Photo by JT Keith.
KINGMAN – Last season, the Kingman Bulldogs baseball team played in a tough league: Division III, Section V and finished next to last. This season they moved down a division to 3A West Region, which should allow them to compete on a more favorable playing field.
Bulldogs coach Chad Baitinger started four freshmen last year along with seniors to aid in the rebuilding process. The biggest thing that happened to the Bulldogs is they learned how to play and grow together as a team. They lost some games they should have won, going (6-19, 2-8).
This season the Bulldogs will try to replace seniors Tanner Best, Colton Stanley, Tony Meza, Garret Stevens, and Curtis Toledo’s leadership.
Offensively, Kingman will miss the production of Colton Stanley, who hit .338, and Tanner Best’s bat in the lineup as he hit .333. One thing the Bulldogs must do is find a way to manufacture more runs this season, scoring only 87 last year.
Kingman’s future rests with Hayden Tanner, TJ Harviston, Luke Ness, Rilee Araya. All four started as freshmen. Look for them to start and play every game if healthy.
The Bulldogs will attempt to play a different brand of baseball than they have in the past. Normally they would play small ball, but with senior Anthony Pinto’s power and others in the lineup look for them to try to hit the ball out of the park.
Pinto has huge talent and could be drafted by a major league team if he has a good season. Pinto is the big bopper and the straw the stirs the drink offensively for the Bulldogs. They will go this season as he goes.
Last season, he led the team and league in several categories: Home runs: three, he was third in batting average: .509, first in slugging percentage: .894, and had an on-base percentage of .569.
This year’s other seniors include David Gonzalaz, Derrek Brown, Chris Gunnoe, and Jerry Pierson. Coach Baitinger expects contributions from them, as they look forward to ending their careers on a winning note.
“Our ultimate goal right now is to win our conference,” Baitinger said. “And then make state playoffs.”
Staff Ace will be crafty lefthander Riley Araya. Araya throws an 85 mph fastball with a lot of movement on it when the ball leaves his hand. Baitinger thinks he is a pitching prospect for the next level.
Araya has a number of pitches he can throw: a curve ball, two seam fastball, a four seam fastball and changeup. With men on base, Araya can get out of a jam as he led the team in strikeouts with 61 as a freshman. His coach has worked with him in developing an excellent pick-off move to first base.
With the AIA rule changes in how many pitches a pitcher can throw, Baitinger feels confident with the team’s depth at pitcher. He will lean on seven pitchers to win games this season.
Kingman plays an exhibition game at home against Lee Williams and Kingman Academy at 2 p.m. on Friday.
Kingman opens its regular season at home against Kingman Academy at 3:45 p.m. Feb. 22.