Six players from Piedra Vista's state semifinal lineup are suiting up for the Rivercats
FARMINGTON — Longtime Piedra Vista baseball coach Mike McGaha didn't mince words when laying out the summer goals for the Rivercats, his Connie Mack City League team, following their 11-5 win over the Flat Bill Ducks today — he wants to set the PV Panthers up for 2017.
"Honestly, we don't care about the City Tournament, we just care about getting better," McGaha said. "Summer league games are like cage bombs — they don't really count for anything."
Recent PV graduates like Kyle DeWees, Orlan Warren and others will play for one of the City League favorites, the Club Sox, while those returning to PV in the fall will suit up for the Rivercats with the common goal of bettering the high school team.
"We're trying to figure out combinations on the mound, who's going to throw in relief behind starters and things like that. That's what this is for us," McGaha said.
Sam Moody, Elijah Gamboa, Brandon Gardenhire, Tyler Mead, Devin Ferrari and Brandon Montoya will all be seniors in the fall, so sharpening their skills and continuing to jell as a unit are at the top of their to-do lists. Catcher Andrew Caliendo will also be a senior, but McGaha said he'll only compete for the Rivercats when the Club Sox aren't playing, as he plays for both teams.
The dismissal of multiple PV players during the early part of last high school season for disciplinary reasons forced McGaha to mix and match his lineups and defenders. Returning high school players competing in City League, like Moody, hope to etch out more defined roles, starting this summer.
"In the high school season, we didn't have that much depth because of everything that happened, so I had to learn how to play second (base) on the fly," Moody said. "I would have been pitching a lot more if that wouldn't have happened."
Moody, who said he's still sore after pitching on Tuesday for the first time since February, will be the No. 1 starting pitcher for the Rivercats. Behind him will be Gardenhire, Brendan Anderson and soon-to-be freshman Trent Kirally, all of whom will get every opportunity to carve out meaningful roles on the mound in the upcoming high school season.
In the win over Flat Bill, Anderson was tagged for three runs in the first inning before settling down. McGaha said Anderson knows what he has to do to find success.
"Brendan needs to get ahead of hitters early in the count, and honestly, what I see Brendan being able to do for us, is compete to be a No. 4 starter and a tough-nosed guy that can bail you out in tough situations," McGaha said.
Caliendo included, six of the nine hitters from PV's state quarterfinal and semifinal starting lineups are on the Rivercats' roster. The move to Class 6A next season will make it difficult for PV to continue to dominate during the regular season, but the work the Rivercats put in this summer is designed to give them a leg up when high school ball resumes early next year.
Moody said he couldn't be happier to keep on growing with a group of players he knows so well.
"It's going to be a fun ride, because this group of kids has been together since day one," he said. "We're for sure a close group, and we're going to be even closer by (the City Tournament).
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.