Last season, Bishop Gorman did something it hadn't done since 2005 - it failed to win a Nevada state championship.
The Gaels fell three runs short against Coronado (Henderson) in the second game of the Division I championship series and thus saw their state championship win streak broken at seven years in a row. Coach Nick Day is excited about the 2014 season and he feels the Gaels are well on their way to returning to the winners' circle.
"I think we will be really special this year. After being a little down last year (especially on the mound), our young pitchers have really patched up that weakness," said Day. "Our biggest strength is our balance. We have really good pitching, really good athletes defensively, guys that can run, and we have some nice power in the lineup."
Make no mistake, the Gaels are still a young team with a pitching staff made up mostly of sophomores and juniors. Day foresees this year's squad gaining experience and next year's team relying heavily on a pitching staff that could be among the best in the nation.
"They will be good this year, but I think we are a year away from being in that argument," said Day.
With a strong group of returning starters and a young but talented pitching staff, the Gaels begin the 2014 season ranked No. 9 in the MaxPreps Preseason National Baseball Rankings.
Over the next two weeks, MaxPreps is counting down the top 10 teams in the preseason national rankings. The countdown will conclude on Feb. 21 with the announcement of the preseason Top 100. See the Top 10 teams landing page here
Bishop Gorman has traditionally been known for its outstanding offensive attack. Take a look at the Nevada state records for baseball and a Gael stands at the top of most of the career and single-season offensive categories. Likewise, the Gaels hold most of the single season team records as well.
This year, however, the Gaels will likely gain notice for their defensive abilities. Day feels he has one of the nation's top defensive catchers in returning all-state backstop Michael Blasko. Additionally, Day feels that junior shortstop Cadyn Grenier ranks with the best shortstops in the nation.
"Cadyn is one of the nation's most dynamic and explosive shortstops," said Day. "He gives us a tremendous boost in the leadoff position and defensively he is the best shortstop we have ever had at Bishop Gorman. He will be a lot of fun to watch the next two years."
Blasko and Grenier are two of seven players who started on last year's team or saw some time in the starting lineup. Nick Gates, a hulking figure at 6-foot-6, 285 pounds, is back at first base and he can also bring a 92 mph fastball when called upon to pitch. Bronson Bowe, who has signed with Cumberland University, can play either second or third base and Matt Hudgins started about 20 percent of Bishop Gorman's games in the outfield last year.
Also returning is center fielder Cole Krzmarzick, who batted .451 as a junior last season.
"In my opinion, he's the best hitter in the state of Nevada," said Day.
The pitching staff will rely on several sophomores, an experienced junior and a talented freshman. Sophomore Jack Little returns after earning MaxPreps Freshman All-American honors last year. He posted a 6-0 record and was the ace of the staff, according to Day.
Junior Alex Perron also went 6-0 and has an explosive fastball, according to Day. He has already committed to the University of San Diego.
Perhaps the most intriguing arm on the staff belongs to Chase Maddux, the son of recently elected Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. As a sophomore, Maddux was the most valuable pitcher on the junior varsity team. As might be expected, Maddux has great command of his pitches and will get plenty of quality innings this year, according to Day.
Day is also looking for sophomores Chris Frederickson and Marquess Page to provide key innings while freshman Matt Mitchell could make the same impact Little did last year. Mitchell went undefeated over the summer with Gorman's summer league team.
Another newcomer who will likely start, according to Day, is junior Brandon Wulff. A 6-2, 215-pound outfielder, Wulff batted .500 over the summer and is already being courted by Stanford, BYU and San Diego.View gallery of the Bishop Gorman preseason photo shoot