Opening Day Notebook

Les Lukach
State Scouting Director


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LOS ANGELES, CA. - The CIF Southern Section Baseball Opening Day was Saturday with action all across the Southern California region. With so many games to choose from, I wanted to get eyes on a few different teams that we anticipate will be in the mix come playoff time. 

My day started at West Ranch High School where the host Wildcats welcomed PBR California No. 1, JSerra for a double header. After watching Game 1 I headed to Notre Dame High School where the No. 8 Knights hosted then No. 24 Bishop Amat in their own season opening double header. 

There were many players, some known, some unknown to me, that stood out during the day making it an exciting first day of the season. For example, West Ranch has a group of four sophomores that college coaches are going to want to know. All four were lower level players a year ago that will be counted on to contribute in a significant way for the Wildcats this season. For Notre Dame, they trotted out a sophomore arm that we’ve seen before who has made significant progress in the last month. Bishop Amat, a veteran team with high expectations this year, showed their pitching depth in their first game that went 13 innings. Meanwhile, JSerra’s lineup continues to show its quality and depth 1-9 in the lineup. 

With that said, let’s take a look at the standouts from Opening Day of the 2020 baseball season.

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The aforementioned sophomores from West Ranch all started in the season opener for the Wildcats...DJ Tsukashima got the start in right field and showed off a big arm during pregame. There’s carry on the throws with accuracy to the bag. Tsukashima showed an excellent first step with fair range while patrolling the outfield. His actions are smooth and his body control is excellent showing excellent footwork. At the plate he showed a good understanding of his approach and never deviated. While the results weren’t always there at the plate, he showed enough of an understanding to intrigue me...Logan Mandel got the start behind the dish and with the exception of a wild pitch that got passed him and scored a run, Mandel showed very well behind the plate. He’s athletic with soft hands and a strong, accurate arm - popped 2.02-2.18 on between inning throwdowns. Was 2.06 on a SBA that got the runner at second base. Mixed results at the plate but showed some resolve there during an at-bat that saw him spoil some quality pitches....Jake Callahan started at second base and it didn’t take long to envision him at shortstop the next two seasons after a senior departure at the position. Slick fielder who plays low to the ground with excellent footwork and fair range to both sides. Instinctive player who was in proper position all game long. Was domed at the plate once, but showed a controlled/aggressive approach at the plate with very good pitch recognition....Blake Schroeder started at DH for the Wildcats and showed his ability to impact a game with his bat. After a long fly ball out in his first at-bat, the sophomore pounded a double to left-center field in his second at-bat that saw him go 4.68 with a turn and 8.17 to second base. There’s very good barrell awareness and enough present strength to catch up to inside pitches. The frame is wiry strong and the confidence at the plate is off the charts….JSerra welcomed back senior outfielder Jake Taylor who was cleared for action just a week before the season. The senior left fielder is a spark plug in a loaded JSerra lineup. He can skill, he can drive balls into the gaps, and he can run. Boy can he run. In the outfield the arm is strong and accurate. Taylor will play a big role for the Lions this season….I came away impressed in my first viewing of INF Connor Saccullo of JSerra. He shows a consistent plan at the plate that he doesn’t deviate from. Smacked a single clocking a 4.38 down the line flashing his speed. Wiry strong at 6-foot, 175-pounds, Saccullo is one of those guys JSerra always has on their roster: not flashy, not famous, but a ballplayer….Tommy Golbranson is an imposing 6-foot-2, 185-pounds with a sweet, powerful swing from the right side. Laced a base hit clocking 4.47 down the line. The stroke is compact while staying inside the ball and extending through to his finish. Uses his body well at the plate creating leverage and balance….Notre Dame senior outfield Vincent Temesvary made the catch of the year so far. Ranging to his left into the left-center field gap, Temesvary made a full extension catch at the base of the fence before banging into it and holding on to the ball. He quickly rose up to show the ball to the umpire and drawing several tips of the cap from teammates and applause from everyone in the crowd. It was an awesome play….Angelo Aleman has obviously been spending time in the weight room the last six months as his frame looks much more physical with added strength and “looseness” to it. Got tangled up at first base on a bang-bang play that nearly knocked him from the game. He came back in a later at-bat showing no ill effects and smoking a ball to deep center field that was caught for the out but showed his newfound strength at the plate...Jeff Pierantoni may be the best shortstop in the Southern Section, I know that’s a bold claim, but his actions at the position are off the charts. The Yale commit makes play after play and makes them look routine. Like the high pop up that went about halfway up the foul line between third base and the fence. Pierantoni got an excellent jump and tracked the ball all the way into the glove making the catch near the foul line. To get an idea of how good of a shortstop he is, just look at the players he bumped off the position that are on the Knights roster….Bishop Amat sophomore shortstop Frankie Peralez continues to impress in all facets of the game. He’s electric defensively with above average range, arm, and footwork. He makes all the plays and appears to have taken a leadership role on this team as he was “directing traffic” throughout the night. He’s a confident hitter who doesn’t give in and challenges pitchers with his pitch recognition and his ability to spoil quality pitches….Daniel Briones is, in my opinion, one of the top defensive catchers in the state in his class. Briones has a cannon attached to his right shoulder as he demonstrated by routinely popping 1.92-1.99 on between inning throwdowns. But it was later in the game where he showed off just how big his arm is. A wild pitch got past him and caromed off the backstop forcing Briones out of his crouch. He got the ball about 10 feet behind the plate and fired a missile to second base (1.98) to get the runner by half a step. It was as impressive a play as I’ve seen from a catcher in some time….Cole Clark of Notre Dame is going to be a highly sought after recruit for his prowess on the mound. The sophomore righty has shown steady improvement with each viewing and Saturday was no different. Working 83-85 mph with the fastball, Clark kept hitters off balance with a late fading changeup at 73-74 mph and his sharp breaking curveball at 68-70 mph. Clark also revealed a newfound slider - he learned the pitch a week prior from a teammate - that has a chance to be a special pitch. Only threw it twice, but pitch showed late biting action at 75 mph and is going to be a pitch that should elevate Clark in the eyes of recruiters. 


Left-handed pitcher Lucas Gordon got the Opening Day start in Game 1 for Notre Dame in front of approximately a dozen pro scouts and the southpaw showed the moxie and stuff that has his name firmly entrenched in the MLB Draft discussions.

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