Season Preview: Bellarmine Bells

Blaine Clemmens
Northern California Director of Scouting

With the 2019 high school baseball season just around the corner in California (CCS games start 2/18/19), we've been rolling out team previews from around the state. The Central and Southern sections are already underway.

In this edition we take a look at the Bellarmine College Prep Bells. 2018 was a great one in the accomplished history of Bellarmine baseball, as the Bells won the Boras Class North and finished 2nd in CCS-D1. The pitching staff was among the best in the state of California and unfortunately, just about every one of those pitchers has graduated, with numerous players now at D1 programs. It's not a normal thing to say for Bellarmine, but 2019 looks to be a rebuilding year and in the rough and tumble WCAL, that will be challenging.

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Team: Bellarmine College Prep 

Nickname: Bells

Section: CIF-Central Coast Section, D1

League: West Catholic Athletic League

Head Coach/Years at school: Mike Rodriguez (12)

Team Twitter Handle: @bellsbaseball

2018 Overall Record: 25-8

2018 Postseason Finish: CCS D1 runner-up

Number of Returning Starters: 2

Number of Returning Pitchers: 1

Top Returning Players:

'19 OF Reed Sparling; '19 1B/LHP Gio Saso; '19 OF/RHP Derrick Turner; '20 C Garrett Arnold

Other Players To Watch:

'20 RHP/INF Sam Kim; '20 INF Aidan Kelly

2019 Outlook:

The silver lining of a 'rebuiding year' is that new players get to make a name for themselves. In program with the history and expectations of Bellarmine, just because the players might be a bit inexperienced or young, that doesn't necessarily indicate a lack of talent.

But it can't be understated how challenging it will be to replace five pitchers who collectively threw 213 of the team's 215.2 IP in 2018, with a staff ERA of 1.79. Exactly one returning pitcher had varsity experience, OF/RHP Derrick Turner, who threw one inning. A tall task indeed. Turner will be in the mix on the mound, as well as senior 1B/LHP Gio Saso and junior RHP Sam Kim. We saw Kim at one of our fall showcases and he's got some pitchability and feel. How the stuff rates vs the conference  competition remains to be seen.

One of the best things about playing in a conference like the West Catholic Athletic League is that if a player performs well in conference play, it is good indication that he can play beyond the high school level. Senior outfielder Reed Sparling enters 2019 as the statistical leader among returning position players. He played in 28 games as a junior, hitting .292 in 77 plate appearances (5 2B, HR, 9 RBI). With a strong senior season, he will put himself on the recruiting map. The same scenario holds for Saso who got into 16 games in 2018, hitting .258 in 38 plate appearances (2 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI).

Garrett Arnold is expected to handle the catching duties and he did cut his teeth a bit as a junior, getting into 15 games and making 25 plate appearances. He and the pitchers will have to quickly get on the same page as they attempt to replace all that was lost. That can be a tough thing on a catcher who will also be expected to produce on the offensive side. We've seen Arnold and one thing he routinely has showed us is a tenacious and competitive approach to the game.

The newcomer to the varsity who may have the most offensive upside is junior infielder Aidan Kelly. Kelly has some physical bat talent we've seen on a couple of occasions, most recently at the Preseason All-State event. He's got some pop and the size/strength to compete vs the high quality pitching he will see this season.

The schedule will be a grueling one for the Bells, even before conference play. They open up with a scrimmage vs Willow Glen, who was the #1 seed in the CCS Open Division playoffs in 2018. They then take on always strong Elk Grove, make a trip south to take on Huntington Beach (#3 preseason PBR Power 25), then return home to square off vs #16 Oak Ridge, #4 Jesuit, and St. Mary's-Stockton. Then starts league play, where two other PBR Power 25 preseason ranked teams reside, #8 Valley Christian and #22 Archbishop Mitty, along with expected strong teams at St. Francis, Serra, and Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Boras Classic looms in mid-April and returning as the defending champ of the Northern half of the tournament means there will be a target on the back of the Bells.

Trial by fire can be a good thing.



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