Sports

SPARKLING DIAMONDS

JSERRA’S ROYCE LEWIS PLAYER TO WATCH, OLU TEAM TO WATCH

By Dan Arritt     2/28/2017

Many eyes will be focused on Trinity League baseball diamonds this spring.

That’s because one of the hottest high school prospects in the nation is JSerra shortstop Royce Lewis, who many predict will be selected among the top five picks in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft.

Lewis is the two-time Trinity League player of the year who batted .429 with 21 RBIs and 42 runs scored while playing third base last season. Lewis has committed to play for UC Irvine, but with the chance to become a millionaire not long after his 18th birthday, he’ll likely opt to sign a professional contract.

The top high school shortstop taken in last season’s draft, Gavin Lux of Indian Trail High School in Kenosha, Wis., was selected 20th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers and inked a contract that included $2.317 million signing bonus.

“I want to play the position Derek Jeter played,” Lewis told the Orange County Register last month. “Except I want to be Royce Lewis.”

JSerra won’t be as deep in talent as they’ve been in recent years. Chase Strumpf, who started at shortstop the last four seasons, is now at UCLA, and three-year starters Brady Shockey (USC) and Davis Wendzel (Baylor) have also moved on to the college level.

The Lions still have Lewis and a pair of solid right-handed pitchers in Colin Townsend and Cole Samuels, which should put them in the thick of the league race once again.

The team to beat in the Trinity League appears to be Orange Lutheran, which returns another potential first-round draft pick in outfielder Garrett Mitchell, who signed with UCLA in November, but will likely need to weigh that opportunity with the advantages of turning pro.

The Lancers will feature three other seniors who have signed with four-year college commitments. Brenden Avventino, a utility player who also pitches, signed with UC Riverside, Zach Busalacchi a power-hitting first baseman and right-handed pitcher, signed with Oregon State, and middle infielder Tristan Hanoian signed with TCU.

Zach Lew, who started at catcher as a freshman before moving to second base last season, is also one of the key players for Orange Lutheran.

Mater Dei will have several key players back from last season, including their top two pitchers, seniors Michael Thomas and Jonathan Schiffer. Thomas went 6-4 last season with a 2.98 ERA in 65 2/3 innings. Schiffer was 5-1 with a 1.89 ERA in 40 2/3 innings.

The Monarchs will also have three players who hit better than .300 last season in their starting lineup, Emilio Rosas (.338), Michael Peabody (.337) and Chad Call (.357). Grant Burton hit .305 as a freshman two years ago before slipping back to .243 last season.

Santa Margarita will rely on a pair of Division I signees to try and improve on last season’s 20-10 record, which was the best in coach David Bacani’s six years at the helm.

Joey Myers, a three-year starter who batted .354 last season, signed with UC Davis, and Josh Nicoloff, another three-year starter on the infield who batted .313 last season, signed with Columbia University.

Servite hasn’t posted a winning record in Trinity League play since 2006, but the Friars will have one of the top juniors in the league in Tanner Smith, a pitcher and outfielder who has committed to Oregon.

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