After losing a stellar group of seniors in 2020, Harvard-Westlake of Studio City won the CIF Southern Section D1 baseball title, which is exactly what is looked for in a State Coach of the Year. Meet Jared Halpert, a former player during the glory days of the early 2000s from Chatsworth who is now 2021 State Coach of the Year. This also happens to be 20 years since Chatsworth’s Tom Muesborn was State Coach of the Year. One of his players was Halpert.
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There was a clear-cut final four in this year’s CIF Southern Section Division 1 baseball supremacy with Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, JSerra of San Juan Capistrano, Orange Lutheran and Ayala of Chino Hills. Throw in amazing Thousand Oaks from the CIFSS D2 group and that ended up as the top five for the final state rankings, especially after CIF Central Section leader Buchanan (Clovis) nor CIF San Diego Section champion Eastlake (Chula Vista) didn’t win the first-ever CIF SoCal D1 regional title while JSerra did.
One of the differences in the lineups of those five teams is that four of them were expected to be that good. They all returned many top players from the year before. Harvard-Westlake didn’t get the same preseason national attention since among those who graduated in 2020 were first-round MLB Draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong, four-year starting shortstop Drew Bowser (Stanford), catcher Thomas McCaffrey (UC Irvine) along with pitchers Tyler Ganus (Oregon) and Sam Biller (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo).
For crafting a team that exceeded what all others at the school had done since 2013 and for beating that JSerra team three times, with the final time coming in the CIFSS D1 championship, Harvard-Westlake head coach Jared Halpert has been named as the 2021 Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year.
Halpert is the first State Coach of the Year in baseball from the San Fernando Valley since Tom Muesborn of Chatsworth in 2001. That’s also who Jared played for in high school and he was a member of the Chancellor teams in 2000 and 2001 that went 25-2-1 and 31-2 and won CIF L.A. City Section titles. The two State Coaches of the Year from the region before that were Mike Maio from El Camino Real of Woodland Hills (1993) and Darryl Stroh of Granada Hills (1984).
Harvard-Westlake was one of those very highly ranked preseason clubs in 2020 and who knows how the season may have ended if not for the season being shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic. At the time of the shutdown, the Wolverines had an 8-1-1 record.
This season started in a more up-and-down fashion, but the schedule that Halpert had set up was brutal. There were two wins over JSerra, but two losses to Orange Lutheran and another loss thrown in there to Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Halpert and the Wolverines seemed to hit their stride in Mission League play. They only needed one win in three matchups with Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks to clinch the title and they got all three. Then in the CIFSS D1 playoffs, Harvard-Westlake set up a championship game finale vs. JSerra with wins against Temescal Canyon of Lake Elsinore (9-0), Arcadia (13-0), Cypress (12-4) and Orange Lutheran (3-2).
Halpert handed the ball to Cal-bound senior Christian Becerra in the title game and he was nearly perfect. Becerra only gave up one hit, struck out seven and the Wolverines won their title with a 3-0 win over the Lions. Two runs scored for Harvard-Westlake in the third inning on an error. The third was driven in on a single by Alex Shane.
“To be able to bring this home to a culture and a group of people much further than just this group of 28, it’s an honor,” Halpert told the Los Angeles Daily News after the win. “I’m honored to be part of this program, school and administration. This was amazing.”
Harvard-Westlake then opted out of the CIF SoCal regional playoffs, but clearly benefitted with JSerra winning in the top division. Thousand Oaks (30-1), which also opted out, was the only team higher than the Wolverines in the final Cal-Hi Sports state rankings. Others had Harvard-Westlake higher.
While seniors like Becerra, infielder George Cooper and catcher/first base Bennett Markinson were outstanding all season, it was the emergence of younger players that pushed Harvard-Westlake over the top. That group included junior outfielder Toussaint Bythewood, chosen as the Mission League MVP, and freshmen pitchers Bryce Rainer and Tommy Bridges. Rainer, who also delivered key hits as a batter, pitched in the semifinal win over Orange Lutheran and is regarded as one of the top Class of 2024 prospects in the nation.
Halpert knows a lot about developing younger players. He was named manager of the USA Baseball U15 team in 2020 and is working again with USA Baseball in the same role this summer (since there were no events last summer).
That’s the type of role that USA national programs tend to give to coaches with 20 or 30 years of experience. Halpert just completed his sixth season as head coach at Harvard-Westlake after being an assistant for four seasons. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Fresno State, which is where he played (in addition to Cal State Northridge) but after that he did a 360 and spent three years as a firefighter, deployed to battle wildfires in some of the most remote places in Northern California.
It wasn’t until he moved back to Southern California in 2011 that he went back to baseball. He was on the staff at Harvard-Westlake under previous head coach Matt LaCour, also the athletic director at the time. He was there when the three current MLB pitching stars — Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito and Max Fried — were on the team (but only for about two weeks at the same time in 2012 before Giolito got hurt). He was there in 2013 when the Wolverines won their last CIFSS title and also were No. 1 in the state (No. 1 in the nation).
“There’s little things that you have to change year to year,” Halpert once said in an interview with the school’s newspaper. “I think if you’re not changing or trying to improve, you’re not getting better. I think Coach LaCour did a really good job listening to his assistant coaches. You have to let the guys working for you help you and help the program.”
