The Napa High baseball team has enough seniors to field a full starting lineup, but only six underclassmen. Head coach Todd Pridy said it’s the smallest team he’s had in his 16 years at the helm.
“We’ve got some young guys who are going to need to learn from these older guys to carry that torch for next year,” he said.
But this season is going quite well so far. The Indians are 4-2 and will take a three-game win streak into Monday’s home showdown against Placer County power Oakmont at Mount Field.
The seniors are led by third-year varsity players Caden Cortese and Jason Pridy, but most of them grew up playing together.
“I’ve been coaching the vast majority of them since they were 10 because they’re in Jason’s class,” Coach Pridy said of his son. “Whether they were up as sophomores or not, they’re still 17- or 18-year-old men and we’ve been teaching them the same stuff since they were little. It’s just that now it’s finally able to pop a little bit. Kinda like what happened with Caden last year.”
Cortese led the 2017 squad with a .403 batting average and was third with 17 RBIs behind Felipe Gonzalez and Tito Fuentes, who are now playing for Napa Valley College and Sonoma State, respectively.
“Caden’s body finally popped and he was in complete control of what he wanted to do (at the plate),” Pridy said. “That’s exciting to see and it’s starting to happen (with other players) a little bit.”
The other seniors are James Palm, Colton Maher, Zach Materne, Brandon Herter, Charles Gravett, Nathan Jessell and Andrew Raymond.
The juniors are Sean Lowe, Cole Kipsey, Nathan Avila and Louis O’Brien, and the sophomores are Trent Maher and Omar Gonzalez.
The Indians don’t have any home runs or triples yet, but do have eight doubles – some of them very hard off the fence.
Raymond could eventually prove to be the main starter, but for now the young Gonzalez leads the team with 11 1/3 innings on the mound.
“I don’t know who will be the ace, but the guy who has stepped up and been the most effective to this point has been Omar, and the numbers bear it out,” Coach Pridy said. “But we know what Charles is capable of; he took over as No. 2 guy behind Felipe last year. Andrew is bigger and stronger and wants to pitch in college, so he should be dialing in. But I want competition for those two league starters, and Omar has been kicking up the dust, which I love.”
The Indians went into Friday’s Monticello Empire League home match against Rodriguez with a 2-1 league record after falling 9-6 to defending MEL champion Davis on Feb. 28 and beating Wood 14-1 on March 2 and Armijo 8-7 on Wednesday.
They have has eight seniors, seven juniors, a whopping 21 sophomores and six freshmen.
Napa High academic counselor Mayra Becerra first coached the Indians in 2011 before getting transferred to American Canyon, but came back and is now her fourth straight season at the helm.
She said her job counseling sophomores may have something to do with the fact she had a whopping 56 players try out for the sport.
“I think word is getting around, and I think what helps is that I’m a counselor on campus and I’ve been talking to students about the sport and telling them to come to tryouts,” Becerra said. “The hard part for me was I had to cut two of my students and I’m their counselor. But as a coach, you have to think about what your responsibilities are as a coach, so I had to take off the counselor hat and put on my coaching hat.”
Although only girls can play on the ladder in the Sac-Joaquin Section, Napa has three boys – two sophomores and a freshman – on the team. They are playing exhibition doubles matches in preparation for Napa High’s move into the North Coast Section and coed badminton next year.
Playing in the No. 1 through No. 8 spots on Napa’s singles ladder against Armijo, respectively, were senior Chelsea Pascual, junior Dulce Chocooj, junior Emily Chapman, senior Vanessa Garcia, senior Mindy Rojas, sophomore Lucero Alvarez, sophomore Elina Chapouris and sophomore Jacqueline Perez.
Chocooj and Pascual teamed up at No. 1 doubles, followed by Garcia and Rojas at No. 2 doubles, junior Alexandria Martinez and Chapman at No. 3 doubles, sophomore Bella Pineda and Chapouris at No. 4 doubles, senior Maya Cisneros and sophomore Cynthia Ruiz at No. 5 doubles, seniors Yulissa Zambrano and Anahi Tovar at No. 6 doubles, and sophomore Rubi Gaspar and Alvarez at No. 7 doubles.
