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Tom Usher: Locos loaded with new faces


August 25. 2013 2:46AM
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It might be a good idea to pick up a program on your way into Simmons Field this year.



There are no returning players from last year’s Lima Locos team that finished 24-15 and tied for first with Cincinnati atop the Great Lakes Collegiate League.



Players like Shawnee grad shortstop Garrett Black are seniors and are too old for the league. Other players are headed for other leagues like the prestigious Cape Cod League.



“We tried to get a few players back from last year, but they’ve gone on to bigger and better things,” second-year Locos coach Dan Furuto said.



So fans won’t be seeing senior Jeremy Gooding (Madonna), who was the GLCL Pitcher of the Year last season when he went 3-1 with a league-leading 1.70 ERA.



Also gone is the league’s top pitching prospect lefty Brian Clark (Kent State), who is headed to the Cape, and shortstop/third baseman Stu Eisler, who will play ball in North Carolina.



Two-year Locos outfielder Cesar Loiz (UNOH) has an internship this summer and won’t be playing ball.



One of Furuto’s coaches will be Kalida grad and now Ohio Northern assistant coach Chad Ehrnsberger, who logged more than 10 years in the minors.



The Locos will have one area player in Shawnee grad Clint Spencer (Mount Vernon Nazarene). He’s hitting .306 for Mount Vernon Nazarene.



The roster includes three players from Kennesaw State (Ga.), a longtime favorite pipeline to the Locos that produced right-hander Chad Jenkins, who pitched for the Blue Jays last season.



There will also be two players from Purdue and two from top 25 school Mississippi State.



But schools are sometimes misleading. Often the best players on the team are from NAIA schools like Gooding proved last year.



The Locos will have one former GLCL All-Star in Toledo outfielder Tyler Grogg, who played for Southern Ohio in 2011. He hit a GLCL-leading .379 that season with 17 stolen bases. Last summer he hit .402 for Owensboro in the Ohio Valley League.



This year at Toledo, Grogg is batting .370 with 21 stolen bases.



“He can flat-out fly,” Furuto said.



Coming from Mississippi State will be second baseman/shortstop Brett Pirtle, who is hitting .308 with two home runs and eight stolen bases. He’s the team’s leadoff hitter.



Another speedster is William Patterson outfielder A.J. Flores, who is batting .391 with 19 stolen bases.



“Last year we had speed, but we had trouble getting on base,” Furuto said. “This year we wanted speed guys to get on base.



Mississippi State is also sending right-hander Ben Bracewell, who is 0-1 with a .2.25 ERA in relief. He had 17 strikeouts in 16 innings.



Furuto coached Bracewell in high school at Birmingham.



“He was the closer (at Mississippi State) his freshman year, but had arm trouble his sophomore year (and shoulder surgery) and was red-shirted last year,” Furuto said. “This year he’s at the back end of the bullpen and can run it up there at 92, 93.”



Locoas general manager Steve Meyer added, “He will probably be one of the best pitchers in the league.”



One of the three from Kennesaw State is No. 1 left-hander Will Solomon, who is 2-3 with a 3.83. He has 32 strikeouts in 40 innings.



Kennesaw State outfielder Alex Liqueri is batting .257 with two home runs and 10 stolen bases. He was a 35th-round pick out of high school.



Alabama-Birmingham right-hander James Naile is one of the Blazers’ top pitchers and is 4-4 with a 4.42.



“He’s a sophomore throwing 94,” Meyer said of Naile.



Another UAB player is red-shirted first baseman Matt Furuto, coach Furuto’s younger brother.



Another pitcher on the staff will be UNOH right-hander Engel Diaz, who is 1-2 with a 7.43.



Another key reliever is Central Michigan’s Jason Gamble (1-0, 1.69).



Pitcher Aron McRee, from Montevallo, is 4-0 with a 3.62. Montevallo, Furuto’s alma mater, will also send infielder Jeremy Hyde.



Another favorite junior college over the years has been Chattahoochee Valley (Ala). The Locos will have Chattahoochee ace Dalton Rentz (9-1, 2.55). He has 61 strikeouts in 74 innings.



As it looks now, the Locos will count on power from Mercer outfielder Sasha LaGarde. He’s hitting .306 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs.



“He’s from Canada and was on the Canadian National team,” Meyer said.



Mercer reliever Stephen Glaze (3-1, 4.62) is also headed to Lima.



Purdue catcher Cory Strong is hitting .263.



The season kicks off June 6 at Lake Erie’s Ned Skeldon Stadium in Toledo. The Locos’ home opener is June 7.



And don’t forget that program.





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