All-Time List Cal-Hi Sports
State Baseball Coaches Of The Year
2021 – Jared Halpert, Studio City
2020 – No selection (pandemic)
2019 – John Weber, Cypress (31-3)
2018 – Bob Zamora, Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley (25-10)
2017 – Mike Gonzales, Lake Forest El Toro (27-7-1)
2016 – Gary Remiker, San Diego Cathedral Catholic (25-9)
2015 – John Donohue, San Francisco Lowell (25-8)
2014 – James Davis, El Cajon Granite Hills (26-7)
2013 – Jeff Carlson, Elk Grove (29-5)
2012 – Steve Vickery, Lakeside El Capitan (31-7)
2011 – John Goulding, Union City James Logan
2010 – Tom Donald, Clovis Buchanan (29-5)
2009 – Pete Jensen, San Mateo Serra (30-6)
2008 – Jeff Phillips, La Mesa Grossmont (29-7)
2007 – John Diatte, San Jose Valley Christian
2006 – Spud O’Neil, Lakewood (29-5-1)
2005 – Bill Hutton, San Jose Archbishop Mitty (28-6)
2004 – Rick Steen, Danville San Ramon Valley (25-8)
2003 – Justin Machado, Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (32-1)
2002 – Dave Currie, Santa Clara Wilcox (34-3)
2001 – Tom Muesborn, Chatsworth (31-2)
2000 – Harry Jenkins, Torrance West (29-2)
1999 – Joe Walters, Santa Ana Calvary Chapel (27-1-1)
1998 – James Patrick, Clovis (33-2)
1997 – Dave Brunell, Santa Maria St. Joseph (29-0)
1996 – Dennis Pugh, San Diego Mission Bay (29-5)
1995 – Dave Demarest, Westminster La Quinta (28-3-1)
1994 – Ron LaRuffa, Fountain Valley (27-3-1)
1993 – Mike Maio, Woodland Hills El Camino Real (24-2)
1992 – Dan Peters, Long Beach Millikan (22-5-1)
1991 – Jeff Meredith, La Mesa Grossmont (28-1)
1990 – Mickey McNamee, San Marino (23-2-1)
1989 – Sam Blalock, San Diego Mt. Carmel (25-2)
1988 – Chris Sims, Moraga Campolindo (24-5)
1987 – Don Ardissone, San Jose Bellarmine (26-7)
1986 – Mike Curran, Anaheim Esperanza (25-3-1)
1985 – Dave Perkins, Hanford (23-5)
1984 – Darryl Stroh, Granada Hills (16-2-1)
1983 – Larry Quirico, El Cerrito (27-1)
1982 – Jim Garrett, Tulare (21-5)
1981 – Guy Anderson, Rancho Cordova (28-8)
1980 – Mike Noakes, Fresno Bullard (29-2)
1979 – John Bachman, Covina (27-3)
1978 – Al Endriss, Larkspur Redwood (30-5)
1977 – Lou Zuardo, South S.F. El Camino (28-1)
1976 – John Herbold, Lakewood (22-4-1)
1975 – Jack Hannah, Fresno Hoover (29-2)
1974 – Jim O’Brien, Torrance North (26-6-1)
1973 – John Stevenson, El Segundo (30-5)
1972 – Hi LaValle, Compton Dominguez (22-4-1)
1971 – Denny Holt, Sepulveda Monroe (19-0)
1970 – Dan Bodary, Lompoc (27-1)
1969 – Bob Myers, Long Beach Millikan (21-6)
1968 – Bill Sandback, San Diego Crawford (21-7)
1967 – Marvin Wood, Torrance Bishop Montgomery (27-3)
1966 – Bill Cox, Oakland St. Elizabeth (23-5)
1965 – Al Exton, Arcadia (21-4)
1964 – Bob Zuber, Van Nuys Birmingham (18-1)
1963 – Bill Kelly, Redondo Beach Aviation (20-3)
1962 – Dick Sperbeck, Sacramento Bishop Armstrong (22-2)
1961 – Elmo Ferrari, Ojai Villanova (17-0)
1960 – Jake Abbott, Fresno Roosevelt (20-2)
1959 – Howard Johnson, Inglewood Morningside (20-6)
1958 – Ken Proctor, Ontario Chaffey (20-5)
1957 – Ollie Bidwell, Fresno (22-2)
1956 – Bill Ziegler, Eureka (18-0)
1955 – Bob Patterson, Vallejo (20-1)
1954 – Ed Grimm, Redding Shasta (14-0)
1953 – Charles Doyle, Compton (23-2)
1952 – George Powles, Oakland McClymonds (16-0)
1951 – Cliff Perry, Sacramento McClatchy (22-0-1)
1950 – Harry Brubaker, L.A. Dorsey (17-0*)
1949 – Al Kyte, Oakland Technical (8-2, League)
1948 – Len Porterfield, Santa Maria (16-2)
1947 – Cliff Meyer, Long Beach Wilson (20-3)
1946 – Walt Williams, San Jose (17-2)
1945 – Pop Elder, S.F. Mission (10-0, League)
1944 – Bob Fatjo, San Jose Bellarmine (13-2)
1943 – Les Haserot, L.A. Fremont (13-1)
1942 – Roy Engle, San Diego Hoover (13-0 vs. Prep Teams)
1941 – Ras Johnson, S.F. Galileo (12-1*)
1940 – George Wolfman, S.F. Mission (11-1*)
1939 – Dewey Morrow, San Diego (22-5)
1938 – George Sperry, Glendale
1937 – Bernie Baumeister, S.F. Commerce (12-2, League)
1936 – Lyle Kinnear, Long Beach Polytechnic (23-2)
1935 – Ed Combatalade, Sacramento (20-1)
1934 – Myles Regan, L.A. Cathedral (13-5-1)
1933 – Kit Carlson, Santa Maria (9-1)
*League and playoff record
Note: Selections prior to 1980 made retroactively by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis. Coaches are only chosen once in their careers, which has never been a problem in such a great baseball state as California.