Partnering up in exhibition doubles against Armijo were sophomore Kelly Eslava and Jacqueline Perez, senior Stephanie Bautista and sophomore Michelle Aguayo, senior Alejandra Carrillo and sophomore Loraine Sepulona, sophomores Alondra Perez and Alma Hernandez, sophomores Alejandra Morales and Lucielo Guia Flores, sophomores Yliana Perez and Jennifer Martinez, sophomores Paulina Calderon and Sofia Juarez, juniors Yanelly Hernandez and Gaby Meza, freshmen Stephanie Gonzalez and Ashley Granados, sophomore Michelle Leon and freshman Dulce Leon, junior Paola Torres and freshman Lizbeth Valdez, junior Daniela Cervantes and freshman Katherine Tren, freshman Gilberto Cortes and Gonzalez, and sophomores Alfredo Alcantar and Elai Murillo. Sophomore Monica Rodriguez rounds out the roster.
“We’re doing really good so far,” Becerra said. “Losing only 9-6 to Davis was really good for us. It gave us a really good boost of confidence that we’re strong this year and we’re just starting so we’re pushing ourselves to work harder to really work for it.
“I have four seniors that have been playing for four years, and they have all gone to the MEL Tournament at the end of the year because they have just gotten better and better each year. My No. 1 doubles want to go as singles this year. Two or three other seniors have been playing for three years. So far it’s looking very positive for us.”
The team got jerseys through the booster club last year and now also have team jackets they have paid for.
“It’s a fun sport that didn’t have a reputation when I inherited it. Now the girls walk around and you see how much they own their title as badminton players on campus,” Becerra said. “Even the Spiritleaders make posters and balloons now because it’s just like any other competitive sport at Napa High School, and it’s good to bring another competitive sport to the public eye.”
Having never played the sport, Becerra calls herself the “life coach” and relies on assistant coaches Alexa “Lex” Suaiso and Rick Paniagua to teach technique and strategy.
“Lex played for Vallejo High and Rick runs the open gym for the city of Napa, and they have years of experience playing it,” she said. “The girls are obviosity getting better because of them, not me. They can look at them and know how to tweak their racket or posture or positioning.”
The Indians return seniors Peyton Mott, Katie O’Donnell and Brianna Bowers, juniors Jenna Baker, Haylee Giarritta, Lindsey Lehman, Kimmie Walston and McKenna Walls, and sophomores Abby Arata and Grace Guzman. Moving from the JV up to the varsity for the playoffs last year were juniors Gwen Hautala and Drew Somogyi and sophomore Mila Valentine.
But head coach Tammie Mansuy is not back, after guiding them to the first softball section title in school history.
Mansuy, who was the Indians’ fourth head coach in four years, stepped down on Feb. 27 and sent the Register following statement:
“It has been an absolute pleasure to be on the field with these athletes. This team has so much talent and I want to see Napa High softball win another section championship. While I hope to see them win, unfortunately, due to personal reasons, I have chosen to resign as the NHS softball coach. I am very proud of the accomplishments that this team made in the last year, culminating with the first ever CIF section championship for Napa High girls softball team. I wish the girls all the best in their season.”
After a week of having its first six games rained out or canceled, Napa got a new head coach on Tuesday – sort of. Ron Walston, who guided the Indians to a fourth-place finish in the MEL in 2016 as head coach, is back at the helm. He also assisted John O’Connor in 2012 and Karen Yoder in 2015.
Though he didn’t coach the Indians last year, Walston watched the magical season of his daughter’s team from the bleachers. Last fall, he helped Dixon High varsity head coach and friend Matt Boykin coach the Dixon-based All-American Sports Academy’s 12-and-under team. Walston also coached Napa Valley Express travel ball for years. He is assisted on the varsity by Randi Golding, who coached the JV the last two years and her father, Dave Golding. The new JV staff is Pat O’Brien and her daughter, Emma Foote.
“Except for two players,” he said of the varsity Indians, “I’ve coached them all in travel ball, so I’ve known them since they were little girls. They’re good kids, and that made it easy to come back out here because they just pick up and take off. There are things I see that they need to tighten up a little bit, but that’s it.”
Baker will be backed up in the pitching circle once again by Kimmie Walston.
