate debut was a 3-for-6 afternoon while Walton was 2-for-4 with two walks and two RBI. The Lancers scored multiple runs in five different innings and led 8-1 at one point.
Crowder had an impressive relief outing with 4-1/3 innings of 4-hit, 2-run ball with four strikeouts to pick up the mound victory.
PCC hosts San Diego Mesa College in the home opener at Brookside Park's Jackie Robinson Memorial Field, located off-campus next to the Rose Bowl. First pitch is 1 p.m.