Season Preview: Soledad Aztecs

Ryan Ozella
N. California Area Scout

With the 2019 high school baseball season just around the corner in California (CCS games start 2/18/19), we've been rolling out team previews from around the state. The Central and Southern sections are already underway.

Today we look at the Soledad Aztecs from CIF-CCS Division 2. The 2018 Division 2 runner-ups are looking to reload their roster after losing 9 seniors and make another long run through the Playoffs. Will the youth step up and impact the Varsity roster in 2019? 

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Team: Soledad

Nickname: Aztecs

Section: Central Section, Division 2

League: Pacific Coast League / Mission Trail Division

Head Coach/Years at school: Damien Ryan (14th season)

Team Twitter Handle: @SHAztecBaseball

2018 Overall Record: 24-6 (16-2, 1st Place in League)

2018 Postseason Finish: CIF-CCS Division 2 Runner Up

Number of Returning Starters: 5

Number of Returning Pitchers: 3

Top Returning Players:

'19 OF/RHP Andru Holguin, ‘20 SS/RHP Ben Pajas

Other Players to Know:

'20 RHP/UTL Joey Barrosso, ‘21 MIF Fabian Cabrerra

College Commitments: N/A

2019 Outlook:

The Soledad Aztecs had a fantastic 2018, dominating the old Mission Trail League and placing themselves as the number one seed heading into the CIF-CCS Division 2 playoffs. After starting the season 7-5, the Aztecs rattled off 17 wins in a row on the way to the Division 2 Finals before falling just short of the title with a loss to a talented St. Francis team at Municipal Stadium in San Jose. Their Semi-Final game against Christopher was one for the ages going 11 innings and having both teams battling back and forth to keep the game going, finally winning on a costly mental mistake that only happens after 4+ hour of baseball. The 2018 Aztecs had 9 seniors who graduated and the loss of that much talent and depth will be the key question for the 2019 Soledad Aztecs.

For Soledad to have another monumental season, the Aztecs expect to rely on their pitching and defense in 2019 with a seasoned core that will be complemented by a group of young and unproven newcomers vying for roster spots and looking to make their name. They also move into a newly formed Pacific Coast League playing in the deep and talented Mission Trail Division against rivals like Pacific Grove, Carmel, and Watsonville who carry over from the old Mission Trail League. Those rivalries will continue and even after losing a large portion of their roster, the Aztecs have expectations for a League Championship and another deep run through the Playoffs.

‘19 OF/RHP Andru Holguin will be expected to repeat his two-way success from 2018 where the CF sat high in the order and hit .400 with 7 extra-base hits while also being the ace of the staff going 10-1 with a 1.81 ERA and 60 K’s in 73 IP. Holguin has got above average speed using it in CF and is strong in his lean and wiry build with the ability to drive balls gap-to-gap. On the mound, he’s a competitor with an excellent feel for his off-speed pitches being able to throw them consistently back-to-back. He’ll be accompanied as a centerpiece on offense and defense by ‘20 SS/RHP Ben Pajas. Pajas had a monster sophomore season seeing the righty hit .544 with 12 extra base hits (.759 SLG%) while also contributing 35 K’s in 23 IP. Pajas is a big SS with a very strong arm and some real juice in his bat. ‘20 RHP/UTL Joey Barrosso will need to eat some innings for the Aztecs and provide some protection for Holguin and Pajas in the lineup. ‘21 MIF Fabian Cabrerra was on Varsity as a freshman and will be asked to increase his production in 2019 while also having the versatility to slide around the INF.

Soledad will need to find consistency from a young group of players for 2019 to be another magical season. When you lose 9 seniors, opportunity abounds and Coach Ryan may have to mix and match early to find out what he’s got on the roster. But as we mentioned, this is a team that has gotten hot quickly before and if that happens again other teams will not want to face the Aztecs down the stretch.


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