By Camille Shooshani
The up-and-down journey of the baseball program came to a screeching halt with the team’s loss to Placentia Valencia in the second round of CIF playoffs, one round earlier than last year, to a team who snuck into the postseason with a 4-8 league record.
Rewind to late February and the team seemed unstoppable. Right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito ’12 hit 100 mph on the radar gun in the final preseason game, reached number one in many MLB first round draft mockups and looked like he might pass up UCLA to play in the major leagues.
Top-ranked southpaw Max Fried ’12 landed on the team in September in a fluke after Montclair Prep shut down its athletic program. Add to that recently-named Mission League MVP Jack Flaherty ’14 and Div. I recruits Joe Corrigan ’13 and Arden Pabst ’13, and the team appeared ready to dominate CIF playoffs come May.
“[I] just wanted our guys to take things one step at a time,” Head Coach Matt LaCour said.
In March, league play opened at home against Alemany. Expectations intensified as Giolito took the mound. Giolito and Alemany’s Cody Thompson faced off, neither giving up hits in the first inning. Giolito slipped in the second though, allowing two runs that the Wolverines could not answer.
Midway through the seventh, Giolito gripped his arm in discomfort and walked off. The 6-foot-6 powerhouse, the star pitcher meant to lead the team to CIF finals in Dodger Stadium, never played in the Mission League again.
The Wolverines fell from No. 6 to No. 50 in the rankings two weeks later.
“Baseball takes you through twists and turns and it’s important to learn things along the way,” LaCour said. “I think our team learned things that week that helped the rest of the season.”
But the team quickly pulled itself together, finishing second at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational in April.
The league title came down to a win at Loyola May 10. Flaherty pitched and homered and the Wolverines finished with a 7-3 victory to clinch league.
“When Jack [Flaherty] is aggressive, he’s special,” LaCour said. “I don’t think a sophomore has ever won [Mission League MVP] so that’s a tremendous accomplishment [as well].”
“We lost Alemany and we lost Lucas [Giolito] but we really came together,” catcher Pabst said. “We matured and learned from that.”
The Wolverines breezed through the first round of CIF against Ventura County with Fried’s complete game shutout. Fried struck out 10 batters and allowed only five hits.
After allowing a run in the first inning, Valencia pitcher Zach Williams completely shut down the Wolverines’ offense for the rest of the game, allowing five hits and fanning nine. Valencia had scored three runs by the end of the fourth and the Wolverines had trouble keeping up.
“He was able to shut us down,” Flaherty said. “He outpitched me.”
“They had a guy on the mound that we knew was good, and he was really good against us that day,” LaCour said. “The game is sometimes as simple as that.”
“This is a game where you can lose on any given day,” Corrigan said. “It’s frustrating but you need to realize that going into the sport. It was a tough way to end it, but you still need to look back on it as it being a good season.”
“We won league and we can’t get too hung up on that. We’ve just got to keep going,” Pabst said. “We were a solid team. We had a solid year.”
Next year, the team will graduate their MLB-grade pitchers but see the return of Pabst, Corrigan, Flaherty and Tyler Urbach ’14.