Santa Cruz Valley Union baseball

Armani Lucio delivers a pitch Feb. 26 against Coolidge.

ELOY — It was not too long ago that the Santa Cruz baseball team experienced some postseason glory. It’s been a disappointing few seasons since then, but with a much more experienced team, they hope to turn that around quick.

Having lost only one player, the Dust Devils expect to show a lot of improvement on their 5-13 record from a year ago. That might already be showing itself. Santa Cruz has started the regular season with a 1-2 record, but during the Joe Padilla Tournament last weekend, it defeated host Florence 5-1 after losing both games to them the previous season.

“They got more experience,” said Santa Cruz head coach Oscar Porras. “They’ll be more fun to watch, because now they have a better handle on other guys’ pitch times and what to expect.”

The Dust Devils are already battling multiple injuries on the mound, and that is putting a dent into a rotation that was already lacking depth. Armani Lucio, Roman Belloc and Jacob Porras are taking on a lot of that load, but the team wants to see more kids step up.

The offense is expected to be led by Sias Lopez, a center fielder who Porras called a “bomber.” He is one of several juniors who have taken on leadership roles, an encouraging sign for the next couple of years.

But the Dust Devils don’t want to wait until next year for the growth to show itself. They have their eyes set on a region title this season in order to make a return to the state playoffs for the first time since reaching the quarterfinals in 2016.

“Last year we pretty much just had sophomores and freshmen,” Porras said. “So I’m excited what they can do this year.”

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