A Who-to-Watch list for spring sports season

Alex Valente of Dos Pueblos is the reigning CIF champion and record holder in the 100 butterfly.

Alex Valente of Dos Pueblos is the reigning CIF champion and record holder in the 100 butterfly. (Presidio Photo)

 

The high school spring sports season is here, and Presidio Sports wants to get you in the swing of it. We’ve compiled a list of some of the area’s top athletes in baseball, softball, swimming, track and field, boys tennis, boys volleyball, boys golf and lacrosse.

It’s the Who to Watch List for springtime.

We start the list with a pair of returning CIF individual champions. In swimming, Alex Valente of Dos Pueblos will be looking to repeat as the Division 1 champion in the 100 butterfly before he moves on to USC. Valente set a CIF record in the event at last year’s finals. He is also the Channel League record holder in the 100 back and is part of a record-setting 200 medley relay quartet.

Erica Schroeder of San Marcos peaked at the right time and captured the CIF Division 3 title in the 800 meters as a freshman.

A couple of teams hope to clear that final hurdle and play for a CIF championship. The Laguna Blanca boys volleyball and Dos Pueblos softball teams fell short in the semifinals last year.

Here is a sport-by-sport look at the athletes to watch this spring:

BASEBALL

Santa Barbara returns most of its starting lineup, including 6-4 junior right-handed pitcher Kevin Gowdy, who is part of the USA Baseball 17-Under national development program. Gowdy will have plenty of support when he takes the mound. The Dons have five solid seniors in shortstop Bryce Morison, outfielders Dalton Schroeder and Daniel McKinney and first baseman-pitcher Trevor Moropoulos. Third baseman John Jensen is a power-hitting third baseman.

Kevin Gowdy - Santa Barbara High Baseball

Santa Barbara High junior Kevin Gowdy is one of the premier pitchers in the area.

While the players change from year to year, one thing remains constant at Santa Barbara High: the coaching staff. Fred Warrecker and his son Donnie are the co-head coaches, with Mike Cooney, George Rempe and Wes Warrecker (another son of Fred’s) assisting. Fred Warrecker has been coaching the Dons since the mid-1970s.

Dos Pueblos has a rock-solid infield with returnees third baseman Luke Coffey, shortstop Michael Boelter, second baseman Quinn Peacock and first baseman Dustin Demeter. Coffey, a senior, and Peacock, a junior, were first-team all-Channel League and junior Demeter and senior Boelter were second team last season. Coffey, Peacock and Boelter all batted over .330. Another key returnees is senior catcher Nick Noggle, a second-team all-league pick. Sophomore pitcher Darby Naughton is one of the bright newcomers.

At San Marcos, pitcher Sean Nakano-West, catcher Derek Zylstra and third baseball Anthony Sanchez provide senior leadership.

Bishop Diego has a standout player in third basemen RJ Cordeiro. A four-year varsity player, he’s signed with Fresno State.

SOFTBALL

Dos Pueblos is loaded with talent and experience. Coach Jon Uyesaka has seven returning starters, including a tremendous pitching tandem in Lani Evans and Veronika Gulvin. Evans is coming off an All-CIF, Channel League MVP season after pitching the Chargers to the semifinals. She was 17-5 with an ERA 1.21 striking out 197 of 604 batters in 144 innings. Opponents could only muster a 0.140 batting average with Lani in the circle. She has committed to Iona University in New York.

Gulvin, who missed last season with an injury, was the primary pitcher two years ago, leading the team to the semis. She signed with UCSB.

“They both pitch and play first base, so they will be in the lineup 100 percent,” Uyesaka said. “And they both hit for power, hitting 5,6 in the lineup.”

Lani Evans led Dos Pueblos to the CIF semifinals last season.

Lani Evans led Dos Pueblos to the CIF semifinals last season.

The pitchers have a solid backstop in junior catcher Jade Sinskull. Also back are senior outfielder Maddy Buie and senior third baseman Kai Uyesaka. All three returnees were named to the Presidio Sports All-City team.

The most feared hitter in the lineup is returning junior Alison Milam. She earned first team Channel League honors in 2014. She stroked five home runs last year and had a breakthrough summer, said Uyesaka.

Hailee Rios is coming off a big year as a freshman for San Marcos. She led the Channel League in hits with 38 and batted .514. On the mound, she struck out 188.

Carpinteria returns all-city and first-team all-league pitcher/utility player Natalie Saito and all-league outfielder Scarlett Pettine. Pettine batted .429 and had 22 stolen bases.

Lindsay Bosio is a four-year starter for Bishop Diego. She was the Cardinals’ leading hitter and an all-league choice last season.

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

Santa Barbara High has an experienced squad, led by senior outside hitters Hayden Millington, Kyle Skinner and Jasper Rhodes. Millington was first-team All-Channel League as a junior. Cord Pereira brings experience and savvy at the setter position.

Cord Periera runs the Santa Barbara High offense.

Cord Pereira runs the Santa Barbara High offense.

Junior and three-year varsity player Eli Wopat is a powerful opposite for Dos Pueblos. The Chargers also have a solid setter in Mark Raphael. “He is smoother and quicker than last year,” said coach Ehren Hug of Raphael. “With a year of varsity under his belt and top of his class academically, Mark is poised for another stellar season leading the Chargers in their hunt for the first Channel League title since 2010.”

On Wopat, Hug said: “He is simply a volleyball player on a mission. His consistency and power attacking has vastly improved in addition to the shear strength he is putting on the ball. There will be red forearms, chests, and faces before the season is done for any guy that tries to dig this kid.”

