Valley Christian Baseball Team of Year

Valley Christian players are just about to meet up with head coach John Diatte after they won this year’s CIF Central Coast Section Open Division title. Photo: Mark Tennis.


It’s a little anti-climactic when the final weekend of the season doesn’t determine the state’s No. 1 ranking and State Team of the Year selection. But for baseball in 2018 that choice already was deservedly wrapped up one weekend earlier. Valley Christian of San Jose earns its first State TOY pick in any sport and has the success of other teams from the league it plays in — the West Catholic Athletic League — to thank for its final ranking as well.

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History just oozes from the West Catholic Athletic League, especially in baseball.

The circuit comprised of some of the oldest parochial schools on the West Coast, some of which have high school baseball history that dates back more than 100 years, had perhaps its strongest season in baseball ever. It’s only natural therefore that the WCAL kingpin for 2018, Valley Christian of San Jose, also is today being recognized as the State Team of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports.

Valley Christian, which obviously is not a parochial school like other league members Bellarmine Prep of San Jose, St. Francis of Mountain View, Serra of San Mateo, Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, St. Ignatius of San Francisco, Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco and Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco, nevertheless has been a valuable WCAL member since the middle of the first decade of the 2000s.

The Warriors had a number of top returning players from last year’s team that won the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division title and out-performed preseason expectations that had them top five in the state. Head coach John Diatte’s squad wrapped up a 29-3-1 season two weekends ago with a 4-3 victory over Los Gatos for a second straight CCS Open crown.

Head coach John Diatte really did color his beard in Valley Christian’s colors for the CCS Open Division title game. Photo: Mark Tennis.

The team still had to wait one week until all of the state’s various section playoffs were complete to be officially crowned as California’s No. 1 team. In the end, there wasn’t much competition for Valley Christian being at the top. The Warriors easily had the best record among any of the state’s top divisional section champions, which wasn’t assured completely until Eastlake of Chula Vista had lost twice in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division and until all of the teams in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs that started the postseason with three losses had been eliminated.

In becoming State Team of the Year in baseball, Valley Christian becomes the first WCAL/CCS title team since San Jose Archbishop Mitty went 31-3 in 2010 to be No. 1 in the state. Four years earlier, Bellarmine ripped off 34 wins in a successful quest for a CCS title and also was State Team of the Year.

“It’s just surreal how it all ended,” said Valley Christian pitcher Patrick Wicklander, who had an 18-strikeout no-hitter early in the season. “To do what we did and with the record we had says it all.”

There are other years in which current WCAL schools have been No. 1 in the state in baseball with many of those from years in which Sacred Heart didn’t have “Cathedral” attached to its name and from many years before the WCAL even came into existence. The list includes Sacred Heart for 1961, St. Ignatius for 1959 and Sacred Heart for 1910, 1911 and 1915.

“We’ve been good before, but when we went down to Southern California (for the Hard 9 Classic) and won close games against three very good teams we thought it could be special,” said Diatte, who early in the season also won the 600th game of his career. “When they got behind, they would come back. It’s how they are.”

All three of Valley Christian’s losses were inside the WCAL. Two were to Serra, a team the Warriors beat to win the WCAL playoffs, and one was to St. Francis, which was avenged during the second round of league play.

What really helped Valley Christian’s ranking all season was that other teams in the WCAL were sensational outside of the league too. Bellarmine had seven league losses but before getting upset in the CCS Division I final by Los Altos the Bells were perfect against all other competition. They rang up two wins over SoCal powerhouse Huntington Beach and they beat JSerra of San Juan Capistrano on May 6 to win the Boras Classic state championship. In addition, St. Francis was one of two WCAL teams (Bellarmine was the other) that posted wins over eventual CIF North Coast Section D1 champion De La Salle of Concord. DLS was 26-2 against non-WCAL schools this season and was 0-2 vs. the WCAL. In all, WCAL baseball teams won an insane 72 percent of its non-league games.

“It’s hard to describe being part of it,” Wicklander said of WCAL baseball competition. “It’s non-stop. Every pitch, every play. It just sharpens everyone.”

Wicklander, headed to the University of Arkansas, suffered all three of the losses, but was constantly up against the other No. 1 pitchers on the roster. The four-year starter had a 1.57 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 76 innings. The other primary starting pitcher, Kevin Pence, showed he had elite command all season as well. He ended 9-0 with a 0.89 ERA. In fact, the Warriors’ team ERA of 1.09 against the competition it faced was flat out hard to believe.

The team’s only two other college recruits are senior infielder Dawson Brigman, who is going to Santa Clara, and senior catcher Ryan Belluomini (San Jose State). Sophomore Eddie Park, who was MVP of the Hard 9 National Classic, is committed to Stanford while several of Valley Christian’s other top underclassmen (there are many) will be heavily recruited and scouted. Junior Steven Zobac, who had a 0.00 ERA in 16 relief appearances as a pitcher and who batted .318 with 19 RBI, will be one of those. Park was the team’s leading hitter (.376) along with junior Coleman Brigman, who had 41 hits and also batted .376. Belluomini batted .327 with three HRs while freshman Jonathon Cymrot batted .350 with a team-best 10 doubles.

“This was just the best group of guys I’ve ever been with,” said Zobac, who has a twin sister Kacey who should be one of the top pitchers in softball in Northern California next season. “We hung together so much. It was fun to be around everyone.”

Diatte was the perfect ringleader of that bunch and with all of the returnees it could be another special season in 2019. Of course, in the WCAL, all bets are always off.

Congratulations to all of the players and coaches at Valley Christian for being the 2018 State Team of the Year.

