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Senior Day: Recognizing Napa County baseball and softball players from the Class of 2020
Senior Day: Baseball and Softball

Senior Day: Recognizing Napa County baseball and softball players from the Class of 2020

From the Senior Spotlight: A celebration of Napa County student athletes series
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With the 2019-20 school year mercifully in the books, The Register wants to give one last shout out to the athletes of the Class of 2020.

Last week we concluded our Senior Spotlight series, which highlighted some of the top senior athletes from around the county that were in line for potentially big spring seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic ended their prep careers prematurely. We thank all those student-athletes that participated in that project because we know these last three months have not been easy, having what should have been the best days of high school taken away with no say in the matter.

Though we were only able to feature a handful of seniors in our Spotlight project, we want to acknowledge all the seniors who had their spring seasons cut short.

So, over the next few days we’ll be running a new series – Senior Day, recognizing every senior in every sport from around the county.

Today we’re highlighting the Napa County seniors of baseball and softball.

Baseball

American Canyon

  • Oliver Aandahl
  • Angel Cota
  • Nate Countouriotis
  • Vance Eschenberg
  • Jimmy Larson
  • Angel Yee
  • Victor Vega

“This was really an amazing group. It might sound kind of cliché but this group, since they were freshmen, we were looking forward to having them as seniors. We have a good junior class also, to complement these seniors, and we were looking so forward to this year.

“When they were young, we kind of did an overhaul within our program and focused more on team culture than anything else, moreso than X’s and O’s and all that, and their class just bought into it so well that winning kind of became a byproduct. We won some really tough games and some games that maybe we shouldn’t have and I can’t say enough about those guys. They put their team first and they put each other first.” – American Canyon High head coach Matt Brown

Justin-Siena

  • Gabe Cornejo
  • Nolan Dunkle
  • Christian Kappler
  • Billy Katz
  • Marcus Nunes
  • James Snoke

“The Class of 2020, those guys were four-year guys. They’ve been in the program for as long as I’ve been the head coach and really, truly upped the standard of commitment, specifically in strength and conditioning. Those guys didn’t miss weights and you could see the physical build pay off. When they had opportunities to contribute, they did and they just really, really positively affected the culture of not just baseball but all the sports at Justin-Siena. A lot of those guys are multi-sports guys and they really raised the bar for what it means to be an athlete at our school. You saw this with the success the football team had and the success that we were having and had hoped to continue to do. That goes back to their commitment and their positive contributions both on and off the field.” – Justin-Siena head coach Jeremy Tayson

Napa

  • Cooper Bass
  • Travis Brayton
  • Dylan Foster
  • Omar Gonzalez
  • Joe La Liberte
  • Jacks Madigan
  • Trent Maher
  • Austin Michie
  • Nick Raymond

“One thing I will really miss about this group is their belief that they could win. We had a rough year before this one and it took a lot of soul searching to get to the point where we once again believed that winning could be a choice. I think many players go out and hope to win. This group decided to win, and it wasn’t like that the first week of practice. I think we had to prove to ourselves in practice that we had the ability, and that our work in the offseason and in the weight room could make a difference. Our practices were exemplary and you could feel the paradigm shift into, ‘OK, we know we can win now. Let’s roll.’

“It didn’t hurt that we have some young stars that are genuine winners – and the seniors accepted them pretty quickly. I give our seniors credit for that. If a young guy can play we need to be able to let him thrive where he belongs; we want to be able to promote our young stars to varsity and let them make an impact as soon as they are ready. Our seniors were very unselfish as a group and recognized that the best players at each spot should play. That’s a huge piece to a winning culture and it creates competitive, game-like practices.

“There is a maturity that happens between the junior and senior years that is hard to put into words. I think kids become more accountable for what they do when people aren’t looking. When that shifts, the shift into adulthood begins. We had a huge senior class for baseball that experienced this together.” — Napa High head coach Jason Chatham

Vintage

  • Jayge Campbell
  • Harrison Kohagura
  • Logan Lines
  • Sean Pratt
  • Justin Van Maren
  • Jake Whipple

“This group, I immediately go to fall baseball because many of them were involved with fall baseball. A lot of these guys didn’t play football so they were all out with us and we had so much fun in the fall the last few years. Fall doesn’t always translate to spring because you bring new guys in from football or water polo that weren’t involved in the fall but the last two years they had established so much fun just playing hard and competing and they really were able to bring that to this season.

“It’s kind of a mixed feeling – I’m going to miss them desperately. Things just feel so unfinished, just the way we said goodbye. We don’t even have a team photo.

“So there’s that but then overall, what they were able to accomplish and how they themselves decided to bring that culture and atmosphere they created in the fall over into the spring just made me so happy and I feel so fondly towards them because of that. I really believe that ultimately with really good teams, the players take over the culture and they run the show and if the coach is inconsequential, that means the players are doing what they’re supposed to do. I really felt that this group had taken the reigns and done that and heading that direction.

