Ron Scott calls it one of the toughest nonconference schedules he's seen during his coaching career at Fresno City.
Right out of the gate, the preseason NorCal top-ranked Rams open against SoCal No. 3 Riverside at 5 p.m. Tuesday at John Euless Ballpark.
The nonconference schedule also includes trips to NorCal No. 3 Santa Rosa, Riverside and the Allan Hancock tournament that will pit the Rams against SoCal No. 1 Cypress.
Fresno City will also host No. 11 Sacramento City and No. 6 Chabot.
"We always play the best teams we can possibly play outside of our league," said Scott, entering his 26th season as Rams coach. "You're going to read about them all year -- and rather than read about them, we'd rather know what they're like. We want our kids to see what it's like to play against tough competition."
Rams ace Dominic Topoozian will start Tuesday's game. The preseason All-American went 6-3 with a 2.03 ERA in 102 innings last season with 94 strikeouts and was named Central Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year.
Scott said he hasn't set a pitching rotation but has depth that includes right-hander Connor Brogdon, the former Liberty-Madera Ranchos High standout who was taken in the 40th round by the Atlanta Braves last season. Brogdon initially signed to play at Fresno State.
Fresno City is coming off a 28-12 season, going 20-4 in Central Valley Conference play to clinch the league title. But the Rams had trouble on defense all season, committing 87 errors including three in a season-ending, 6-2 loss to Sierra in a NorCal Super Regional.
Scott said improving his team's defense is a priority this spring, and the Rams have shored up their roster with Fresno State transfer second baseman Shota Runge (Buchanan), Gonzaga transfer shortstop Scott Silva (Clovis West) and third baseman Preston Scott, who played for College of the Sequoias last season.
Preseason All-American Ryne Dean returns at first base after hitting .304 with five home runs and a team-high 43 RBIs a year ago.
Returners Justin Flores and Anthony Hawkins will rotate at left field and the other will be the designated hitter. Hawkins batted .356 with 28 RBIs and a team-high six home runs, while Flores, another preseason All-American, hit .331 with 37 RBIs.
Center fielder Daniel Gardner and right fielder Christian Parra round out the outfield while Gabe Perez will be start at catcher.
"That's one of our best defensive teams we've thrown out there on the field for many, many years," Scott said. "We were allergic to the ball last year on defense. We're excited about our defense and the fact that there is a quality player at every position."
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