SCV baseball season roundup 

The Castaic baseball team celebrates after winning the CIF Southern Regional Championships against Ganesha 7-6 at Castaic High School on Saturday, June 3, 2023. Chris Torres/The Signal

Castaic High School’s historic run ended in triumph, officially ending a spectacular season for baseball in the Santa Clarita Valley. 

West Ranch High School and Trinity Classical Academy also made deep playoff pushes, and nearly every team in the area made strides for their program. 

The off-season has brought on the all-league honors and several all-CIF honors. 

Here’s a roundup of the rainy but exciting 2023 SCV baseball season: 

Castaic, the new sheriff in town 

The party in Castaic just won’t stop. The CIF and SoCal Regional champs were honored in the all-CIF selections on Wednesday. Senior Joji Sakata was named Player of the Year while skipper Darrell Davis was named Coach of the Year. Seniors Kyler Freude and Aaron Gonzalez join Sakata as selections on the Foothill League first team and all-CIF. 

Castaic capped off its season on Saturday, with a 7-6 walk-off win over the previously undefeated Ganesha. The Coyotes outscored their opponents by a mile during their playoff run and went nearly two months without a non-league loss. 

The team will graduate a loaded senior class highlighted by Matthew Airhart, Jacob Bond, David Cailatto and Brody Lusk. 

Sakata will head to Saint Peters, Gonzalez is set to join a plethora of local athletes at Cal State Monterey Bay and Diego Spross will play at Embry Riddle Aeronautical. Several other seniors are still weighing options for their collegiate paths. 

Castaic infielder Tyler Hawn (4) celebrates with the championship medal in his mouth after winning the CIF Southern Regional Championship against Ganesha 7-6 in extra innings at Castaic High School on Saturday, June 3, 2023. Chris Torres/The Signal

Davis is excited for year three of his program’s varsity tenure. Junior Tyler Hawn leads a dangerous group returning to the team next season. Juniors Anthony Luna, Jack Teoli, Ivan Estrada and pitcher James Lafferty will be big names returning to Castaic. 

It’s already back to work for Castaic as the team joined the Valley Invitational Baseball League for the summer. The Coyotes have brought in the first two pennants for the school in any sport and will aim to repeat in the postseason while also aiming to bring home a Foothill League championship in 2024. 

Trinity finishes fantastic season 

The Trinity Knights’ season was full of headlines. After an 0-3 start with just seven runs in that span, the Knights caught fire. Trinity won its next 18 games in a row, including two playoff victories.  

The Knights defended their Heritage League title and finished undefeated in league play. 

Trinity’s season ended in the CIF Division 6 quarterfinals, where the team fell to the Bloomington Bruins. The Knights’ bats started hot and chased Bruins starter Andrew Tejeda off the mound in the second inning. However, Trinity couldn’t get back into rhythm against Andrew Martin in relief, and compiled just one hit against the reliever.  

Rocco Izzo, Gabe Chavez, Anderson Howell and Luke Backes all collected hits for Trinity. The four also recently earned all-league honors in the Heritage League. 

Sophomore John Carlson gave it everything he had and held the Knights’ lead during his 5.2-inning, one-hit and nine-strikeout performance. 

Carlson was named Heritage League Offensive Player of the Year while teammate Noah Visconti was named Defensive Player of the Year. Visconti was also named in the Division 6 all-CIF selections. 

Trinity pitcher Noah Visconti pitches against SCCS. Photo Courtesy of Trinity Athletics.

Visconti led a group of six Knights hitting above .400 with 28 hits, a .452 average and only striking out four times all year. The sophomore also went 7-0 on the mound with a 1.51 ERA. 

Carlson completed the season 6-0 on the bump, leading the team with 79 strikeouts. He also led the offense with 10 doubles and batted .419. 

The Knights will graduate five seniors, all vital to Trinity’s success this season. However, the program remains on the rise with Carlson and Visconti headlining a big group of returners for 2024. 