“Everyone loves to compete but they wanted to show up and have an environment on a daily basis that was competitive and fun and everyone wanted to be a part of it and that rubbed off on the juniors and sophomores that are on the team, too. This group was able to do that and create that culture so I really respect and appreciate that, but once again it’s just too bad we weren’t able to finish it out because I think good things were ahead for us.” – Vintage High head coach Rich Anderson

St. Helena

  • Caleb Jeske
  • Caleb Granados
  • Jonathan Gamble
  • Sam Coltrin
  • Jackson Dena
  • Jake Mendes

“This group was great. They got along with each other and they were supportive of each other. Sometimes you get those little rifts and some friction – we didn’t have that this year, and I think that was going to be big. These guys, during our games, were locked in all the time at was happening and were right behind each other and encouraging everyone. They knew what they were capable of and were having fun trying to prepare for that, and we did have fun. That’s what I really miss, because we had been having some really enjoyable practices this year. It was just a really solid group.” — St. Helena High head coach Darrell Quirici

Calistoga

  • Sammy Cruz
  • Marco Lopez
  • Fernando Rios
  • Jesus Rojas-Mendoza

“My heart goes out to all these guys. I’ve had this group since they were sophomores. This class was really set up to put up big numbers this year. I feel bad for all of them in their own way but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. It’s just a sad and unfortunate situation but I’ve had a great time coaching these guys. All of them have great attitudes and they all love the game, which is all I can really ask for. I’m going to miss them, no doubt about it.” — Calistoga High head coach Earl Dunckel.

Softball

American Canyon

  • Katherine Montuya
  • Greta Fast

“As a coaching staff we feel for the girls and the season that could have been, but especially for the seniors, Katherine and Greta. We wish them the best in their future in college, and with Katherine playing at UC Riverside in the fall. Good luck and thank you for the memories.” — American Canyon High head coach Roger Harris

Justin-Siena

  • Jocelyn Stojack

Napa

  • Abby Arata
  • Grace Guzman
  • Cali Olmstead

“This is a really dedicated group, all team players. Grace and Abby I coached starting when they were 8-or 9-years old, off and on. All great, all-around athletes. We had some really good season with them, some good playoff runs. They were part of a really good group, most of which graduated last year, that was one of the better teams that I’ve ever coached, probably the best team all together I’ve ever coached.

“I’m looking forward to following Grace in her softball career at UCLA and Abby is going to University of Oregon, I believe, and then I heard Cali is going to play basketball at Napa Valley College so I’ll try to go out there and catch some games and see if I can talk her into playing softball, too. I think they’re trying to get that program going again out there. It’s going to be tough; I’ve been around them for a long time, watching them grow up.” — Napa High head coach Ron Walston

Vintage

  • Morgan Groves
  • Sarah Husted
  • Grace Shelfo

“I’m really bummed we didn’t get a senior year with them because I think Mo would have been on pace to either lead the league or be in the race for home runs and probably RBIs. That’s where I saw her falling this year. Gracie, I would have just been happy if she had held her spot for the entire season with no health issues. That to us would have been awesome because she gives 110-percent. And then Sarah, I can’t take that kid off the field if I wanted to. I wish I had nine of her. Just the determination she had, first one on the practice field, every time we’re getting water she’s like ‘I’m good I don’t need water, give me some grounders while everyone is on break.’ She’s just 100-percent baller, which is why I’d love to see her go to a program that would really support her because I think she would totally thrive with the right leadership.” – Vintage High head coach Robert Poppe

St. Helena

  • Ellie Blakeley
  • Marylu Avina
  • Mitzi Caldera
  • Stefhany Rios
  • Gabi Vega-Zepeda
  • Kayla Patlan-Mckay
  • Cindy Lopez

“The girls were extremely receptive to change and accepting of new, younger teammates. They always came to practice prepared to work hard and promote a positive attitude.” — St. Helena High head coach Brandon Farrell

Calistoga

  • Laila Elkeshen
  • Jordan Garcia

“Laila is a scholarly athlete. She was so enjoyable to coach. Her malleable persona is every coach’s dream. She takes advice and uses it to the fullest. Her first baseman skills are going to be missed tremendously. She was our team’s safety net and made more outs than I can even count. Her batting skills grew over the past four years and always offered a solid option at the plate. She was and will remain an outstanding role model to younger players on and off the field.

“Jordan was a very coachable student-athlete. She always took what her coaches advised and brilliantly executed direction. I did coach a lot of senior student-athletes when they were freshman and they are are a very talented group of students.” — Calistoga High head coach Melissa Davis

Contact Gus via phone at 707-304-9372 or email at gmorris@napanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustGusMorris.

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Sports Reporter

Gus Morris covers St. Helena and Calistoga sports for the Napa Valley Register. Before joining the Register in 2018, he covered collegiate sports for the student publication at the University of Oregon.

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