Call it a good problem to have.
Defending Trinity League champion JSerra is gearing up for varsity baseball action along with its three other Orange County Catholic school counterparts, in addition to Orange Lutheran and St. John Bosco in Bellflower.
But as JSerra Varsity Head Coach Brett Kay puts it: “We are our own worst enemy. If we get complacent, then this could be a long, uneventful and unsuccessful season.”
The Lions, 11-4 in Trinity League action last year and 22-8 overall, are brimming with talent with such marquee players as outfielder Brady Shockey, whom Kay calls “perhaps the best all-around hitter in Southern California,” shortstop Chase Strumpf and southpaw pitcher Quentin Longrie, among others.
But with talent comes the responsibility to bring your best every game, says Kay, whose team has eight returning starters and 14 returning lettermen.
“They will need to be pushed as the schedule gives zero breaks,” Kay says. “Our weakness may be that we have a lot of starters back, which is a positive, but the complacency worries me.
“I’m excited as can be as head coach,” Kay added. “The preparation of details and the small things will hopefully get them prepped for a good run at each game. They need to look at each game and not the sprint but the marathon of the season.”
Trinity League varsity baseball teams have been honing their skills at practices and games through the fall and winter. Unlike the Big Leagues, there is no spring training when it comes to high school baseball.
Games kick off near the end of February, with Trinity League action swinging into high gear by April.
Head coaches expect JSerra, Santa Margarita, Mater Dei and Servite to battle it out for the top four spots in the standings.
Servite Head Coach Shawn Gilbert echoed Kay about the importance of his players staying sharp and focused.
—Coach Call, Mater Dei
“The Trinity League is obviously one of the toughest leagues in California,” says Gilbert, whose Friars’ strengths this season will be pitching and defense.
“The teams are all real competitive, and it is a grind each week,” Gilbert says. “There are no easy days in league and you have to show up to play your best each and every week because it’s so competitive.”
Servite has three Division 1-committed pitchers (Nigel Ward, Mike Flynn, Sean Paquet) and boasts some team speed and is solid up the middle, Gilbert says.
Leadership also abounds with five returning players with varsity experience at center field (Aaron Simpson), shortstop (Aaron Singh), right field (Flynn), third base (Bobby Vasquez) and catcher (Connor Clancy).
“Our pitching should keep us in games,” Gilbert says. “If we can find a way to score a few runs, we should be real competitive.”
Added Gilbert: “We look forward to an exciting year. If we can stay healthy on the mound and play to our capabilities, we should be real competitive.”
Head Coach Burt Call’s Mater Dei squad has been hitting the weight room three times a week in addition to practicing and competing on the diamond to prepare for the start of the season.
“We believe we have the best league in the nation,” Call says. “Every game is a battle. Every game seems like a rivalry game. We’re excited for the season.”
The Monarchs, who have three CIF championships and 26 league titles under their belts, have eight players on this season’s roster with college commitments.
“Brandon Perez (shortstop, pitcher) will lead us offensively and Nick Pratto (southpaw pitcher) will be a dominating force on the pitching mound,” Call says. “We look for a big season this year.”
Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s Eagles finished second last year in Trinity League action with a 10-5 record, and had an overall record of 20-10-1.
Head Coach David Bacani notes that his team returns this season with three all-league players from the school’s first-ever CIF championship team (Nick Meyer, catcher/pitcher, outfielder/infielder Nick Wallace and first baseman Andrew Mendonca).
As for players to watch, Bacani mentioned senior infielder Jared Jennings, shortstop Joey Myers (a sophomore), Konnor Kwok (junior right-handed pitcher) and Brian Gursky, a sophomore left-handed pitcher who transferred from Indiana.
“This team has a ton of inexperience on the mound but features depth on the bump, which will be essential in the new Trinity League format of three-game series,” Bacani says.
“This is a team that will have to rely on strike throwers and solid defense, with an offense that keys on execution and timely hitting.”