West Ranch reaches CIF quarterfinals 

The Wildcats took a leap in 2023. West Ranch High School’s season reached the CIF quarterfinals, where the Cats fell by just one run to the eventual CIF Division 2 runner-up South Hills. 

West Ranch compiled a 22-8 record, their most wins in four years.  

Senior Ty DePerno led West Ranch with 35 hits and four homers this season, earning him all-league and all-CIF honors.  

The team will graduate another class full of collegiate athletes. DePerno will continue his career at Navy, Bret Potter and Shane Buchbinder are committed to Lewis & Clark College, Matt Lloyd and Ryan Shalkevich will both head to The Master’s University and Drew Greenberg heads up to Ohlone. 

Junior Aiden Buntich will return in 2024 along with Mikey Murr, Nolan Stoll and Landon Hu. Buntich led all Wildcats with a .394 batting average while the other three all hit over .320 on the year. 

West Ranch pitcher Ben Cushnie (12) throws a pitch in the first inning of the 2023 CIF Southern Section Baseball Championships against Royal at West Ranch High School in Valencia, Calif., on Friday, May 5, 2023. West Ranch won 6-5 and move on to the next round. Chris Torres/The Signal

While most of the relievers will graduate, the team will also return its stacked starters on the hill. CSUN commit Jackson Banuelos and USC commit Ben Cushnie both will return to West Ranch for their senior years, along with promising junior-to-be Hunter Manning.  

Valencia retakes Foothill League crown 

The Foothill League baseball awards didn’t raise many eyebrows this season. Ricky Ojeda being named Pitcher of the Year, while Lance Mittelman picked up a Player of the Year award, was to the surprise of few. The pair’s success this season was integral to Valencia High School retaking the Foothill League crown for the first time in four years. 

Ojeda, a UC Irvine commit, finished the season 8-2, with an 0.53 ERA, 89 strikeouts and a perfect game against Taft.  

Mittelman didn’t miss much at the plate. The San Francisco University commit batted .452 with 12 doubles. Mittelman also shined on the mound, going 4-1 with a 1.97 ERA over six starts.  

Valencia starting pitcher Ricardo Ojeda (13) throws a pitch in the second inning during a non-league game against San Marcos at Valencia High School on Thursday, April 6, 2023. Valencia lost 2-0 in extra innings. Chris Torres/The Signal

Valencia shined at the plate as usual, with standout years from seniors Zach Andrews, Evan Jaquez and Abe Shelofsky. All three picked up all-league honors for the Vikes. 

Second-year skipper Brad Meza now joins an exclusive club, as he has now won Foothill League titles as both a player and coach.  

Valencia will also send off Matthew Sherwood to Pacific Lutheran baseball, Phil Jeong to Cal Lutheran and Jacob Mallut to Salem. The Vikings will graduate a stellar class of 12 seniors but retain plenty of weapons. Aiden Voyles, Will Verlaque and Noah Jaquez will all return for 2024. 

Hart falls just short of monumental upset  

The Hart High School Indians were just one run away from upsetting the No. 1 Notre Dame Knights. The star pitching duo of Troy Cooper and Chris Downs gave their all and held the Knights to their lowest-scoring output of the season. 

Hart just couldn’t find any rhythm at the plate and fell, 1-0. Coach Jim Ozella led the youngest team he’s ever had into the Division 1 playoffs and nearly shocked the baseball world. 

The team now graduates a small but talented senior class. The senior Downs will continue to play at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he’ll be joined by Cooper in 2025. First baseman and lefty pitcher Sean Elsee is committed to Occidental while Mikey Rogozik will continue his baseball career at La Verne. 

Brayden Jefferis (2) makes the stop on a Valencia ground ball in the first inning at Hart High on Tuesday, 042523. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Indians have a lot to look forward to in 2024. Michigan commit Brayden Jefferis and catcher Ryan De La Maza will return for their senior seasons. The two have been vital to the Hart offense and will lead the 2024 team flooded with returners. 

