Undefeated league champs out in first round of CIF playoffs

Undefeated league champs out in first round of CIF playoffs

Pete Crow-Armstrong ’20 rounds first base in a 4-2 victory over Chaminade on April 11 at O’Malley Field. Photo Credit: Ryan Albert/Chronicle

The baseball team exited CIF playoffs in the first round May 18 after being the first Mission League team to go undefeated in 17 years.

As the No. 1 seed from the Mission League, the Wolverines were the favorites over the Valencia Vikings, who finished third in the Football league. The squad was ranked fifth in the state of California and Valencia was ranked 178th according to MaxPreps.

The final score in the first round of CIF was a 8-4 loss to Valencia. The Vikings leaped ahead in the first inning with four runs and the Wolverines struggled to keep up for the rest of the game. Valencia scored twice in the second, but Wolverines started to come back with three runs in the third. However, Valencia clinched the game with two more runs in the sixth inning.

In spite of Valencia’s early 6-0 lead, center fielder RJ Schreck ’18 said the team committed to its training, did not panic and almost made the comeback. He recognized that there were dozens of missed opportunities that the team was not able to capitalize on and that sometimes games are not reflective of the work and skill of the team.

“Sometimes the best hitter, the best pitcher, the best fielder, or the most clutch player just has an off day,” Schreck said. “The amount of things that had to go wrong for us to lose that game was huge and they all did. We did things that game that we hadn’t done all season. Whether it was playoff pressure getting too high or something else, I don’t know.”

After a record-breaking league season, the outcome was disheartening, as it was the last game for the 13 seniors on the team, Head Coach Jared Halpert said. He acknowledged how rough the loss was for the players, but nonetheless commended Valencia as an opponent.

“This group made great sacrifices and honored their school, families and program to the best of their abilities,” Halpert said. “Valencia played a great baseball game, and they should be recognized for it.”

The team went into the CIF playoffs with a 26-4 overall record and a 16-game-long winning streak. They were also the first team to go undefeated in Mission League in 17 years, as they finished with an 18-0 league record.

Compared to last year, players triumphed against old rivals to assert dominance during league play. Last season, the squad won only two games of the three in the series against Alemany and Chaminade and only one out of three against Notre Dame and Loyola. The team swept all its series this year.

These successes on the field that led to undefeated league victory were the result of a dynamic play and cohesive teamwork, first baseman Calvin Koo ’18 said.

“I think that the title was just a byproduct of our hard work and what the guys put into this team this year,” Koo said. “What was really special was what this team was able to do together and as a unit on a daily basis. We were able to do many special things as a team and the title was the culmination of all of it.”

Other players agree that the close team bond was the most rewarding part of being on the team. For Schreck, the best part of the season was spending every day playing baseball with his teammates. However, he said the most memorable moment was winning the last game against Notre Dame to become the first undefeated team from the Mission League in 17 years.

“What made those moments after the final out special was seeing everybody jumping around with such pride and heartfelt happiness, not for themselves, but for each of our teammates,” Schreck said.

The program was meaningful to all of the players on it, and the journey players go through while on the team was life-changing, said Koo.

“Because we all go through this journey together, [my teammates] and I don’t play for ourselves, but we play for each other,” he said. “This is the bond that the baseball program forges and I will never forget the memories made while being part of this program.”

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