Prep Baseball Report

Hardy's Hits: CIF-SS Coverage 4/17 & 4/19

Steven Hardesty
Central Coast/North LA Area Scout


New Episode LIVE now! At The Yard Podcast

Ventura, Calif- 

As the CIF-SS schedule starts to near completion the hope of a playoff berth looms large over all contenders across the section over the next couple of weeks. For this week I got eyes on two matchups that would have very strong implications on the league titles in the Foothill League and the Channel League.

My look at the series between the first place West Ranch Wildcats traveling to the Hart Indians in the opener of a two game set. West Ranch ran out CSUN bound LHP Jackson Banuelos who was outstanding over 6 innings but the duo of Biola bound LHP Taj Brar and uncommitted RHP Ian Edwards stymied the Wildcats offense to help Hart pick up a big 2-1 win to pull even with the Wildcats. (Note: Hart would win the following game 5-2 to take over sole possession of first place in the Foothill League).

On Friday, I pivoted from an originally anticipated trip to go see the rising Rio Mesa Spartans who have pulled into a virtual 3-way tie atop the Channel League with San Marcos & Santa Barbara as they hosted the Oxnard Yellowjackets to conclude a 2-game set. The Spartans were able to pick up a big 2-0 win over the Yellowjackets with SR. Ventura College commit Gavin Samora throwing a gem while the Spartans scratched out 2 runs against the Yellowjackets. (Note: Rio Mesa is now 9-4 in a two way tie with Santa Barbara on top of the league).

Below you can check out my breakdown of the standouts of the day with video highlights, access to their PBR profile and a scouting report on them.

(Players click the link on your name below to claim your profile. Also, players search the PBR database for your profile. Don't see your profile? You can create a free PBR profile here)


+ ‘25 3B Michael Hogen

This was my 4th total look at Hogen and simply put he has performed at a very strong level in every look I have had at him. His bat plays at a very good level with a solid hit tool that works the middle to pull side of the field with leverage and he has showed me more impact in each of the last two looks turning on baseballs with authority. On this day he hammered a ball down the LF line foul which would have been an easy double, then smoked a line drive to the LCF gap with authority that the Wildcats leftfielder made a fantastic play to run down and steal extra bases from Hogen. I'm a big fan of what this uncommitted '25 does in the batters box and then add in the solid defensive profile he shows off at 3B with the arm strength to handle the left side of the dirt, solid footwork/clean hands, and good instincts for the spot, but gives me intrigue that he could slide up the middle next year (both SS/2B for Hart are SRs.). Overall, Hogen is a name that college programs should be paying attention to for their '25 classes with a combination of tools and performance.

+ '24 LHP Taj Brar

This was my first extended look at Brar on the mound and it was a very quality look at the future Biola LHP. Working off a strong FB/CHG mix while adding in an interesting, but inconsistent (on this day at least) CB. Brar repeats his delivery well with a quick arm that shows FB velocity in the 86-86 MPH range consistently and did sneak a few 87's on the day while pairing his 76-79 MPH CHG with sink that he can get swing/miss from both RH/LH hitters with. The CB has a 1/6 shape when he executes and comes in at 69-72 MPH, but he seemed to have issues controlling the pitch on the day, not having extended experience with Brar on the mound it may just have been an issue on this day or if it's a persistent issue that needs additional development on his breaking ball. But, even with mainly the 2 pitch mix of his FB/CHG Brar went 4 2/3 innings (would leave with elbow discomfort, but remained in game as DH) with 7 punchouts allowing just 1 run in that time.

+ '24 RHP/3B  Ian Edwards

The sidewinding righthander came in out of the pen in a hurry after the quick hook for Brar with his elbow discomfort and needed just 1 pitch to retire the first hitter he saw. From there Edwards would go 2 more innings, punch out 4 Wildcat hitters, allow just 1 hit and 0 runs to secure the victory for the Indians. His release point comes below his belt just slightly, but still above the knees making him more of a sidewinder submarine arm than a true "submariner," but his 2 pitch mix is strongly effective against both RH/LH hitters. His FB comes in around 79 MPH consistently, but did catch a couple 80-81 MPH marks while pairing his sweeping type SLD at 69-71 which he was able to front hip on RH hitters to run back over the plate and back knee on LH hitters to start over the plate and run in on them. His FB features arm side run/sink that comes natural from the slot, but he displayed the ability to elevate it above the zone on a couple pitches in an attempt to get chase. It's a strictly reliever profile for Edwards, but with the difficult look and ability to get hitters out from both sides of the plate Edwards is an intriguing uncommitted arm for a program looking for arms out of a different window for their pen.

