Updated: Apr 17
by Diego Perez-Torres
With Winter sports wrapping up their seasons soon, that can only mean one thing: the 2023 baseball season is upon us. And the Columbus Explores look to surpass the outcome of last season, and win the third state championship in team history.
After a very eventful offseason filled with many tournaments in and out of Florida, countless practices and numerous weight-lifting sessions, the Explorers are ready to take on this new season. The Explorers may have some weak points in their team but their experience will certainly not be a weakness. The Explorers have five senior starters as of right now in their starting lineup and Coach Joe Weber leading the team coming into his 26th year as the head coach of the Explorers. With most of the players in the lineup having varsity experience, the players are set to be comfortable in big situations.
This team is also more of a hitting team rather than a pitching team, or as Coach Weber described them as a "Gap to Gap" team, with key pieces in the lineup like Luis Miguel '23, Franklin Francisco '24, Zahir Barjam '25 and Carlos Jacome '23. Hitters like these allow the rest of the lineup to thrive and give support to their pitching staff. One of the vital parts of this lineup is Jacome, who was described by Coach Weber as the "energizer," who could steal bases and cause havoc on base paths.
But the strongest part of the lineup is the Explorer's defense. Coach Weber lauded some of his defensive key pieces. Weber discussed third baseman Julian Gonzalez with great praise. “I don't remember him making an error last year." He also said senior Luis Miguel is “one of the best defensive first basemen we have ever had,” and commended Division 1 commit Carlos Jacome as being a leader on the defense. And one last piece to this defensive lineup is the guy behind the dish: Santiago Carriles, who Coach Weber said, “ He will make it very difficult to steal against us."
With a defense like this to back the Explorers hitting and pitching, teams can find themselves in serious holes against the Explorers. Coach Weber didn't shy away from complimenting the defense.
“I think our defense is the strongest part of our team," Coach Weber said.
When asked about the team, Coach Weber didn't shy away from the weak point of the team as the pitching. With a tough injury to the team's ace, Coach Weber will have to depend on players like Nick Zarranz, who posted a 1.65 ERA last season over 29.2 innings pitched, and sophomore Mathew Rios who posted a 2.63 ERA over 8.0 innings pitched as a freshman. Additionally, Coach Weber says that they will pitch third basemen, Gonzalez, once a week, which will be very exciting to see.
Starting catcher and one of the team captains, Santiago Carriles is ready for the season to begin.
"I'm excited to get out there with my guys for one last season and show every team in the state what our team really is about and why we're gonna win a championship."
When asked about what sets his team apart from other teams, he said, "One thing that helps us a lot on the field is that most of us have been playing together since 8th grade in Web Ball and it has helped us form great team chemistry."
Web Ball is a program for young baseball players with hopes of playing at CCHS train on the campus starting before starting high school.
But the Explorers do have their work cut out for them with very tough opponents to face this year on their road to a state championship such as Braddock, Southwest and the number one team in the country, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Marjory Stoneman Douglas is vying to win back-to-back state championships. With teams like these in their path, the Explores will have to show early on in their season that they are true contenders.
Though one game that the Explorers fanbase always looks forward to is the "Be the Light" game that is played in Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field on the campus of the University of Miami. They will also be facing a very solid team in Westminster. When these two teams last faced off it was described by many as a "great game" for the Explorers despite the score being a 9-1 blowout. In that game, Federico Zapata '22 threw a complete-game three-hitter. Zapata's game included making current Cincinnati Reds prospect Sal Stewart, Jr. hit 0-2 with a strikeout.
As the Explorers kick off their season on Feb. 14 with a preseason game against True North, the baseball community and the Columbus fanbase will have their eyes on this program and hopefully, Columbus can show what they are really made of and prove the doubters wrong to win their first state championship since 2015.