Casey Schmitt of state No. 1 Eastlake had four homers and four saves in last year’s CIF San Diego Section playoffs. Photo: hometeamsonline.com.


CAL-HI SPORTS ALL-TIME
STATE BASEBALL TEAMS OF THE YEAR

2018 – San Jose Valley Christian (29-3-1)
2017 – Chula Vista Eastlake (32-4)
2016 – Clovis Buchanan (30-1)
2015 – Pleasant Hill College Park (26-4)
2014 – Clovis (33-5)
2013 – North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (28-4)
2012 – Vista (31-4)
2011 – Clovis Buchanan (30-2)
2010 – San Jose Archbishop Mitty (31-3)
2009 – Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley (26-6)
2008 – Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (27-4)
2007 – Long Beach Wilson (31-3)
2006 – San Jose Bellarmine (34-4)
2005 – Woodland Hills El Camino Real (28-4)
2004 – Chatsworth (35-0)
2003 – Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (32-1)
2002 – La Puente Bishop Amat (28-2)
2001 – La Puente Bishop Amat (27-2)
2000 – San Diego Rancho Bernardino (30-3)
1999 – Riverside Arlington (29-2)
1998 – Clovis (33-2)
1997 – Clovis (32-2) (plus one win by default)
1996 – Granada Hills Kennedy (31-3)
1995 – Fountain Valley (26-3-1)
1994 – Fountain Valley (27-3-1)
1993 – Fresno Bullard (26-3-1)
1992 – San Diego Mira Mesa (26-5)
1991 – Ontario (26-0)
1990 – Cupertino Monta Vista (27-3)
1989 – Fresno Bullard (28-2)
1988 – Fresno Bullard (29-1)
1987 – Lakewood (25-7)
1986 – Santee Santana (26-2)
1985 – Oxnard Rio Mesa (27-3)
1984 – Rancho Cordova (33-5-1)
1983 – El Cerrito (27-1)
1982 – San Diego Mt. Carmel (24-2)
1981 – Westminster (23-4)
1980 – Fresno Bullard (29-2)
1979 – Visalia Mt. Whitney (20-3)
1978 – Larkspur Redwood (30-5)
1977 – West Covina Edgewood (29-1)
1976 – Lakewood (22-4-1)
1975 – Torrance Bishop Montgomery (27-3)
1974 – Torrance North (26-6-1)
1973 – El Segundo (30-5)
1972 – Venice (19-3)
1971 – El Segundo (33-2)
1970 – Lompoc (27-1)
1969 – Sacramento Grant (16-1)
1968 – Fresno Hoover (27-3)
1967 – Long Beach Millikan (20-4)
1966 – El Segundo (24-4-1)
1965 – San Diego Crawford (22-4)
1964 – Lynwood (23-2)
1963 – Long Beach Poly (21-4)
1962 – Sacramento Bishop Armstrong (22-2)
1961 – S.F. Sacred Heart (32-2-1)
1960 – Fresno Roosevelt (20-2)
1959 – S.F. St. Ignatius (28-3)
1958 – Fresno (25-1)
1957 – Fresno (22-2)
1956 – Ontario Chaffey (21-5)
1955 – South Gate (17-2)
1954 – L.A. Loyola (22-5)
1953 – Compton (23-2)
1952 – S.F. Sacred Heart (29-5)
1951 – Sacramento McClatchy (22-0-1)
1950 – Long Beach Wilson (24-3)
1949 – San Diego (29-3)
1948 – San Diego (26-3)
1947 – S.F. Mission (12-1)*
1946 – San Diego (24-7)
1945 – S.F. Mission (10-0, League)
1944 – S.F. Mission (9-0, League)
1943 – L.A. Fremont (13-1)
1942 – San Diego Hoover (13-0 vs. prep teams)
1941 – S.F. Galileo (12-1)*
1940 – S.F. Mission (11-1)*
1939 – San Diego (20-5)
1938 – Glendale (4-0, Playoffs)
1937 – S.F. Commerce (12-2, League)
1936 – Long Beach Poly (23-2)
1935 – Sacramento (20-1)
1934 – S.F. Mission (7-0, League)
1933 – Fresno Roosevelt (20 -2)
1932 – San Diego (11-4)
1931 – S.F. Mission (8-0, League)
1930 – San Diego (19-3)
1929 – San Diego (31-5)
1928 – San Diego (22-8-1)
1927 – Fullerton (29-5-1)
1926 – Alameda (21-1)
1925 – Los Angeles (6-0, League)
1924 – S.F. Sacred Heart (6-0)*
1923 – San Diego (15-4)
1922 – S.F. Mission (6-1)*
1921 – San Diego (18-5-2)
1920 – San Diego (13-1)
1919 – Oakland Technical (8-0)*
1918 – San Diego (12-6)
1917 – San Diego (12-1)
1916 – S.F. Poly (7-0, League)
1915 – S.F. Sacred Heart (5-0)*
1914 – S.F. Lowell (6-0)*
1913 – Long Beach Poly (19-3-1)
1912 – Long Beach Poly (17-5)
1911 – S.F. Sacred Heart (5-0)*
1910 – S.F. Sacred Heart (8-0)*
1909 – Alameda (5-0)*
1908 – Palo Alto (4-0)*
1907 – Alameda (5-1)*
1906 – S.F. Lick (1-0 League)**
1905 – S.F. Lick (9-1-1)*
1904 – Palo Alto
1903 – Berkeley
1902 – S.F. Lowell
1901 – Berkeley
1900 – S.F. Cogswell
1899 – Palo Alto (5-0)
*Record for league and playoff games only.
** Playoffs and remainder of league schedule were cancelled due to earthquake.
Lick’s 1906 team was regarded as being better than its 1905 team.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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