“Jenna’s come a long way,” Coach Walston said. “She’s got a lot of movement on her pitches now and her speed’s increased, too. Kimberly had a little arm trouble in the fall., she got some time off and physical therapy, so her arm’s fine now. It might be tough at first for them, but we’ll probably split time for a few games until they both get a little stronger.”
With Armijo coming to town for their MEL opener on Wednesday, Walston hopes to make up for the short preseason by scheduling tough competition at the Napa Easter Tournament. He hopes teams will want to be willing to play his defending section champs despite the short notice.
“It was a good year. They turned it on at the right time, that’s for sure,” Walston said of the 2017 squad. “Was I surprised they won? No. Surprised that they did it last year? Yes, because most of them were sophomores. I knew they had it in them. It was exciting – nerve-wracking. I’m sure we (parents) were more nervous than they were. I think that took care of a lot of that (any lack of confidence).
“I just hope they play within themselves (this season), and play to their ability and not let down.”
The Indians (4-0, 2-0 MEL) were third two years ago and second last year, so they now have the MEL title in their sights.
“I would classify them confident, but knowledgeable that there is still a lot of golf to be played and that this will be a close, three-team race this year,” longtime head coach Cory Roche said. “My job will be to reinforce ‘one match at a time, one shot at a time’ because that will be what it takes. The skills are there. The confidence is getting there.
“This team is their own worst critic. They are harder on themselves than I ever would want to be. The schedule has allowed us to build some confidence, though, and I am confident in their chances moving into the league schedule.”
Stephen Blume, Andrew Wheeler and AJ Greenlaw are in their third years on the starting ladder, and Parker de Ocampo and Zach Swim in their second years. Max Olsen and Johnny Torres round out the squad.
“All my top six players have been able to gain a lot of experience these last two or three years,” Roche said. “We are the most experienced team, top to bottom, of all the MEL teams.”
Blume and Swim are also basketball standouts, and Blume has been to the subsection tournament twice.
“You see the difference playing varsity basketball makes for Stephen and Zach,” the coach said. “It’s a different level of pressure playing in front of a gym full of people and needing to make that last-second shot, as opposed to the golf match environment.”
The Indians were undefeated last year until they fell to Folsom in the section quarterfinals, but several key players are back. They include senior Daniel Mateescu, who reached the Division I section singles semifinals the last two seasons, and sophomore Ashur Webster.
Other singles players are Victor Lua, Daniel DiPascua, Eric Navarro and Beau Parriott, while the doubles teams are Julian Sosa and Daniel Sandoval, Jonas Kreer and Isaiah Orozco, Luc Core and David Silva.
Track and Field
Several Indians made noise in the postseason last year, such as Garrett Lustig, who reached the Masters Meet finals in the 400 with a personal record of 48.64 seconds in the Masters trials.
Senior thrower Jared Kenney won the MEL discus title with a throw of 141-0 last year, junior Mia Oggenfuss tied for sixth in the section at 5-2 in the high jump, and junior Jane McLoughlin finished eighth in section in the 800 after running a PR of 2:17.20 in the Masters trials.
Head coach Kevin Raab has several standout players from his water polo teams on this year’s team.
The girls squad is made up of Angelina Adams, Portia Angelo, Gloria Alvarez-Ortiz, Esther Barreda, Sofia Brandon, Abby Brooks, Aspen Dikeman, Shai’Don Dupris, Emily Dusky, Grace Felder, Guila Francescetti, Lupida Garcia, Alice Graham, Emily Heron, Meena Khan, Grace King, Tyler Lu, Maia Manzagol, Violet McCaffrey-Pecher, Anna Miller, Camile Novak, Fatima Nunez, Audrey Palmer, Emma Sarazin, Rachel Seibert, Kiana Stanger, Honor Steffan, Emily Thompson, Emma Wallenbrock and Mara Zuidema.
The boys squad includes Max Alfaro, William Barsotti-Flanders, Lucas Brandon, Cole Brown, Gabe Cepoi, Keoni Cisco, Nicholas Cisco, Connor Flynn, Luke Gallenkamp, Rafael Genty, Cole Hafenstein, Joe Hallinan, Kadel Hock, Ryan McCall, Will McGloughlin, Barrett McMichael, Jake O’Connor, Aidan Ramblas, Bill Tamburelli and Garrett Wachendorfer.