The Foothill League was well-represented at the third annual Tyler Skaggs Foundation All-Star games on Saturday at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Brentwood.
West Ranch alumnus Drew Greenberg took home MVP honors for the Senior game after his two-inning start, where he allowed one hit and struck out six batters.
Greenberg led the Red team to a 4-1 victory over the Blue team.
“It was awesome just delivering for the boys out there,” Greenberg said. “Them giving me some run support early was definitely big but that just gave me the confidence to go out there and shove it even more.”
The Reds did their damage early and scored all four runs in the first two innings. Sierra Canyon’s Kehden Hettiger blasted a two-run homer in the first off of Valencia’s Ricky Ojeda. Isaac Veal then made it 4-0 with an RBI double that scored Saugus’ Justin Rankin.
Hettiger was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB Draft just days later.
The Red team kept finding ways to get on base but were held scoreless from there on.
Castaic ace Kyler Freude entered in relief for Greenberg in the third and gave the Reds another strong two innings. Freude gave up the Blues’ sole run to some familiar faces. Former Valencia shortstop Evan Jaquez hit a hard infield single that brought in Castaic’s Aaron Gonzalez to score. Freude then worked a quick inning in the fourth with three first-pitch fly-outs.
West Ranch’s Ryan Shalkevich took the mound for the Blue team in the fifth. The former Wildcat had a few misses early but turned his A-game on when he needed it most.
“I don’t know, I kind of felt like I didn’t have my stuff early on in the inning and then something clicked,” Shalkevich said. “I just started throwing the ball like how I normally would. It was just pretty cool.”
Shalkevich loaded the bases on two hits and a walk but with his back up against the wall, he delivered a gem. The Master’s University commit struck out his next three batters to keep the Red team at bay. The pitcher had a tough final at-bat with someone who knows him better than most, West Ranch and Master’s teammate, Matthew Lloyd.
“Oh, I’m sure Matty is really happy about that one,” Shalkevich said while laughing. “It was nice to get my buddy over there.”
The two will be roommates in the fall at the Master’s, where they’ll add some pitching and offense to a stacked Mustangs team.
Greenberg and Shalkevich stood out on Saturday but were just two of West Ranch’s loaded pitching staff in 2023.
“They do a fantastic job up there,” Greenberg said. “Jim Wagner does absolutely fantastic with the pitchers. Coach Lindgreen does a great job managing the staff and the bullpen, making sure none of our arms get overused. I’d definitely say (West Ranch) is becoming ‘Pitcher U’ in the Foothill League.”
The Red team rode a wave of solid defense and pitching to victory in the seniors’ last game at the varsity level. Every player will be continuing their playing careers and four were awarded scholarships from the Tyler Skaggs Foundation. Amari Yolas of Palisades Charter, Tyler Shulman of Calabasas, Christian Recendez of Santa Monica and Nigel Buckley of Junipero Serra were all awarded $2,000 scholarships for their academic futures.
“Tyler Skaggs was more than an incredible athlete; he was an incredible person,” TSF Director of Communications Krista Barry wrote in an email. “The support we continue to receive is proof of that very fact, and it’s what keeps us motivated to continue his legacy.”
Former big leaguers Scott Heineman, Ryan Braun and Trevor Plouffe rejoined the TSF in the dugouts to coach their third straight all-star games.
“The event’s gotten better and better every single year,” Plouffe said. “I’m always surprised with how good the players are when they come out and participate in the game. So, for me, it’s a pleasure to work with them. I get to come and see everybody: Tyler’s family and everyone that knew him really well. It’s a nice chance for us all to get together and support a good cause.”
Plouffe and Braun coached alongside one another but took their first loss in the Skaggs Foundation game after two years in a row with victory. Every year, the pair are impressed with the skill level of the participating seniors.
“These pitches seem really fast and I’m like dang, how hard is this guy throwing? How big are these guys?” Plouffe said. “I’m continuously impressed every year with just the game play and the talent that’s out on the field. So every year kind of surprises me and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore.”
TSF also hosted an Undergraduate Showcase game, which featured eight more SCV products.
The Red team featuring Castaic’s James Lafferty and Saugus’ Zach Hebert took home bragging rights but the Blues played well.
Castaic junior Tyler Hawn went 1-for-2 at the plate and stole a base. Hawn also added his usual scoreless inning in relief for the Blues. Hart’s Ryan De La Maza and Brayden Jefferis also added some big hits for the Blue team that also featured Valencia’s Will Verlaque and Noah Jaquez.
Thanks to some private donations, ticket sales, merchandise, and 50/50 raffles, the nonprofit brought in over $12,000, more than doubling the totals from last year.
“We’ve been so fortunate with our generous donor community, who continues to show up and support us,” Barry wrote. “We do our best to be hands-on and remain as involved as possible with the individuals and organizations that we support, which is why we decided our TSF Grant Program would be open to applicants based within California this past year. Our focus is more than just donating money; we want to also donate our time and create as much of an impact as we possibly can. That said, we did increase the game-day scholarship amounts this year, which we were proud to be able to do.”
The all-star games are one of the biggest events of the year for the Skaggs Foundation, but the group stays busy year-round giving back to the community. TSF hosts an annual food drive, toy drive, a 5K race, offers grants to students, and silent auctions to raise funds to assist those in need.
The foundation recently partnered with Inglewood Little League and provided scholarships, equipment and uniforms to nearly 250 players from 22 teams. The league hosted a tribute event for the foundation, Tyler Skaggs Day. Every player wore custom No. 45 shirts in Skaggs’ honor.
TSF hopes to continue to grow all of its events, including its prestigious all-star game.
“Hosting the game at Jackie Robinson Stadium is a pretty big deal,” Barry wrote. “With the support of college coaches, in particular coach John Savage (UCLA), we plan to take the Tyler Skaggs All-Star Game to an elite level, just like the Football All-American Game and the Basketball McDonald’s All-Star Game.”
No matter what happens, Plouffe will be there to support the foundation and pass on whatever he can to the seniors entering the next chapters of their lives.
“I always focus on off-the-field stuff,” Plouffe said. “I just say that ‘your life is a bunch of decisions stacked on top of each other, so try to make the best decisions you can,’ and ‘really think about your actions because they have consequences.’ For me it’s more about mentoring them off the field and just saying ‘make good choices.’”
To learn more about the Tyler Skaggs Foundation, visit www.tylerskaggsfoundation.org.