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Season Preview: Birmingham Patriots


Les Lukach
State Scouting Director

With the 2019 high school baseball season just around the corner in California we have begun rolling out team previews from around the state.

In this edition we will take a closer look at the Birmingham Patriots (Lake Balboa, CA), a team that has a pair of CIF LA City Sections titles in the last two seasons that will look to their experienced returners along with key newcomers to help make 2019 a three-peat year.

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Team: Birmingham Charter

Nickname: Patriots

CIF Section: LA City Section Division I

League: West Valley

Head Coach/Years at school: Matt Mowry (25th season)

Team Twitter Handle: @bhambaseball14

2018 Overall Record: 26-10

2018 Postseason Finish: LA City Section Open Division Champions

Number of Returning Starters: 7

Number of Returning Pitchers: 2

Top Returning Players:

'19 C Johnny Tincher '19 SS Alex Ballesteros, '19 3B Kevin Olmos, '19 CF Daniel Velazquez, '20 1B Erik Rivas, '20 RHP/DH Albert Garcia

College Commits:

'19 C Johnny Tincher - Washington

Other Players To Watch:

'22 OF Domenik Cervantes, '22 P Chris Romero, '22 P Ricardo Martinez

2019 Outlook:

Often times when teams win a championship in sports there's a letdown the following year. There's a bevy of reasons for this ranging from the proverbial target on the back causing the competition to step their game up, to attrition of the roster, to the improvement of opponents. Usually it's because repeating as champions is such a hard feat to accomplish. In the case of the Birmingham Patriots they aren't familiar with that feeling.

After winning the City Section Division I title in 2017, the Patriots came back and won the City Section Open Title in 2018 and they aim to make it a three-peat of championships in 2019.

It won't be easy, but longtime head coach Matt Mowry believes they have the players to make a legitimate run at it.

"Our strength is in our experience along with our defense and offense," said Mowry.

You can't begin discussing the Patriots defense without first mentioning senior catcher, Johnny Tincher. The University of Washington signee is arguably the best catcher in the City Section and one of the best in all of Southern California. It's not just his offense that's impressive, but his off-the-charts defense is what really stands out.

Most of the rest of the infield returns to provide leadership and stability to what is always a stout defensive team. Senior shortstop Alex Ballesteros proved his wares last season defensively and looks to have a breakout season at the plate in 2019. Senior third baseman Kevin Olmos has soft hands and a big arm to go with a power bat. While junior first baseman Erik Rivas provides more power at the plate along with sure handed defense.

In the outfield, junior center fielder Daniel Velazquez, a hyper-athletic switch-hitting center fielder who Mowry believes may have a chance to be an All-City honoree, returns to patrol and direct traffic in the outfield. He'll be the leader out there where he'll groom freshman Domenik Cervantes to take over in 2020, that's if the freshman doesn't shift behind the plate next season in place of the departing Tincher.

The offense will be led by the aforementioned players who will look to score runs en masse because if there's an area of concern for the Patriots, it may be the pitching staff.

"Our overall pitching is the question," said Mowry. "We have our No. 1 guy back who is good."

That No. 1 starter would be Albert Garcia. All the junior right-hander has done is amass a two-year record of 16-3 with a 1.89 ERA. He will be counted on to eat innings and lead a young and inexperienced staff that could feature two freshman in Chris Romero and Ricardo Martinez, both of whom Mowry believes have an understanding of pitching to their strengths.

The West Valley league is annually the top league in the City Section, but like is the case in any division, it's a matter of getting hot at the right time as you head into the playoffs. With league rivals Cleveland, El Camino Real, and Chatsworth, along with an improved Granada Hills Charter and a usually competitive Taft, if Birmingham is going to make a run in the postseason they will have undoubtedly earned it through their league play.

With the title of two-time defending CIF LA City Section Champions, the Birmingham Patriots of 2019 know they'll get their opponents best effort. The question in 2019 will be, is the Patriots best better than their opponents best?

If recent history is any indicator, you can count on seeing the Patriots playing well into May this season.

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UPCOMING EVENTS

SHOWCASE STATE DATE LOCATION
Northern California Preseason All-State (Invite-Only)
CA 01/27 Delta College - Stockton
Super 60 Pro Showcase
NATIONAL 02/03 The Max
N. CA Junior Future Games Trial - Sac/Solano CA 02/24 Vacaville Christian HS
SoCal Junior Future Games Trials
CA 03/09 O'Malley Field - Harvard Westlake
N. CA Junior Future Games Trial - East Bay CA 03/24 Athenian School - Danville
N. CA Junior Future Games Trial - North Bay CA 04/28 Cardinal Newman HS - Santa Rosa
Northern California Future Games Trials
CA 05/26 Islanders Field - Lathrop