Castaic Coyotes baseball has quickly built the foundation for a playoff team in one of the most competitive leagues in Southern California.
The Coyotes officially clinched a playoff seed on Wednesday after a 6-2 home win over the Saugus Centurions, the same team that beat them in a tiebreaker game last year.
“We’ve waited almost 365 days for this,” said Coyotes coach Darrell Davis in a phone interview. “Last year at Saugus was heartbreaking for us because we thought we had a chance to get into the playoffs. It was very emotional … We watched them celebrate as they knocked us out. It felt good to win because it hurt last year and we didn’t forget about that.”
Castaic fell just a game short of making the playoffs in its first year of varsity play, but has clinched with three league games left in year two.
Coyotes ace Kyler Freude led the team from the mound, going all seven innings and allowing eight hits, two runs with 11 strikeouts.
Senior Aaron Gonzalez brought in the bulk of the runs, after his 2-for-3, four-RBI day highlighted by a base-clearing triple in the bottom of the fourth. Gonzalez has struggled at the plate earlier in the season but is heating up at just the right time. The senior hit a grand slam just a game before Wednesday’s league battle, and now has a six-game multi-hit streak.
Senior Joji Sakata is having an MVP-like season for Castaic, batting nearly .500 in Foothill League games.
Saugus came ready to play and jumped to a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Gonzalez tied the game with an RBI single in the third before breaking the game open in the fourth.
Davis nearly had a playoff team last year and now the same pieces of the puzzle have matured into parts of a league contender.
“We had a year of maturity,” Davis said. “Last year was our first year and a lot of these boys had never been on a stage like that. We’ve always worked hard, and we brought kids up from lower levels that can make an impact, and they definitely have. It’s a lot of the same pieces of the puzzle still in place but a year of maturity has done wonders.”
Castaic knew what was at stake on Wednesday, and the team celebrated in jubilation after the final ground-out from Freude.
Saugus will get another shot at the Coyotes at home on Friday, when Davis will return to his alma mater and aim to keep climbing up the Foothill League standings.
Either way, Davis is proud of his team’s accomplishment in just its second year of varsity.
“That’s something that can never be taken away from the senior boys,” Davis said. “They’re the first team that made the playoffs from the program. That’s something they can always hang their hat on … We’ll be the first team ever to get to the playoffs, there’s no other sport at our school who was won more than one or two league games and we’re still trying to fight for first, second or third. Our league is tough and it’s crazy how things are looking right now.”