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Hopes run high
Central Valley High School's varsity baseball team lost four starters to graduation, including three-year ace pitcher and offensive slugger Martin Gomez.

"He meant a lot to the program," head coach Greg Magni said. "But we have to turn the page and move on."

The Hawks have improved each season since their first-year of competition in 2007 (5-19-1, 3-11). This season should be no different.

"We feel like we're in position to get better," said Magni, whose team compiled a 14-13 overall record and finished in fourth place in the Valley Oak League standings (7-7) last year, and went 11-15-1 and 6-8 in 2008. "That's one of our goals."

Greg Guerra, Central Valley's new ace pitcher and top third baseman, returns for his fourth season of varsity baseball.

"That's pretty rare," Magni said.

Guerra was named to the VOL second team as a junior. He also earned an invitation to the 20th Modesto Sunrise Rotary All-Star Baseball Game. Greg batted .356 (16-for-45) in conference play with two triples, six doubles, eight runs and nine RBIs. He collected wins against East Union, Weston Ranch and Ceres High while pitching. Guerra tossed four complete games in six starts.

"Our players definitely see him as one of the leaders of our club," Magni said. "He works hard. He's an all-round baseball player. There's really not one area where he's lacking."

Other Hawk returners include Scott Myatt (C, Jr.), William Mestas (CF/P, Sr.), Luis Rodriguez (2B/OF, Sr.), Angel Gallegos (OF, Sr.), Jesse Perea (OF, Sr.) and Michael Melton (1B, Sr.).

Central Valley's top newcomers are David Dart (SS, Jr.), Josh Claudio (U, So.) and Ruben Casas (2B, Fr.)

"We don't have one superstar," Magni said. "We have more of a balanced lineup. We have more speed. We're going to focus on the little things."

Central Valley will try to earn its first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth.

The top three teams in the VOL qualify for the postseason. Oakdale (13-1), Sonora (10-4) and Sierra (9-5) advanced last year.

The Mustangs will be vying for their fourth straight conference crown. Oakdale has a near-perfect 40-2 record over the last three seasons.

"We're expecting to be competitive," Magni said. "Our goal is to get into the playoffs. We know it's going to be tough."