Wolverines prepare to defend title

Jack Flaherty ’14 returns as the centerpiece of a Wolverine baseball team that is ranked as high as fourth in the nation by Perfect Game.  Flaherty, the team’s number one pitcher and a utility player, is the only the most recent Wolverine pitcher under eighth year coach Matt LaCour to receive national acclaim.

Flaherty, whose accolades include being named the L.A. Times Player of the Year and the MaxPreps National Player of the year after last year’s stellar junior campaign, follows in the footsteps of Lucas Giolito ’12 and Max Fried ’12 who were drafted in the first round of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, and multiple other pitchers who are pitching for college baseball teams across the nation from Stanford to Emory.

Flaherty may be the most prominent returning player on the team, and possibly in southern California, but he is not alone in terms of returning talent.  Shortstop Brian Ginsberg ’14, a varsity player with Flaherty since his freshman year and the second half of the duo that is poised to become the winningest duo in Harvard-Westlake baseball history, outfielder Ezra Steinberg ‘15, utility player Tyler Urbach ’14 and outfielder and pitcher Michael Vokulich ’14 all return after playing in 24 or more of the team’s 32 games last season.

“I want to win the Mission League again, and I want to go as far as we can go in the playoffs, I want to win it again,” Vokulich said.

The team’s main competition in Mission League are the rival Loyola Cubs who they split last year’s season series with.  The team’s only other two losses last year in league play were at the hands of Notre Dame and Crespi.

“Say what you want about that other team in our league, but that’s pure hype,” Jacob Pardo ’14. “We have guys that have done it before, and no matter what number is next to our name, we expect to win. And if people want to say we’re not the best team in our league, it’ll make it all the more sweet when we prove them wrong. We don’t really care what people say, we just win.”

“I expect us to be really good.  I think we’re gonna surprise a lot of people with how well we execute and how good our chemistry is.  There’s no question we are prepared, we have the best coaching staff in the country,” Steinberg said.

“I think its cool that after we were at the very top to have a challenge right away, something we can strive to get back to,” junior pitcher Matt Beyer ’15 said. “We are trying not to think about last year at all, so it’s a completely different feeling on the team. Since there are so many new guys, we just have a new mindset for the season that we’re not trying to repeat, we’re trying to win.”

This is the first year that the baseball team is coming off a national championship, and with the loss of several key players, the culture and the mindset is shifting approaching the upcoming spring season.

“Well a lot of locker room type stuff that we did last year left with the seniors, so our challenge is to create our own identity,” Jacob Pardo ’14 said. “But another thing that I think is going to help us is that we’re now lifting with Marcin. Especially as a team that’s going to rely on some younger guys this year, being as physically prepared as possible is a big deal. I think we’ve had a really good fall and winter.  “

The Wolverines will open the season at Birmingham High School Saturday, March 1. The home opener at O’Malley Family Field will take place Tuesday, March 4.

“I think we need to continue what we have done all fall    playing hard as a team and not playing for ourselves,” Jackson Grayson ’15 said.

“We want that second ring. Obviously, having lost a lot from last year, we’re still establishing what each of our roles is going to be, but we have the talent to do it again, no doubt,” Pardo said.