Having 10 seniors last year, several of them in the third or fourth varsity seasons, didn’t help the American Canyon High baseball squad get back to the playoffs.
This year, head coach Matt Brown will see if the other way works.
The Wolves have just four seniors in 2018 – third-year varsity player Freddy Tenbrink and second-year varsity guys Gustavo Ramirez, Liam Miller and Noah Myer. They also have two juniors with a lot of varsity experience – Elijah DeGuzman and Cameron Peters.
But the key, head coach Matt Brown said, will be how the other five juniors, three sophomores and freshman keep pace in their first varsity seasons in the tough Solano County Athletic Conference.
“We made some changes in our program and the transition was a little difficult for the seniors last year,” he said. “But the younger guys really took to it, and our JV played really well last year (going 12-3 in the SCAC), so now we have those kids up here and it’s just a matter of getting them used to the speed of varsity baseball. Once that clicks, I think we’ll be all right.”
Junior pitchers Nathan Banks – the Most Valuable Player of the SCAC in water polo last fall – and Andy Pitt led the JV with 39 innings pitched last season. The top five hitters in the JV last year included current juniors Nicholas Seah and Matthew Zollinger and sophomores Nate Countouriotis and Jimmy Larson, and junior Caleb Vallejo had the JV team’s only home run of the season.
But sophomore Victor Vega currently leads the Wolves in batting average, and freshman Jordan Fisher is one of only two left-handed pitchers on the team – along with Larson – and its only left-handed hitter.
The Wolves have had an up-and-down preseason. After getting perfect-gamed by Miramonte in their opener, they were competitive in a 5-1 loss to Vintage, battled Armijo to a 3-3 tie in eight innings, then got shut out again, 11-0 by Brown’s Napa High alma mater on March 8.
Seah, Vega, Tenbrink and Larson accounted for the Wolves’ four singles against Napa.
“We’re super young and our inexperience shows,” Brown said after the Vintage loss, “but today’s game was closer than the score would indicate. Even the game on (Feb. 26), even though the box scores was obviously heavily in Miramonte’s favor, there were a few miscues and we walked too many people. Our pitching was much better today, so that’s a plus, and the bats are starting to come around. The kids have energy, but it might take them a little longer to get going. We’re aware of it and we’re embracing it.
“One thing we talked about after (the perfect game) was that it would be a tragedy if we had just played our best game and only gotten worse from there. But we have to build … on our pitching and have better bats. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
With Tuesday’s game at Sonoma Valley rained out, and Thursday’s at Ygnacio Valley not looking good, American Canyon may have to take its 0-3-1 record into its SCAC opener against visiting Benicia on March 20.
“It would have been nice to play three more innings against Vintage. We had gotten over the barrier. We weren’t shut out and the kids were ready to get rolling,” Brown said. “But the real challenge will be keeping their mindset right and keeping that hunger alive throughout the rain, the postponed games and all that.”