By: Anthony Paoli, Staff Writer
After what was supposed to be a team in contention for a CCS championship, Leigh varsity baseball was sent home last season after getting knocked out in the first round of CCS against Saratoga. Following the disappointing season, Leigh felt like it was time for a change in hopes to avoid a repeat in the upcoming season. Head coach Kraig Constantino was terminated as well as assistant coaches Jason O’Brian and Shane Billings.
The Leigh athletic department wanted to make sure they took their time during the hiring process, evaluating all their options and ultimately hiring the best possible coach to run the baseball program. In the beginning of December, it was announced that former professional baseball player Eric Pini would become the head coach of the Leigh Varsity Baseball team.
Pini grew up in Sunnyvale where he went to St. Francis high school and played varsity baseball for two years. He then played at De Anza college from 1992-1994. Following his time at De Anza, Pini played professionally for one season in Italy for the Rimini Pirates in 2000. Pini had a 1.72 ERA as a relief pitcher for the Pirates on their way to winning the championship.
Pini began his coaching career back at his alma mater St. Francis as the freshman pitching coach, before eventually working his way up to the Varsity pitching coach in 2009. Pini led St. Francis to 3 CCS Championships in 4 years, including back to back championships in 2016 and 2017. Following success at St. Francis, Pini took a head coaching job at Homestead high school for one season, before taking the opportunity become the head coach at Leigh.
“I’m excited,” senior Max Braker said after the hiring of Pini. “Obviously last season didn’t end as we were hoping, but I think the coaches will bring a new energy to the team this season.”
As a former pitcher himself, as well as a former pitching coach, Pini will be sure to solidify the Longhorns’ strong bullpen that existed last season and will look to get the longhorns back on track starting with the 2019 season.