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Gustine High baseball players are preparing for the upcoming season. Above, Logan Luker fields a grounder at the mound during a recent practice session.

Gustine High will field a young but experienced baseball team this spring.

Head coach Jason Oliveira, who takes the reins after working with the program as an assistant coach for the past four years, said that the experience gained during a 5-9 Southern League season last spring will serve the Reds well this season.

“We have a good core of sophomores and juniors who got a lot of varsity experience last year,” he told Mattos Newspapers. “You are supposed to grow and get better from year to year. If we do that, we will be in the hunt (for a playoff berth).”

Gustine will be looking for its two seniors, first baseman Gannon Silva and third baseman/pitcher Patrick Broderick to provide stability.

“We are looking to them for leadership and to help guide the younger players,” Oliveira commented.

Among the underclassmen returning for the Reds are sophomore second baseman/pitcher Devin Bettencourt, who was an all-league selection as a freshman, sophomore outfielder/pitcher Giovanni Quezada, junior pitcher Logan Luker, junior center fielder Jonathan Martin and junior shortstop/pitcher Nathan Nunes.

Luker comes in to the season tabbed as the ace of the staff after a solid sophomore campaign, Oliveira reported, while Bettencourt will likely be the No. 2 starter.

Depth in the pitching staff is a strong suit for the Reds, Oliveira said, as Quezada, Broderick and Nunes will all be called upon as well.

With the pitching staff largely established, Oliveira said, Gustine will be focusing on playing sound defense and improving its offensive production from a year ago.

“I’m looking for our power numbers, batting average and runs scored to all increase. I am looking for growth on the offensive side,” he commented. “Our pitching is there, and our defense will be there. It is just a matter of putting runs on the board. We are going to hit the ball and score runs, but our focus is going to be on throwing strikes and keeping guys off base.”

For a second consecutive year Gustine will not field a junior varsity team, as only 14 players overall went out for baseball.

That is a concern in terms of being able to build a program, Oliveira acknowledged, but he anticipates a junior varsity squad returning next year.

In the meantime, he remarked, the Reds are focused and serious about the task at hand as they prepare for this season.

“We’re out there to play baseball,” Oliveira stated. “We can’t wait to get started.”