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Eagles hope experience makes the difference

Photo of baseball head coach Dave Mallas
Coach Dave Mallas

When Mission College men’s baseball team entered conference play last year, it was akin to hitting a brick wall.

The all-freshmen Eagles were 11-3 going into the conference season in 2003.

"Our players were so young, they didn’t know the difference between non-conference play and conference games," said coach Dave Mallas. "They didn’t know what to expect."

Mallas said the young squad was unprepared for the grittiness and no-holds-barred approach to conference games. So while the team finished the year with a 23-20 overall mark, it played under .500 in the tough Western State Conference.

Mallas hopes a year’s experience will make a difference in 2004.

"We’re older, more mature," he said. "We have more depth on the pitching staff. And we’ve got a little more power so I hope we’ll be more offensive-minded this year."

Twelve players – that’s half the squad – are returning from last year’s team.

Among them is Jose Carillo, a community college All-American last year and team MVP who batted .360. Carillo, a catcher, is a co-captain of the team, along with right fielder Danny Loza and pitcher Miguel Gonzalez.

Photo of co-captain/catcher Jose Carillo Photo of co-captain/pitcher Miguel Gonzalez
Co-captain/catcher Jose Carillo | Co-captain/pitcher Miguel Gonzalez

Loza was named First Team All Conference last year while batting over .370. Mallas describes pitcher Gonzalez as "one of the best in the state," but a hurler who didn’t get the hitting support he deserved.

Mallas also has high hopes for rookie Eddie Baeza, a pitcher and outfielder who missed last year because of injury but who has been drafted by the San Francisco Giants.

Non-conference games for the Eagles continue through Feb. 22. Conference play for the Eagles begins on Feb. 24. Home games are played at El Cariso Park.

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Photos: Lydia Chung