The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
This is a time of transformation for the Wilson baseball program. The Bruins have an inexperienced roster that’s full of new faces, and a home field that’s newly renovated.
Wilson coach Andy Hall organized a fundraising effort that allowed his team to fix up Skip Rowland Field on campus. There is new branding and signage everywhere and the infield is, “As nice as Blair Field between the bases,” Hall said.
“It looks first-rate right now,” he added. “We have some very generous people out there who helped us raise quite a bit of money. We’ve got pictures of about 70 percent of our alumni (on the outfield fence) and we’ve got a wall of fame in the locker room. It’s something I’m really proud of and hopefully we’ll continue to generate that pride from our kids and maybe draw in some more kids to create that legacy.”
“It definitely was a part-time job because we want to make sure it stays like that,” Wilson ace pitcher Gavin Piechota said of working on the field. “It takes a lot to make sure it’s good, and it’s super cool knowing all of the players who came through this program and how much history there really is. It makes you want to play better because you have all those guys on the wall.”
Because of the renovations and over-seeding the grass the Bruins are coming into this season with fewer practice hours under their belts. Hall said that’s been noticeable at home plate where they’ve seen less live pitching than a normal year.
“We’re young and we’re going to scrap and take our lumps early,” Hall said. “We have to grow and mature and start to develop guys who are confident in their own teammates and what they can do. If we can pitch we’re going to be pretty good. I think the bats will come around, and we’re athletic and defensive enough to keep ourselves in games.”
Piechota stepped into the role of ace pitcher last summer when he led Wilson to the American Legion state championship rounds. The senior wants to keep batters off-balance with a mix of pitches instead of overpowering stuff. Jaaden Romero will be the No. 2 pitcher, according to Hall, and there are a handful of other arms who will hopefully fill in the back end of the bullpen.
The most experience on the roster is on the left side of the infield where Taylor Kirk is back at shortstop and Aaron Mingo (pictured above) is back at third base. Kirk scored a team-high 21 runs last season while Mingo hit .351 with a team-high three triples.
Center Fielder Diego Orozco is also a returning starter who hit .293 last year.
“Last year we were really tight knit, but this year took a lot of getting used to, everyone had to take time to gel,” Piechota said. “We didn’t have a lot of time on the field to really practice because of the renovation, but now that we have all this time it’s just chemistry on the field, and it’s really coming together at the right time.”
Catcher Jace Orozco is a key newcomer who was recovering from a serious injury to get some playing time last season. He got good junior varsity experience and can really hit the ball. Backup catcher Dawson Precht will also get playing time.
Sophomore first baseman Rudy Carlos will also be a key addition to the lineup, and he can also come into a game later for three to six outs.
At second base, Matthew Pappas and Owen Ehmann are both good athletes who will get playing time. Hall hopes that Ehmann can recover from an arm injury and join the pitching staff again.
There’s also guys in the outfield coming back from injury like Trevor Sonnhalter, who can play multiple positions because of his elite athleticism.
“We have to do all the little things right,” Piechota said. “We need to make sure we’re not making errors, moving guys over… All of the little things done right will boost us and help us get more wins.”
Last season, Wilson won nine of its last 10 games while finishing second in the Moore League. The Bruins haven’t won a league title since they shared it with Millikan and Lakewood in 2017.
Projected Starting Lineup:
P – Gavin Piechota
C – Jace Orozco
1B – Rudy Carlos
2B – Matthew Pappas
3B – Aaron Mingo
SS – Taylor Kirk
OF – Diego Orozco
OF – Trevor Sonnhalter
UTL – Owen Ehmann
P – Jaaden Romero