+ ‘24 C Ryan DelaMaza

DelaMaza has been a 3 look player for me seeing him twice in the winter preseason schedule for the Indians before catching this final look and in each one the bat has played at a very high level giving him true offensive potential as an uncommitted '24. There is pull side impact which he has displayed in his previous looks with a quality offensive approach that shows an accurate barrel with feel for controlling the strike zone. He is a well respected hitter by coaches across the Foothill League which was evidenced by the IBB he received in a clutch situation later in the game while he added a single and a hard F-8 in his other 2 plate appearances. The offensive profile is solid and to go with that he has consistently displayed the ability to stay behind the plate in each look with a strong feel for pitch receiving/presentation, quality blocker on balls in the dirt with enough arm strength to be a solid thrower (2.0-2.05 on his in between inning pop times with accuracy). Will be a strong late grab for 4-year program, but a guy who can make a strong impact on a JUCO program with an opportunity to raise his profile as a JUCO transfer in the future.

West Ranch:

+ ’24 LHP Jackson Banuelos CSUN Commit

I've had the chance to see Banuelos pitch 3 times over the last 1+ years of CIF-SS baseball, the first being a relief appearance in his JR. season and then an earlier spring start vs. Calabasas in which he was strong, but this look may have been the best I've had of Banuelos. While his FB doesn't light up the radar gun working mainly in the mid 80's and can bump the upper 80's he shows the feel for moving it around laterally and vertically while spinning his  CB in the 70-73 MPH range which will give you 12/6 shape & 1/7 shape and he can get swing/miss with the pitch. From there Banuelos adds in 75-78 MPH CHG which he needs to continue polishing his feel for as he heads off to Northridge if he wants to stick as a starter long term, but the FB/CB duo gives him intriguing reliever potential as a fallback option. On this day he allowed 2 runs over 6 innings while punching out 7 to take the loss, but it was a strong performance/display of his feel for pitching, competitiveness and upside at the next level. I will be intrigued to keep tabs on Banuelos once he gets to the Big West because if the velocity makes a jump during his time there the lefthander may have a future pitching in professional baseball.

+ ‘25 2B/SS Landon Hu

Hu has been a steady player in each of my multiple looks at him both offensively and defensively. He has moved to 2B this year after playing SS as a Soph. and shows the ability to potentially play either spot although his arm presently looks better at 2B he is solid defender that will stick up the middle as he goes forward. Hu is a switch hitter, but I personally like the LH swing better than the RH swing he tends to show better rhythm, looser path, more consistent barrel accuracy and generally a more consistent approach for me from the LH side. Some of the difference in the hit tool/swing from the LH side to the RH side could be a lower amount of game at bats from the RH side. He had 2 RH at bats on the day without collecting a hard hit ball and then came up from the LH side later in the game where he took a pair of good swings and drove a ball to LF for an out. Hu is an excellent student with a good offensive profile and up the middle defense that should be attracting attention from strong academic schools looking for a profile similar to what Hu presents as an uncommitted '25.

+ ‘25 C Nolan Stoll Stanford Commit

One of the best parts of seeing teams multiple times over the course of the winter/spring schedule is getting a deeper feel for certain players and Stoll is one of those players for me. I've been a fan of his frame, swing path and projection since I first saw him DH'ing during the 2024 HS season and now all of the intriguing tools that I like about him are playing in game for me with this being my best personal live look at Stoll. He looked strong behind the dish receiving the FB/CB mix from Banuelos with quiet actions, quality blocks on balls in the dirt, threw out a runner stealing second on a 2.02 pop while picking up 3 singles (2 quality and 1 a hard hopper of the pitcher which deflected for a hit) to lead the Wildcats offensive efforts. Stoll continues to take steps forward for me in each look and intrigued to see how he continues to develop/improve over the next year or so in advance of his time to head off to college.

