Jack Flaherty ’14 walked the leadoff batter in the Wolverines opening round CIF playoff game against the J.W. North Huskies on May 23. After that the six-foot-four senior pitcher threw 10 strikeouts and reached 92 mph on his fastball on his way to no-hitting the Huskies and retiring 21 straight batters.
“Just when you think you’ve seen Jack do everything he comes out and does something new that you’re pretty amazed at,” Coach Matt LaCour said. “Gutsy performance by him. He could’ve had a perfect game and, you know, we needed a gutsy performance out of him and the rest of our team, with the little bit of adversity that we’re going through.”
The adversity LaCour was talking about is the dismissal of starting catcher Matt Karo ’14 after Karo and the coaching staff had a disagreement about the Columbia-bound catcher’s role on the team.
“It is what it is, you know,” LaCour said on the subject. “We’ve got 20 guys in the dugout for the playoffs and we feel really good about those guys.”
“I’m reluctant to comment on anything beyond what is happening with the team on the field as that’s where the focus should be,” Karo said. “So all I’m going to say is that I’m happy for Jack as he had yet another outstanding performance in his [Harvard-Westlake] career, and it was a great team win.”
John Thomas ’16 stepped in for the absent Karo, like he did earlier in the season as Karo was knocked out of the lineup by an injury.
“I don’t know if John is going to start at catcher the rest of way,” LaCour said. “Tom Fuller ’15 is more than capable. We’ll make that determination in practice over the next couple days, but the thing about John Thomas that we know is that he’s going to do whatever we ask him to do as a teammate on this field, and that’s third base, that’s left field, that’s catching. He’s tough enough for us to put him in really difficult situations and for him to handle it. It’s a testament to the work ethic that kid has, even when things weren’t going well this year for him, when he wasn’t playing a whole lot that he stuck to it. I’m really happy for him and the performance he had behind the plate today.”
Flaherty’s near-perfect game was saved when center fielder Jackson Grayson ’15 dove in front of right fielder Michael Vokulich ’14 to catch a pop-up hit between the two to record the last out , and before that by left fielder Jake Suddleson ’16 running into the outfield fence to track down a fly ball in the sixth inning.
“Honestly, we did nothing right,” Vokulich said. “We didn’t talk at all and the last thing I remember seeing was [Grayson] jumping out in front of me and catching it so it all worked out.”
Next on deck for the Wolverines was a game against the Edison Chargers, ranked 55 in the state by MaxPreps, on May 27. However, results were unavailable as of press time.
With a win the Wolverines, who finished second in Mission League to the rival Loyola Cubs, would advance to the quarterfinals where they would face either top seeded JSerra Catholic, the Trinity League champs, or the Valencia Vikings on May 30.
If their win streak, which now stands at three games, continues, the Wolverines would advance to the CIF semifinals on June 3 at Blair Field and then the CIF finals on June 6 at Dodgers Stadium. With a loss, the Wolverines chance to repeat as CIF Champions would also be lost.
“You always want to win a ring,” designated hitter Jacob Pardo ’14 said. “But we’ll all be satisfied if we give our best and leave it all out on the field. We just need to keep playing up to our ability. When we play our best and everyone is locked in and focused we can beat anybody in the country. As long as we have that mentality and focus we’ll be good.”
Vokulich will move from right field to take the mound as the starting pitcher when the Wolverines square off against Edison, and Flaherty will return to the field to play third base for the team.
“I got to go out and lead the way as pitcher, and help our team get another win,” Vokulich said.
The Wolverines are just four games away from another ring, and if they advance to the Finals Flaherty and shortstop Brian Ginsberg’s ’14 win total would reach 100 wins over their last four years as starters on LaCour’s varsity squad. However, 101 wins and the CIF championship that would come with those last four wins is the goal, not just hitting the century mark for the winningest duo in Harvard-Westlake baseball history.
“We got to win it all,” pitcher Logan Simon ’14 said. “We won it all last year, and I think this team is just as capable, so I don’t see why we can’t win four more games and win the championship, I really don’t.”