Season Preview: Simi Valley Pioneers


Les Lukach
State Scouting Director

With the 2019 high school baseball season just around the corner in California we have begun rolling out team previews from around the state.

In this edition we will take a closer look at the Simi Valley Pioneers (Simi Valley, CA), a team that lost a bone-fide ace on the mound before the season and still managed to navigate a difficult schedule en route to a postseason berth. In 2019 they have an eye on a deeper playoff run.

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Team: Simi Valley

Nickname: Pioneers

CIF Section: Southern Section Division 2

League: Coastal Canyon

Head Coach/Years at school: John Arisohn (13th, 5th year as head coach)

Team Twitter Handle: @pioneerbaseball

2018 Overall Record: 17-10

2018 Postseason Finish: Lost In First Round

Number of Returning Starters: 5

Number of Returning Pitchers: 3

Top Returning Players:

'19 OF/RHP Andrew Devine, '19 1B/RHP Justin Campbell, '19 SS Shane Greiger, '19 C Brady Miles

College Commits:

'19 OF/RHP Andrew Devine - Texas Tech, '19 1B/RHP Justin Campbell - Tulane, '19 OF/C Brant Voth - Indiana

Other Players To Watch:

'20 INF/P Vincent Cicolello

2019 Outlook:

Losing a frontline starter on the mound hurts, no matter what level of baseball you play. When you play in the CIF-SS Division I, it can be a killer. That's what happened to Simi Valley when they lost RHP Justin Campbell, the 17th ranked player in the state class of 2019, to an injury in the summer of 2017 that cost him the season on the mound. Despite that loss, the Pioneers persevered in the always-tough Coastal Canyon league en route to a postseason berth.

But that was then and this is now. With Campbell back fully healthy he pairs with Andrew Devine (37th in the state in 2019 class) to provide the Pioneers two bona-fide aces at the top of their rotation heading into 2019.

"Both had fantastic summers where they showed they can dominate," said Arisohn. "This makes a great 1-2 punch in our league and also gives us two really good starters for the playoffs."

Ah, the playoffs. That's the goal for any team because if there's one certainty in CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs, it's that anything can happen. If the Pioneers are going to make a run in the postseason this year, they're going to need more than a 1-2 punch and Arisohn believes they have the horses to do just that.

Senior RHP/INF Ryan Reynolds returns for his senior season and appears primed to provide more than just some support on the mound and at the plate. Per Arisohn he pitched very well last year for the Pioneers and has been working 85-88 mph this fall providing another quality arm for Simi Valley. Junior Brendan Klugman, a strike thrower who gets outs while missing barrels, will provide further depth on the mound as well. Closing things out on the back end will be Junior RHP/INF Vincent Cicolello who Arisohn believes will be leave Simi Valley as a very good pitcher.

The Pioneers are more than just a good pitching staff, however. They return six starters to a lineup that looks to take the next step offensively. In addition to Devine and Campbell, both of whom are very good hitters and can do a lot of damage, the Pioneers have what is one of the most athletic shortstop in the region in Senior Brandon Grieger. The shortstop can get it done both with his glove and his bat. Senior catcher Brady Miles returns after hitting a whopping .455 in league and is a lot stronger in 2019 than last season. The addition of senior C/RHP Brant Voth (81st in the state in 2019 class) via transfer provides the Pioneers a legitimate power threat from the left side while providing depth both behind the plate and on the mound.

If the Pioneers are to reach the postseason they will have earned it on the field. Their schedule is not light with gimmes. In fact, one could argue it's one of the toughest schedules around. With league games against very good teams in Camarillo, Moorpark, and now Agoura, the road won't be easy. Add to that the preseason Easton tournament which annually features some of the top teams in Division I and the Pioneers will have to fight for each win.

As if that weren't enough, the Pioneers will once again compete in the Boras Classic in 2019. Last year they went 2-2 in the tournament that annually features some of the best teams in all of Southern California.

"I believe we have a very tough schedule," said Arisohn. "The Easton tournament is a good challenge early and our league is tough."

While the schedule is certainly tough on paper, the Pioneers appear better equipped for the challenge in 2019.

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UPCOMING EVENTS

SHOWCASE STATE DATE LOCATION
Northern California Preseason All-State (Invite-Only) CA 01/27 San Joaquin Delta College
Super 60 Pro Showcase NATIONAL 02/03 The Max
Solano-Sac Junior Future Games Trials CA 02/24 Vacaville Christian HS
SoCal Junior Future Games Trials CA 03/09 O'Malley Field - Harvard Westlake
East Bay Junior Future Games Trials CA 03/24 Athenian School
North Bay Junior Future Games Trials CA 04/28 Clyde P. Smith Field - Cardinal Newman HS
Northern California Future Games Trials CA 05/26 Islanders Field