Coach Dean Welch and his Ramona High School varsity baseball staff have established a tradition of excellence in the Valley League. The Bulldogs have won the league three of past four seasons and finished second by a game in their non-championship campaign.
Last season, the Dawgs went 10-2 in the Valley League to take the championship. They finished the season with a 24-8 record and made it to the semifinals in the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) playoffs.
The 2009 Bulldogs return seven lettermen from the 2008 squad. The most notable is senior Alex Muren, who is entering his fourth varsity campaign.
Muren led the team in hitting with a .455 batting average. He also saw limited action on the mound. He will be depended upon heavily as a pitcher this season.
Muren was first team All Valley League, second team North County and second team All CIF last season. He has already been selected first team on the pre-season Louisville Slugger All American Team.
Three other seniors are on this year’s squad. Ian Hunt will return at third base. Hunt hit .286 with a home run and seven RBIs.
Mike Studley is back as an infielder and a pitcher. Studley hit .211 last season and did not get a decision on the mound.
Infielder Luke Napier will be playing his first year on the varsity.
Eight juniors made the roster. Four are returning lettermen. Brady Wilson was an honorable selection on the All Valley League at second base last season. Wilson hit .283.
Alex “Smiley” Willeford played third base last season but is listed as a catcher this season. He hit .244 with three home runs and led the team in RBIs with 26.
Southpaw pitcher Cody Willingham was 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA. Erik Ernst is back for his third varsity season and is listed as a pitcher and an outfielder. He hit .140 last season and saw limited action on the bump.
Kyle Gray (of/1b), Rocco Hemphill (p), James Nicholson (1b/p) and Kyle Snyder (p) are all up from the junior varsity.
Sophomore Blake Drake is a returning letterman who hit .319 as a freshman.
Freshman Jackson Willeford has made the team as a utility player and a hitter.
“Jackson may see action all over the field,” said Welch.
Everyone involved with the team is excited to get the season under way, said Welch.
“We expect big things from this year’s squad,” he said. “Our offense is much improved over the last season. A lot of guys got experience on a great club last season, so they know what it takes to win.
“Pitching is crucial and we have to avoid injuries. If it all falls into place, hopefully we’ll be right there in the end.”
Assistant coaches are Chuck Welch, Bob Snelling and Josh Lohman.