Rio Mesa:

+ ’26 1B/OF Alec Fontyn

Fontyn continues to develop and improve since I first saw him on opening day of the 2023 High School season when he manned 1B as a FR. for the Spartans while hitting in the middle of their order. I've been a fan of his swing, balance in the box, feel for controlling the strike zone since the first look, but wanted to see him improve his rhythm/timing to give me a better feel for the contact quality. This look finally gave me a chance to see him catch a pair of balls with clean contact. Worked a 9+ pitch at bat in his first appearance that resulted in a K while seeing predominanly breaking balls from the Yellowjackets starter and spoiling several 2K pitches before being retired. He then would get to a 2K count in his next appearance before staying on a FB to drive it to RF for single and finally he caught an elevated breaking ball in his 3rd appearance for a hard out to CF. The ball comes of the bat with some authority to it and he showed a quality middle of the field approach as he continues to develop his approach/timing there is power that should come from him more consistently in the future. A solid athlete who moves around well at 1B with a good glove, footwork around the bag and fielding GBs that he can be an above average defender, but there is enough athletic ability that I could see him potentially be able to play an OF corner in the future. Fontyn has taken a step forward for me this year as a '26 offensive profile player and look forward to continuing to see more of him over the upcoming years.

+ ‘24 C Mario Franco Ventura College Commit

Franco committed to Ventura College within a few days of my look at him and the backstop will give the Pirates a strong defender coming into their program at a premium defensive spot. I saw him early in the spring play 3B, but his profile is stronger behind the dish where he receives well with a smooth glove and feel to present pitches effectively while being a solid blocker (although could polish his agility to take the next step on blocking) with a decent arm that showed me consistent 2.0-2.05 pop times between innings with accuracy to the bag. His offensive profile is tailored towards contact with a middle of the diamond approach and line drive path which will add length to a lineup at the next level. Franco is a solid piece headed to the Pirate program.

+ ‘25 MINF Damien Valdez

This was my 3rd look at Valdez he was full time starter as a sophomore for the Spartans at 2B and then saw him briefly (was nursing a sore leg) in my first look at Rio Mesa this spring before getting a full look at him this game. He shows the ability to be a solid defender at 2B where he moves well with ability to play laterally/downhill with comfort, his glove is solid and soft, while showing plenty of arm for the spot. A quality defender who can play 2B with enough arm strength and ability to potentially hold down 3B in the future. At the plate Valdez continued to hit the ball hard for me with 3 barrels including a single staying to his middle of the field approach with the ability to drive a baseball to RCF with leverage and I've seen glimpses of the bat speed and path to tap into some HR power to the pull side. Valdez will profile more as a high contact hitter with some sneaky pop who can play solid defense on the infield dirt for college programs to keep tabs on this summer into his SR. year.

+ ‘24 SS Hunter Cervantes

Cervantes continued to grow on me with this second look at him. He isn't a flashy defender at SS, but he is more than compotent enough with his actions, glove work, and arm to hold down the SS at the next level and would be an impactful 2B defender if he had to make a move off the spot. He has made every play he has been presented in my 2 game look at him this spring and takes a clean INF/OF with consistent actions between innings. Right now Cervantes is stronger with his glove and will be a solid JUCO addition with his ability to defend, but there is an interesting offensive profile here, as well. The swing is short/direct to the ball with a flatter path that will keep the ball on a line/ground ball plane consistently which suits his profile, but should he add some additional strength to his frame by pursuing JUCO  baseball there is enough potential to add doubles power consistently while being a solid high contact hitter in the future. Currently uncommitted Cervantes is a good JUCO land for his glove at a premium spot and brings offensive potential.

+ ‘24 OF/RHP Austin DeMello

DeMello opened my eyes during my first look at Rio Mesa this spring and while this overall wasn't his best game of the year he showed the ability to adjust his offensive approach over the course of the game to collect a big hit for the Spartans. Facing predominantly spin from the Yellowjackets starter DeMello who hits in the three hole was out front on a pair of outs in his first two at bats lifting a fly ball down the LF line and popping up another in his second appearance. In his 3rd at bat he was able to hold his hands back and inside out a pitch down the RF line for a triple which showed off his offensive adjustability and athletic ability. 


