Former Pirates Thriving in Division-I
Updated: Apr 26
With the halfway point of the college baseball season behind us, it is time to look at how the 17 former VC Pirates players on D1 roster are doing so far.
Josh Howitt, LHP/ CSU Fullerton
Howitt last played for the VC Pirates in the 2019 season, where he pitched to a 3.00 ERA in 30 innings pitched. The 6-foot-5-inch sophomore is playing in his first season at Cal State Fullerton.
“It gives me a lot of confidence to be able to play for a D1 program. This is the highest level of college baseball to be played and the fact that I’m able to play for a great school and conference really gives me a boost of confidence.”
Howitt has pitched in 8.1 innings so far for the Titans, with his best outing being two scoreless innings against Kansas State.
“My experience with the Pirates was awesome. I learned a lot as a player and a person while playing. George was a great resource because he’s been around the game so long and knows how to help young guys improve their game. He also knows every single Coach in California it seems, so he’s a great resource for the recruiting aspect.”
Howitt admits he still wants to improve his game.
“My season is going well so far, I just need to fix a few mechanical issues I’m having. For the most part, it’s been a great experience and without George, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.”
Cole Kitchen, RHP/ Santa Clara University
Kitchen has been a workhorse and reliable starter for Santa Clara University. The RHP from Woodland Hills has appeared in nine games this season and has started eight of them. In 44 innings pitched so far, Kitchen has a 4.09 ERA and leads the team with a K/9 of 13.9.
Dawson Brigman, INF/ Santa Clara University
Brigman is in his Junior year at Santa Clara University. Brigman is a middle infielder that has seen his batting average rise every year. Brigman is currently hitting .262/.322/.355 in 107 at-bats for the Broncos. Brigman also has some speed in his game, stealing four bases so far this season.
Eric Crouse, RHP/ Wagner University
Crouse has mainly seen time as the bulk reliever in games for the Wagner University Seahawks, pitching in 24 innings so far. His season-high in innings pitched in a game is 4.2, and his season-high in strikeouts is seven.
“I had a great experience with the Pirates. George was truly invested in player development and recruitment and was willing and able to help me. He helped connect me with good people and taught me little things about the game”
So far this season batters are hitting .228 against Crouse.
“I personally have had a fair amount of success so far this season, and I think that as someone who had not previously played at this level, playing against D1 and D1-bound players in the summer gave me a taste of what it was like before I got here.”
Shaun Montoya, OF/ San Diego State University
Montoya has been a solid defensive center fielder for the San Diego State Aztecs. The redshirt freshman has only made one error in the 27 chances he has had roaming the outfield. The outfielder from Damien High School sports a .264 batting average with a double and eight walks in 53 at-bats. Montoya is also a threat on the bases, swiping four so far.
Darren Taylor, INF/ Southern Illinois University
Taylor is playing in his first season at Southern Illinois University after transferring from Chaffey College. Taylor has played in 17 games and has started eight of them for the Salukis.
“I had a great experience playing with the Pirates last summer. George has a ton of knowledge for the game and being coached by him was exactly what I needed. My confidence isn’t so much from playing division one baseball but more about understanding the work I’ve put into my craft that’s gotten me to this point.”
The 5-foot-11 junior does have some pop in his swing, sporting a slugging percentage of .467 with three doubles and a homer in 30 at-bats.
"My season has been going well so far and playing with the Pirates definitely helped prepare me. My goals after college are to just keep playing baseball for as long as I can.”
Ben Grunberg, INF/ Loyola Marymount University
Grunberg is in his senior year at Loyola Marymount University. The outfielder has hit two home runs so far this season and has 13 RBIs in 27 games played. Grunberg has a high OBP at .349 despite having a .228 batting average due to his 12 walks and 5 hit by pitches.
Kyle Soberano, INF/ Illinois State University
Soberano has been solid at the plate this season for Illinois State University. In 76 at-bats, Soberano is slashing .263/.371/.303. The infielder has a good sense of the strike zone, having an even strikeout to walk ratio.
“It is an honor to be able to play this level. I know there a lot high school players who would do a lot to be in the situation I am in. I think the confidence has come with experience.”
Soberano credits his time with the VC Pirates for his success so far.
“I loved playing for the George and the Ventura County Pirates. He is the reason I got to College of the Canyons and Illinois State, so I cannot thank him enough. The biggest thing I learned while playing for George is to stay within myself and not try to be someone I’m not. Small ball has to be a part of my game due to myself not being the biggest in stature. My experience with VC has been very beneficial because I got lots of playing time to work on my game and refine some things I wanted to improve on last season.”
Grant Schoen, OF/ Pepperdine University
Schoen has been a walk-machine off the bench this season at Pepperdine University. The 5-foot-11 junior has only gotten one hit in nine games for the Waves, but has seven walks in that span.
Trevor Garcia, RHP/ Fresno State University
Garcia has been a solid bullpen arm for the Fresno State Bulldogs this season. In 26 innings pitched this season, he boasts a 2.08 ERA with 27 strikeouts in that span. The righty also picked up a save this season against San Diego State.
Jake Clark, RHP/ Fordham University
The lefty out of Calabasas has seen limited action at Fordham University this season, only appearing in two games. Clark had a scoreless outing in his first game pitched, striking out two batters.
Aren Alvarez, RHP/ UC San Diego
Alvarez struggled as a starter at the beginning of the season at UC San Diego, but has been dominant ever since he moved to the bullpen. In eight relief appearances, the junior from Rancho Cucamonga has given up 1 or 0 runs in seven of those games.
Joel Tornero, LHP/ UC San Diego
Tornero has only pitched in one game for UC San Diego so far this season. The lefty went .1 innings giving up three runs on three hits, picking up a strikeout as well.
Cole Dale, RHP/ UC San Digeo
Dale has been versatile for UC San Diego, starting games for the Tritons and pitching in relief. Dale is able to go multiple innings as the bulk reliever. Dale’s best game came on March 29th at San Diego State. Dale tossed three scoreless innings only allowing one hit and 2 walks.
Blake Mann, OF/ St Mary’s College
The right fielder for St Mary’s College, Mann has been a solid hitter all season. In 77 at-bats Mann is hitting .260 with five doubles and two triples. Mann has also picked up seven walks on the season.
Jason Starrels, RHP/ USC
Starrels is a redshirt senior at USC, pitching in relief. Starrels has made three appearances this season with two of them being scoreless. In 4.1 innings pitched so far this season, batters are only hitting .188 against Starrels.
Gabe Gonzalez, INF/ CSU Northridge
Gonzalez is enjoying an amazing season at the plate so far. In 98 at-bats, Gonzalez is slashing .269/.443/.602 with 27 RBIs. The 6-foot-2 infielder also has 18 walks and 11 hit by pitches.
Written by Matthew Brown