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Vaqs reload for repeat

GCC's conference title defense gets shot in the arm from strong recruiting class.

February 02, 2012|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

Winning breeds winning, or so the saying goes. Glendale Community College baseball Coach Chris Cicuto can vouch for the fact that winning at least breeds strong recruiting.

Coming off the program's first-ever trip to the state tournament in its current format, on the heels of winning its first Western State Conference title since 2002, Glendale became more of a player in the offseason, as well.

"With that success, Glendale kind of got put on the map again," said Cicuto, whose team came one win away from playing for the state crown in May of 2011. "A couple of our recruits actually went up to the state championship in Bakersfield. They got a taste of it and that kind of helped seal the deal for some of the kids.

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"We were able to get that upper-echelon type of recruit that before would kind of look at Glendale, but didn't really seriously consider it."

The Vaqueros will need that injection of fresh talent to stay the current course, as another byproduct of the team's success last season was the departure of 18 of 22 players, who moved on to either Division I schools or, in some cases, the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

"That was huge, losing [all those] guys was a killer," Cicuto said, "but the fact that those kids took care of it not only on the field, but also in the classroom and were able to move on, that's one of the biggest accomplishments, as well."

Glendale begins its season at 2 p.m. today at Rio Hondo College and, while Cicuto doesn't have his lineup set in stone, he's sure of who he's going to be relying on most.

Much of the Vaqueros' hopes will be pinned to a group of Division I bounce backs and junior college transfers, led by left-handed pitcher Alfonso Gonzalez coming from Loyola Marymount and utility middle-of-the order bat Austin Walker from UC Irvine, by way of Crespi High. West Los Angeles College transfer Cam Gardner will provide speed in right field and the leadoff spot.

"Those guys [with] that experience at that level is going to really provide some maturity to a really young team," Cicuto said. "[Gardner's] going to provide some power and great defense for us in the outfield."

Gonzalez joins a pitching staff featuring returners Hoover graduate John La and Greg Astor that will also be bolstered by the arrival of true freshman lefty David Lira from reigning City Section Division I champion San Fernando High.

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