By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
One of the most exciting years of Foothill League baseball has come to an end. The addition of a seventh team in Castaic truly amped things up. Even though the Coyotes fell just short of the playoffs, their hard work and talent is spotlighted by five All-League selections.
Two Foothill League teams made it past the first round, with Valencia ending up the last team standing, losing in the Division 4 quarterfinals.
All seven teams made great strides this year highlighted by the following young men.
Co-Offensive Player of the Year: Jose Mariano, Senior, Valencia.
Co-Offensive Player of the Year: Logan Mandel, Senior, West Ranch.
Mariano was a home run machine this year with nine dingers, giving the first baseman a high mark in the state. The senior hit .354 on a great-hitting team, leading the Vikings in homers and RBI with 39.
Mandel was also another dominating hitter on a strong-hitting team. The senior led his team with nine doubles while also batting over .350. Mandel also proved to be a great defensive catcher, rarely letting wild pitches get away from him and throwing out base runners.
Pitcher of the Year: Jackson Banuelos, Sophomore, West Ranch.
Banuelos beat out some great pitchers in the Foothill League this year. The sophomore posted a 1.43 ERA in 11 starts for the Wildcats. Banuelos also led his team with 54 strikeouts while walking just six batters on the year. The ace now has two more years in a West Ranch jersey to defend his crown.
- Joji Sakata, Junior, Castaic.
- Aaron Gonzalez, Junior, Castaic.
- Ryan Egan, Senior, Hart.
- Matt Quintanar, Senior, Hart.
- Zach Plasschaert, Junior, Saugus.
- Colin Yeaman, Senior, Saugus.
- Tyler Biggs, Senior, Valencia.
- Scotty Pieper, Senior, Valencia.
- Jake Callahan, Senior, West Ranch.
- Ty DePerno, Junior, West Ranch.
Gonzalez and Sakata were huge for Castaic’s inaugural season success. Sakata proved to be one of the better power hitters in the valley. Gonzalez held his own as a hit machine and solid third baseman, and made a name for himself toward the end of the year as a relief pitcher. The two will return with the rest of the Coyote team next year looking for their first playoff appearance.
Egan proved to be one of the better first basemen in the SCV. Egan has a dangerous bat that was intentionally walked twice in his regular-season finale with Valencia.
Quintanar had a great year at designated hitter and catcher. The reigning player of the year didn’t repeat with the award but will live with repeating as a league champion. Quintanar’s all-around success was crucial for Hart all year. The catcher led his team with five home runs and 10 doubles all while batting .380.
Saugus had an up-and-down year to say the least, but two of its anchors were always Plasschaert and Yeaman. The two led the team in batting average and hits. Plasschaert was always a threat to go deep and finished the year with team-highs 19 RBI, two triples and three home runs. Yeaman batted .378 on the year and led the team in runs scored.
Pieper was crucial to Valencia’s success. The team would rely on Pieper to spark the Viking offense early and he delivered. The center fielder batted .421 on the year and was just a handful of hits away from breaking into Valencia’s all-time single season batting average top 10.
Biggs had similar dominance on the mound. The ace led the team in strikeouts and innings pitched. Biggs consistently registered great starts and only pitched less than four innings twice. The pitcher left it all on the field, blanking Tesoro through 6.1 innings in his final game.
Callahan and DePerno were two of the numerous West Ranch batters hitting around .350. The pair hit when it mattered most and led the team in RBI with a combined 50. The two were also anchors wherever they were asked to play defensively, holding their own in the infield or outfield.
- Kyler Freude, Junior, Castaic.
- Matt Airhart, Junior, Castaic.
- Mo Edwards, Senior, Golden Valley.
- Brayden Jeffris, Sophomore, Hart.
- Reagan Meyer, Senior, Hart.
- Ethan Rhodes, Senior, Hart.
- Troy Cooper, Sophomore, Hart.
- Matt Chapman, Senior, Valencia.
- Asher Frye, Senior, Valencia.
- Kaden Shields, Senior, Valencia.
- Jake Schwartz, Senior, West Ranch.
Freude and Airhart were major parts of Castaic on all sides of the game. The pair were unbelievable one- and two-hole hitters, with Airhart leading all Foothill League juniors batting .508. The Coyote pair were also a force on the mound.
Edwards, like many others, has a case for being on the first-team. Edwards proved to be one of the valley’s best shortstops and leadoff hitters, as well as a solid closer. Due to the Grizzlies’ lack of success this year, the senior is the team’s only representative on the first or second team.
Jeffris was another great shortstop placed in the second team. The sophomore has a lot of time left to make at least another first-team while chasing another league title.
Meyer’s bat and defense at second base was undeniable for Hart. The senior led the team batting .392 and struck out just three times all year.
Cooper is another promising sophomore for Hart and has shown some impressive stuff on the mound for the Indians. Cooper will also have another few years to chase more league titles and accolades.
Rhodes was also great for Hart on the mound. The senior had a case for a first-team selection, if not Pitcher of the Year, with his 1.16 ERA and 49 strikeouts on the year.
Frye and Shields bats were two of the strongest for Valencia. Shields caught fire in the middle of the year but an injury cut his senior season short. Shields finished .404 in 20 games. Frye had a great .375 year in which he led the team with nine doubles.
Chapman was another big arm for Valencia. The pitcher posted a 2.76 ERA in 45.2 innings.
Jake Schwartz was one the Wildcats’ two-way standouts. The first baseman batted .326 while also registering a solid 2.53 ERA in 44.1 innings.
- Tsukasa Ozaki, Sophomore, Canyon.
- Tyler Hawn, Sophomore, Castaic.
- Wyatt Crosby, Junior, Golden Valley.
- Ryan De La Maza, Sophomore, Hart.
- Carson Panarisi, Senior, Saugus.
- Ricky Ojeda, Junior, Valencia.
- Josef Brosche, Junior, West Ranch.