BY ROBERT VENDETTOLI
Special to MyLVsports.com
The College of Southern Nevada Coyotes lost a number of key offensive pieces from last season’s Region 18 runner-up. And how well the Coyotes fill those big holes will determine whether Nick Garritano’s squad can take home the Scenic West Athletic Conference regular season championship.
“We lost a lot from last season’s team, but that doesn’t mean the program ends,” said Garritano, whose team opened its season Friday morning. “We have some strong transfers coming in, mixed with a solid incoming freshman recruiting class. I expect a lot out of us this season.
A key for the Coyotes this season will be finding a way to replace the dynamic duo of first baseman Morgan Stotts and second baseman Evan Van Hoosier.
Stotts has moved on to UNLV after batting .378 with 50 RBI’s, 18 doubles and nine home runs. Van Hooiser, a good defensive second baseman who hit .369 with 11 triples and five home runs, departed after being selected in the eighth round by the Texas Rangers.
Freshman second baseman Tyler Brown, a three-year starter at Coronado High School, and Miami (Fla.) transfer Grant Heyman will most likely to take over the roles left by Stotts and Van Hoosier
Heyman, a former 11th round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays, is expected to help fill the power void left by Stotts’ departure.
The starting catcher job will come down to returning sophomore Reece Lucero and UNLV transfer Scott Tomassetti. Lucero, batted 225 last season with eight RBI’s and three doubles while Tomassetti, who was selected in the 46th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Phillies, hit .215 with nine RBI for the Rebels in 2012
Sophomore Billy Santiwan (.288, 11 RBI’s) is the lone returning starter in the infield. University of Portland transfer Lucas Hunter, freshman Zach Scott (Scottsdale Christian Academy, AZ), Cain Brady (Coronado HS) and sophomore Alika McGuire (Howard College) all could make an impact this season as well.
Freshmen Gerald Robins (Cimarron HS), who hit .420 his senior season with 24 RBI’s and four home runs, and Matt Waldren (Mesquite, AZ), who hit .389 as a senior, are expected to battle for starting outfield spots along with sophomore James Young.
The Coyotes, who finished 40-17 in 2013, must replace four reliable starters from last season: Thomas Pannone (Cleveland, 9th round), Will Morris (Philadelphia, 26th round), John Conguy (Dixie State) and Joey Lauria (UNLV). But Garritano feels the program should still be in good shape thanks to a strong recruiting class.
Anchoring the starting rotation should be sophomore Tyler Condie who posted a 2-1 record and 3.54 ERA in nine games for the Coyotes last season.
“Tyler looks really good this season,” second baseman Tyler Brown said. “His stuff blows my mind sometimes, it’s so good. He seems to have really good control of his stuff, with a lot of power behind it. We expect a lot from him this season.”
David Kuzma (Silverado), DJ Meyers (Coronado), Nate Bennett (Liberty) and Logan Hold (Shadow Ridge) top a strong local freshman recruiting class. Returning sophomores Nate Potterf and Wes Grass also should play key roles this season.