Jefferis picked up his third straight first-team all-league award, while Cooper also took home first-team honors. Downs, Rogozik and junior Cole Nguyen were also named in the all-league honors. 

Golden Valley makes huge strides 

The Grizzlies had a revitalizing season for the program and were a surprising snub from the CIF Division 6 playoffs. Golden Valley High School met the criteria for an at-large bid but just missed the cut to extend its season into May. 

The squad nearly went over .500, completing the year 14-14, its first non-losing season in 13 years. 

The Grizzlies ended the year ranked 18th in MaxPreps’ Division 6 rankings. The team’s strength of schedule rating of 6.1 was the third highest in the top 25, and this is after the postseason, with playoff teams extending that rating. 

Head coach Adrian Rios will send another set of seniors into collegiate play as shortstop Wyatt Crosby heads to Cal Lutheran and Sam Estrella is committed to Arizona Christian. Crosby was the catalyst all year, batting .430, while Estrella also finished hot at .310. 

Golden Valley shortstop Wyatt Crosby (5) jumps to make a throw to first base in extra innings during a Foothill league game against Canyon at Golden Valley High School on Saturday, April 8, 2023. The Grizzlies won 5-4. Chris Torres/The Signal

Key returners in 2024 will be Ace Jack Steidl alongside Brayden Brewer and Tyler Tait, returning for their senior seasons. 

Rios has the program on the rise and hopes contending for a Foothill League title is on the horizon. 

Saugus already working for 2024 

2023 didn’t go the way the Centurions imagined but it’s already miles behind the team. 

Saugus High School missed the playoffs for the first time in six years but is already retooling in the VIBL over summer. 

The Cents will graduate another big senior class, highlighted by Zach Plasschaert, Erik Polanco, Justin Rankin and TJ Cataldi. Plasschaert will continue to play at Arizona, while Polanco heads to Angelo State. Rankin, Plasschaert and Cataldi led the team with 22 hits while Cataldi had a stellar athletic senior year, leading Saugus from the mound, at the plate and on the gridiron as the Centurion quarterback. 

Saugus senior Justin Rankin (34) tags out Castaic senior Brody Lusk (2) at first base during a Foothill League game against Castaic at Saugus High School on Friday, April 21, 2023. Castaic won 4-2. Chris Torres/The Signal

Head coach Carl Grissom has some exciting young players returning as Saugus will look to keep its year away from the playoffs as a quick hiatus. 2024 seniors Jason Zepeda, Luke Lemmond and Derek Hughes will likely take leadership roles with Saugus next year while current freshman Matt Carta and Parker Allman have long varsity careers ahead of them. 

Canyon program on the rise 

The Cowboys took some lumps this year but were hardly down and out, as 13 of the team’s 23 losses were by four runs or less. 

Senior Pablo Rodriguez capped off his incredible four-year varsity career with a strong year at the plate, in the outfield and on the mound. Rodriguez led the team in strikeouts on the mound while batting .311 just behind the team-high Elijah Valentin, who batted .364. Canyon High School will also graduate Jacob Mourthi and Austin Hernandez, two other formidable hitters, but the future is still looking bright for first-year head coach Zachary Newman. 

Canyon pitcher Elijah Valentin (1) throws a pitch in the fourth inning of a Foothill league game against Golden Valley at Golden Valley High School on Saturday, April 8, 2023. The Grizzlies won 5-4. Chris Torres/The Signal

Rodriguez has consistently shined athletically and academically, and will continue both paths at Yale. Valentin will be a big pickup for Santa Barbara City College. 

Newman was the third coach in four years for the program and will prepare to continue elevating the team in 2024. 

