Prep Sports

Roosevelt Rough Riders off to a smooth start

Eastern League baseball play is underway, but it is already looking like 2015 will be a memorable year for Roosevelt High School.

At 12-3, the Rough Riders are off to their best start in 10 years and the best in coach Ray Ruiz’ six seasons at the school.

“It’s nice to finally get off to a good start and hopefully we can keep it going,” Ruiz said. “But what’s really great is that the kids have bought into what we’re trying to do to be successful.”

With victories against Huntington Park (13-1), Jordan (18-0) and South Gate (6-2), Roosevelt is 3-0 in league, but the Rough Riders most impressive wins have been in tournament games.

They defeated Wilson (5-1), Sylmar (8-1), Kennedy (4-1) and Poly (3-0) to win the season-opening Poly Tournament.

In the Southern California Invitational, Roosevelt scored victories against Verdugo Hills (10-5), North Hollywood (4-2) and University (4-0). The Rough Riders were beaten by St. Bonaventure, 3-0 and will play Palisades in a rescheduled game April 15 at East Los Angeles College.

The Rough Riders’ resume includes a 3-1 nonleague win March 16 at Cleveland.

“It’s still early, but the kids can take pride by saying they played a good nonleague schedule,” said Ruiz, who arranged for the schedule to include a number of San Fernando Valley schools.

“The road to a City title goes through the Valley and the schedule has helped us get ready for league,” Ruiz said.

Pitchers Robert Contreras and Sergio Valenzuela have been the key to the Rough Riders’ success.

“Our pitching has allowed us to have this great start, and the kids take the field knowing that we have strong enough pitching to keep us in every game,” Ruiz said.

Contreras, Valenzuela and Kenny Gallegos, the designated Saturday tournament pitcher, have allowed only 28 runs in 15 games.

Good leadership has been another key, especially with senior shortstop Jose Jimenez leading the way.

“He’s really good defensively and he’s like a coach out there because he knows that our pitching will continue to be strong if we make plays behind our pitchers,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz has been impressed with steadily improving play of senior catcher Edgar Enriquez. “He’s gotten better every game to the point where our pitchers can throw any pitch at any time, and he’s really improved at throwing runners out,” Ruiz said.

Freshman first baseman Salvador Zepeda continues to develop and will become an impact player once he gets comfortable playing at the varsity level, Ruiz said.

The Rough Riders are spending the first part of spring break this week playing in the Lions Tournament in San Diego. They lost Monday’s opener to St. Paul, 4-1.

Roosevelt is also competing in the San Fernando Tournament. The Rough Riders dropped the first game to Birmingham, 4-3 Saturday at ELAC. The defending City Section champions took advantage of an error to score the tying and winning runs in the seventh to win the game.

The Rough Riders have games upcoming versus Carson (April 11), Westchester (April 18) and Banning (April 25).

“The San Fernando Tournament is going to be a big test for us,” Ruiz said. “Those teams are all very competitive and will most likely make the playoffs.”

Besides facing quality competition in the tournaments, the Rough Riders have played most of their games on well maintained or state-of-the-art fields, including nine games on the artificial FieldTurf at ELAC.

The ELAC field is a much better alternative to the all-dirt infield and uneven playing field at Evergreen Recreation Center in Boyle Heights, where Roosevelt plays its home games.

The Rough Riders will return to ELAC to play archrival Garfield at 6 p.m. April 8.