+ ’24 C Jacob Stringer 

Stringer is a physically well built offensive profile player who I've seen play both 3B and Catcher this spring. In my first look at Stringer he played 3B at a solid level and then in this game he was behind the plate where he is a solid receiver who shows good feel for what he is doing back there with the glove and shows an acumen for blocking although he can soften his technique to better keep the ball close when he blocks which can come with continued development back there. He has arm strength and the ball carries well out of his hand to 2B with consistency around the bag, but the transfer/release can be cleaner to help his arm strength play better better (consistent 2.05-2.15 pop times, but arm strength shows potential for better).  Where Stringer stands out presently is for his work in the RH batters box with plenty of strength in his swing to drive the baseball with authority (5 HR's this spring) and has consistently hit the ball hard for me in a pair of looks at him including a single in this game. He is has shown the feel to hit this spring although the power profile might be slighlty higher than the pure hit ability for me personally his combination of physicality with lift in his bat path profiles as a middle of the order (4-6 range) impact hitter. Currently uncommitted I would be intrigued to see Stringer go to a JUCO for the next 2 years and polish his overall skill set offensively/defensively into a strong transfer candidate.

+ ‘25 SS/RHP Carlos Rodriguez

I saw Rodriguez in my first look at Oxnard play a solid SS with good actions in his feet/hands, but his arm presently might be stretched at SS, although there is time for him to add strength in his frame and arm to stay there in the future. On this day he started for the Yellowjackets on the bump and spun a solid start (I did not collect video on him pitching) with a low 80's FB, high 60's SLURVE and mid 70's CHG he is athletic enough to pitch, but I like him better for his position profile. The swing has some looseness/whip to the path in which he lets his hands work to deliver the barrel. He collected a pull side single and then a 2K grounder to SS in his two plate appearances, but showed feel for his bat to ball (no swing/miss in 7+ swings) and with continued development to his rhythm/timing looks to be a solid hitter with high contact and an up the middle defensive profile while adding the layer of pitching as a possibility. Will need to add a decent amount of strength to his lean wiry frame over the coming year or so to help himself reach his full potential, but the foundation is present with Rodriguez.

+ ‘27 OF Gavin Ramos

This was my first look at Ramos the FR. OF who has seen a significant amount of playing time this year on the varsity level for Oxnard, which tends to be a good sign with the program at Oxnard as their long time head coach likes to get his best players on varsity early and let them play significantly early. Ramos flashed an interesting potential with an early 2K double in which he took several good swings (fouling balls off) before catching a ball out front with impact to drive it into the LCF gap with for an easy double (he was wheeled to third by the Yellowjackets 3B coach, but the Spartans executed an outstanding relay to nab him). He starts with the bat rested on his shoulder and shows an early foot land with minimal hand load that allows him to compact/direct with his path and has solid strenght for a FR. to drive the ball which all caught my eye. As tantalizing as the positives were for me on Ramos he did show some youth in his approach/timing in his following at bats facing more advanced pitching. He took good swings and showed the balance in his lower 1/2, but will need to refine his load and rhythm/timing over the coming years to handle the more advanced pitching at the varsity level & potentially the college level. He moves well in the OF presently playing LF with solid running actions and comfort going to his right to catch a soft flyball and coming in on the ball that could see a future in CF for him (present starter is a JR. at Oxnard). Overall, Ramos is name for me to file away in the '27 class and keep eyes on here in the VTA county area over the coming years.

Names To Know:

In a one day look not all highlights are caught or players won’t always have their best results. With that in mind there were several other players who showed interesting tools/potential or futures. The names below are ones to keep an eye on going into the spring and going forward. Each player below is uncommitted for college coaches to put on their board for potential needs in the ‘24 or ‘25 class.


+ '24 SS Brayden Jefferis Michigan Commit

+ '25 C/DH Brady Werther

+ '25 OF Lincoln Daly

+ '24 1B Eddie Gutierrez (3 hits including a HR)

+ '26 OF/LHP Hayden Rhodes

West Ranch:

+ '26 SS Ty Diaz

+ '24 3B Brett Ishikawa

+ '25 RHP/1B Hunter Manning

+ '25 OF Mikey Murr

+ '25 OF Ryan Oh LMU commit

Rio Mesa:

+ '24 RHP/INF Gavin Samora Ventura College Commit

+ '24 LHP Jacob Roa


+ '25 1B/OF/C Cooper Moreau