Season Preview: Serra Padres

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.

In this edition we take a look at the Junipero Serra (San Mateo). There are three Serra HS programs in California, and this particular Serra is the alma mater of both Tom Brady and Barry Bonds, along with plenty of other significant athletes, such as long time big-leaguer Gregg Jefferies. Serra routinely plays above it's raw talent and it's been that way seemingly forever. The WCAL is one of California's top conferences each and every year and though the league as whole may be down a touch across the board, it will still be strong. No matter what the level of talent or experience, Serra is in the mix just about every single season. Will it be that way in 2019? Time will tell.

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Team: Junipero Serra 

Nickname: Padres

Section: CIF-Central Coast Section, Open Division

League: West Catholic Athletic League

Head Coach/Years at school: Chris Houle (14)

Team Twitter Handle: @Serra_Baseball

2018 Overall Record: 23-9

2018 Postseason Finish: CCS Open Division semi-finalist

Number of Returning Starters: 1

Number of Returning Pitchers: 3

Top Returning Players:

'20 LHP Drew Dowd (Stanford); '19 RHP Juliano Rodriguez; '19 RHP Tim Ghiorso; '19 MIF Marek Palladino

Other Players To Watch:

'19 OF Tucker Tollmann; '19 INF Dominic Meza (CSU-San Marcos); '19 C Omar Barraza; '20 SS Tyler Shaw; '20 OF Logan Azem; '21 C Nico Button

2019 Outlook:

With only one returning starter among position players, there is a changing of the guard at Serra this season. Now, don't take that to mean they won't compete and don't have the talent to compete and likely contend in the WCAL. Having seen many of the expected contributors, we feel this team will surprise some who may not be as aware of the depth that was hiding below the surface last year as the Padres got to the semi-finals of the CCS Open Division.

However, losing 16 seniors is a significant challenge the 2019 Serra Padres will have to overcome. They will be young and inexperienced in regard to varsity playing time at multiple positions. The pitching staff has three returning contributors which will be a good thing, one of whom is among the top 2020 pitchers in Northern California. The team is expected to play good defense but may be a bit light on the power side.

Junior left-hander Drew Dowd returns after a sophomore campaign (26 IP, 1.88 ERA, 36 K) that saw him earn honorable mention All-WCAL honors. He's got a three-pitch mix and stuff that will rate with the best pitchers in the conference. Joining him on the pitching staff are senior right-handers Tim Ghiorso (5 G, 10.2 IP, 2.62 ERA, 9 K) and Juliano Rodriguez (6 G, 8 IP, 4.38 ERA). The team will have to replace 122.1 IP from three graduated pitchers, two of whom are pitching at Pac-12 schools this spring. 

Senior infielder Marek Palladino returns after starting the last four weeks of last season. We've seen Palladino quite a bit over the years and have seen a player who handles the bat well and can play above average defense at multiple infield positions. Look for Palladino to step up this spring. Fellow senior Dominic Meza will also be leaned on to provide offense, versatile defense and leadership, as well as getting in the mix on the mound as he did in 2018. Junior middle infielder Tyler Shaw is a good glove man and on a team that will rely on strong defense, he will have to be a big part of that. 

Senior catcher Omar Barraza is a recruitable talent we've seen numerous times and gets his shot to be the everyday catcher, but will also have to hold off sophomore Nico Button, a talented left-handed hitting catcher. With a DH spot in the line-up, Button could also factor there as his power potential will be needed from time to time.

In the outfield is Tucker Tollmann, a player we've seen on a few occasions and he seems to always show a nice well-rounded tool set. He's likely going to have to have a good year with the bat as he does have some potentially impactful talent. Another left-handed hittter, junior Logan Azem, is also in the outfield mix. He's got some tools to bring to the offense, namely speed and a little sneaky pop. With an offense that isn't expected to be real deep, having a couple of left-handed hitters like Azem and Button give Coach Houle a chance to shape the line-up for more depth.

As per usual, the WCAL will provide a lot of challenges, with Valley Christian (#8 preseason PBR Power 25) and Archbishop Mitty (#22 Power 25), along with traditional powers St. Francis and Bellarmine. Sacred Heart Cathedral had a very strong 2018 and returns some of their better players. There are major D1 players spread throughout the conference and the youth and inexperience of Serra will be thrown into the fire quite quickly.

Other notable games on the schedule are vs. Monte Vista (Danville), Palo Alto, Los Gatos (#20 Power 25), College Park, St. Mary's-Stockton, and Petaluma. Serra will also take part in the Boras Classic in mid-April and will have four tough games in that tournament. 



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