Baseball: Sunbirds give coach Hirschkorn several options
With 23 new faces on the Fresno Pacific baseball team this season, Oscar Hirschkorn was thinking one thing:
“We have so much depth we’ll be moving guys around. We’ve got a good mix,” said Hirschkorn, who’s been the Sunbirds coach since the team’s inception in 2006.
And that’s even more important than usual, with Fresno Pacific’s move to the Division II Pacific West Conference from NAIA’s Golden State Athletic Conference.
Among the new players for the Sunbirds, who are 8-3 overall and 3-1 in the PacWest Conference, is right-handed pitcher J.D. Salles, a junior from Clovis West High who transferred from Fresno State.
Salles brings leadership and experience after a bumpy three years at Fresno State, where he redshirted in 2010 after breaking a collarbone. He returned for the Bulldogs in 2011 and had a 2.89 ERA with one save in nine appearances. He made 14 appearances last spring, going 2-1 with a 5.55 ERA.
“I wanted to prove myself and didn’t see it coming (at Fresno State),” Salles said of transferring. “Coach Hirschkorn gave me an opportunity. It’s a good transition and I’m glad to be a part of the rotation.”
This season, Salles is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA after pitching seven innings with five strikeouts in a 13-0 victory over Hawaii Hilo on Monday. The Sunbirds went on to win three of four games in the PacWest series.
“He did a great job,” Hirsch-korn said. “Quality start to start the series.”
Wilson Ashford (2-0, 0.64 ERA), Ryan Castadio (0-1, 3.50) and Mitchell Scott (1-1, 3.75) also have been starting along with Josh Medeles (0-0, 3.60), an all-conference pick last season when he had 74 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings.
Out of the bullpen, Ryan Cheek, Chris De La Torre and Bryce Daily have earned saves.
“I’m very excited about our pitching,” Hirschkorn said. “We have multiple guys that can close. We’ll see who emerges.”
Hirschkorn also likes how his infield is rounding out, sparked by junior Brett Bishop at second base or third. Bishop, who also catches, transferred to Fresno Pacific after spending one season at Fresno City and starting his career at Cal.
“He’s so versatile and valuable,” Hirschkorn said. “I’m going to see how everything fits. You need two good catchers.”
Bishop has split time behind the dish with John Koretoff and Fresno City transfer Robert Chambas. Koretoff leads Fresno Pacific with a .348 batting average and has three doubles and four RBIs.
First baseman Kyle Coppom (.306), second/third baseman Bobby Mendoza (.286) and shortstop Steven Moon (.242) round out the infield.
“I definitely think our bats are coming around,” said Bishop, who’s batting .211. “It’s just getting the nerves out. We want to win the tournament at the end of the year and have a successful year.”
The outfield is led by returner Steven Lozier, although Hirschkorn added speed and what he called a great hitter with Fresno State transfer Kaohu Gaspar. Devin Lee (College of the Sequoias), Baron Bower (Clovis East High), Kenny Overly and Tanner Irwin also will see time.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” Hirschkorn said. “We have a real good conference and a tough schedule — and that’s how I wanted it to be.”
Salles also was optimistic about how the season will play out.
“I think we can play with anybody,” he said. “We struggled offensively, but that’s normal for any college. As soon as everyone comes together we should be all right. Our bats haven’t come alive.”
By Anthony Galaviz