The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Patch and is being reprinted with permission.

Doug Williams expects more out of his team than anyone else ever will. The veteran baseball coach at College of San Mateo sets down the same goals every year: do well in conference play, advance to the Final Four and win a state title.

“That’s been the on-going theme since I arrived here in 1995,” Williams said. “It’s what coach (John) Noce started here years before that with the Bulldog tradition. It’s about commitment.”

CSM returns six of its top 12 hitters from a year ago, including shortstop Brandon Defazio, who has signed to play at University of San Diego next season.

The Bulldogs will open their season Friday at home against Sierra College at 2 p.m. They host Reedley on Saturday at 1 p.m. and Diablo Valley at 2 p.m. Tuesday. They begin the year ranked first in Northern California.

“It’s nice to be recognized but it’s just on paper,” Williams said. “It has no bearing on what happens this season. I’m more interested in the rankings at the end of the season. The weather is nice, let’s play. We need to play someone other than ourselves.”

CSM opens its season with a group of young, talented pitchers. The Bulldogs will have to replace its top four pitchers and five of its top seven, all of whom have moved on to greener pastures at the NCAA Division I level. That’s 29 of last year’s 32 victories, seven of its nine saves and all five of its complete games.

Dylan Nelson (6-0, 3.50, 4 saves last year) was set to return to CSM but was offered a scholarship from the University of California in Berkeley.

“It might not be good for us but it’s a great opportunity for Dylan to go play in the Pac-12,” Williams said. “We’ll have some unknowns there but it is exciting to see what happens.”

Among the available pitchers, Burlingame High grad Zac Grotz, Carlmont grad Daniel Madigan and Alex Mason figure to get starts early, though Williams warns it’s a work in progress.

“We’re going to think about how many pitchers we need to get through a game,” he said. “We can’t think too far in advance.”

Sophomores include Burlingame grad DJ Sharabi, Andrew Herrera, Luke McCreesh, Cooper Johnson, Alex Palsha and Preston Tarter. Joe Armstrong, one of the top utility players in the state, will also be counted on for some innings.

Freshmen also expected to help include Capuchino grad Timothy Gretter, Joey Esposito, Skyler Fuss, Vincent Koci, Jacob Mellenthin and Natalio Navarro.

Madigan and Greeter are the lone left-handers on the staff.

Defazio had an all-around solid season last year, batting .295 with three home runs and 22 RBIs. He led the team with 15 doubles and stole 10 bases.

Defazio choose San Diego, one of the top program’s in the nation, because of its coach, Rich Hill, a former San Mateo resident who has coached at University of San Francisco, where Williams served as an assistant for a year.

“They have a history and they have a coach who is hard nosed,” Defazio said. “I like to be pushed and I felt like it was a great fit.”

Defazio works constantly on the craft of hitting, spending hours in the batting cage working out details.

“I maybe take a week or two off to let my body heal,” he said. “To me, the batting cage is like my home. I love hitting. It’s about taking quality reps. You can’t just go take 100 swings without a plan. There’s always something to work on.”

Williams thinks Defazio would spend his life in a batting cage if he could.

“We have to kick him out,” he said. “He’s an outstanding competitor, has a great work ethic and was elected team captain by his teammates.”

Joe Armstrong, who hit .320 last year while appearing in three games as a pitcher, is joined by sophomores Jarrett Costa, Trevin Craig, Logan Trowbridge and Jeff VonMoser as players who made at least 50 plate appearances last year.

Other sophomores expected to contribute include Half Moon Bay High grad Gavin Long, Ryan O’Malley, Ryan Atlas and Ben Straka.

Freshmen who can help include Serra grad Dominic Orlando, Allen Smoot, Dane Vande Guchte, Chris Barry, Kailen Robinson and Kellen Richards.

“As coaches we get excited when we talk about the lineup possibilities,” Williams said. “We have the versatility and speed to put together some pretty good lineups and we’ll have guys on the bench who we know we can make moves with.”

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