The Cowboys will return talented hitters in Tsukasa Ozaki, Daniel Montero and Benny Santos. Ozaki led the team with a .312 batting average in 2023 league play. Two-way stars Warren Goenner and freshman Brody Bayliss will also return, filling some big holes for Newman. 

The Fab-nine hit and shine at SCCS 

Santa Clarita Christian School baseball had an incredible season, all things considered. The Cardinals’ team of nine players, with no seniors, ended the year 9-9-1, and went undefeated until mid-March. The team completed its best season in six years and has the chance to build something special. 

Four players hit above .360 at the plate, including sophomore Wyatt Waldron Jr., who finished the year batting .492. The team will return all nine players, with quality bats from Wyatt Shields, Cayden Rappleye and Noah Orefice. 

Coach Wyatt Waldron Sr. will lead the team again in 2024, in hopes for another positive season with hopefully a player turnout in double digits. 

All-League Selections 

Valencia infielder Lance Mittelman (17) fields a ball hit to him during a non-league game against San Marcos at Valencia High School on Thursday, April 6, 2023. Valencia lost 2-0 in extra innings. Chris Torres/The Signal

Foothill League Player of the Year: Lance Mittelman, senior, Valencia 

Foothill League Pitcher of the Year: Ricky Ojeda, senior, Valencia 

First Team 

Pablo Rodriguez, senior, Canyon 

Kyler Freude, senior, Castaic 

Joji Sakata, senior, Castaic 
Aaron Gonzalez, senior, Castaic 

Wyatt Crosby, senior, Golden Valley 

Brayden Jefferis, junior, Hart 

Troy Cooper, junior, Hart 

Zach Plasschaert, senior, Saugus 

Evan Jaquez, senior, Valencia 

Aidan Buntich, junior, West Ranch 

Ty DePerno, senior, West Ranch 

Second Team 

Elijah Valentin, senior, Canyon 

Tyler Hawn, junior, Castaic 

Jesse Alcaraz Jr., senior, Golden Valley 

Chris Downs, senior, Hart 

Mike Rogozik, senior, Hart 

Justin Rankin, senior, Saugus 

Matthew Sherwood, senior, Valencia 

Zach Andrews, senior, Valencia 

Abe Shelofsky, senior, Valencia 

Ben Cushnie, junior, West Ranch 

Matthew Lloyd, senior, West Ranch 

Honorable Mention 

Austin Hernandez, senior, Canyon 

Jacob Bond, senior, Castaic 

Jack Steidl, junior, Golden Valley 

Cole Nguyen, junior, Hart 

Trevor Dockery, senior, Saugus 

Noah Jaquez, sophomore, Valencia 

Bret Potter, senior, West Ranch 

John Carlson (31) of Trinity celebrates after hitting a double in the sixth inning against Riverside Prep at William S. Hart Baseball & Softball Complex in Santa Clarita on Tuesday, 050923. Dan Watson/The Signal

Heritage League Offensive Player of the Year: John Carlson, sophomore, Trinity 

Heritage League Defensive Player of the Year: Noah Visconti, sophomore, Trinity 

Heritage League First Team 

Brandon Chase, senior, Trinity 

Rocco Izzo, senior, Trinity 

Gabe Chavez, senior, Trinity 

Sam Robertson, senior, Trinity  

Second Team 

Lucas Backes, sophomore, Trinity 

Anderson Howell, senior, Trinity 

Andrew Kelly, sophomore, Trinity 

Wyatt Waldron, sophomore, SCCS 


Division 2 All-CIF 

Ty DePerno, senior, West Ranch 

Division 6 Player of the Year – Joji Sakata, senior, Castaic 

Division 6 All-CIF 

Aaron Gonzalez, senior, Castaic 

Kyler Freude, senior, Castaic, 

Noah Visconti, sophomore, Trinity 

Castaic infielder Joji Sakata (27) makes it to second base during a Foothill League game against Saugus at Saugus High School on Friday, April 21, 2023. Castaic won 4-2. Chris Torres/The Signal

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