Another key returnee is Elliot Brainerd, who plays in the middle and the outside. “He has been dedicating himself to his back row play, quickly becoming a six rotation player at middle blocker and the outside hitter position,” said Hug.

San Marcos lost some big guns from last year’s squad that reached the CIF semifinals, but the cupboard wasn’t left bare. All-league libero Sean Estabrooks returns for his third year at the position and Jake Castahna is back at middle hitter after earning second-team honors. Diego Almanza and Ian McLain add firepower to the lineup. Former Royals star Jon Newton takes over as the coach.

Laguna Blanca returns 10 players off a team that went 21-4 and reached the CIF Division 5 semifinals. Coach Dillan Bennett has five seniors, led by All-CIF libero Ryan Bickett. Connor Curran returns as setter and Thomas Sloan and Spenser Wyatt provide firepower at the pins.

The Owls start the season ranked No. 1 in Division 5.

“I am very excited for the upcoming season,” Bennett said. “We have many new faces to complement our returning players that will bring a new element of height and athleticism to our squad.”

Bennett has upgraded the schedule. The Owls will play several strong Division 3 and 4 teams. “We have the strongest schedule in the five years I have coached here. Last year was pretty tough, and the guys relished the competition. This year makes last year look pretty easy,” he said.

Junior setter and three-year varsity player Luca Jordano is coming off an all-Tri-Valley League season at Bishop Diego.

BOYS TENNIS

Jackson Powell moves into the No. 1 singles spot after playing doubles last season for Santa Barbara. The Dons will be shooting for their 15th straight Channel League title. They shared it last season with Dos Pueblos.

The Chargers are led by senior Patrick Corpuz. He won the league doubles title last year with Miles Baldwin, beating teammates Joshua Wang and Mason Casady. Wang returns and will be used in both singles and doubles. A newcomer to watch is freshman Vincent Villano.

Kento Perera is coming off a stellar freshman season at San Marcos.

Kento Perera is coming off a stellar freshman season at San Marcos.

Kento Perera ended a spectacular freshman season at San Marcos by advancing to the quarterfinals of the CIF Individual Tennis Tournament after going unbeaten in Channel League.

Junior Bryan Taira and senior Jonathan Cleek are the anchors for Carpinteria. Taira was all-league second team last season. Cleek is a leader and strong athlete. “We will need his expertise to guide our very young and inexperienced squad,” said coach Charles Bryant.

Kevin Ha, who helped Cate reach the CIF semifinals last season, returns for his sophomore season.

Phillip Hicks leads Laguna Blanca. He’s helped the Owls to back-to-back Division 4 round of 16 playoff appearances.

Bishop Diego has two-time defending league singles champion Spencer Ekola back for his junior year.

BOYS GOLF

San Marcos’ Sam Metzger is coming off an impressive freshman season in which he reached the CIF State Championships, where he finished in 36th place.

Michael Nam - Dos Pueblos Golf

Dos Pueblos’ Michael Nam finished third at last year’s Channel League Championships.

At Dos Pueblos, Michael Nam helped the Chargers earn a share of the league title. Nam is a four-year varsity player. Barry Motyer has lowered his stroke average from his sophomore season; sophomore Zach Steinberger and junior Mikha Benedictus were key contributors last year; freshman Christian Heslin is a seasoned player off the Santa Barbara Junior Golf Tour.

Santa Barbara has returning player Brandon Crane and a promising newcomer in freshman Preston Gommersall.

SWIMMING

Besides Valente, the Dos Pueblos boys have two other Division 1 signees in Walker Bell (USC) and Blake Parrish (Stanford). Bell holds the DP record in the 200 IM, is a member of the league-record 200 medley relay team and is just two seconds off the school mark in the 500 free. Blake Parrish, who will play water polo at Stanford, holds the league record in the 100 breaststroke and is part of the medley relay quartet.

Sophomore Theo Velikov is going to be counted on to produce in the 400 free relay and the medley relay, as the seniors are looking chase down the CIF record in those events, said coach Chris Parrish. “He has improved from last year where he was the consolation 100 free champion and a 100 breast finalist at the league meet as a freshman.”

On the girls side, seniors Reagan Eickert and Courtney Nuttall have signed to compete at the next level, Eickert at UC San Diego and Nuttall at Cal State East Bay.

Eickert, a 500 and 200 free specialist, will be counted on in the sprint relay. Nuttall is the Chargers’ top swimmer in the 100 fly and 100 backstroke.

Sophomore Cassandra Barkhorn qualified for CIF in the 200 IM and 500 free last year.

The San Marcos girls swim team has several top performers returning. Paige Hauschild, Olivia Smith and Amanda Hayes all qualified for CIF last season. The relays are experienced with Grace Pizzinat, Madeleine Kriz, Megan Bergthold, Brittany Prentice and Riley Heiduk. Coach Chuckie Roth says newcomers Piper Smith, Maija Ninness and Lili Rose Akin will make a big impact.

“This is the most competitive I have ever seen the San Marcos swim team,” said Roth.

Ben Brewer and Cuyler Gabriel anchor the Santa Barbara High boys swim team.

Cal Poly-bound Zach Allen is a returning Tri-Valley League record holder at Cate.

TRACK AND FIELD

Santa Barbara has an outstanding multi-event athlete in Natasha Feshbach. As a sophomore, she won the Channel League 200, long jump and 100 hurdles and finished second in the 100. She holds school records in the 100 hurdles (14.23) and 200 (25.49). She’s gone 18-3 in the long jump.

At San Marcos, San Jose State-bound Adilene Aldapa will be looking to break the five-minute barrier in the 1600. She placed fourth at the CIF finals in the event last season with a personal best of 5:01.46. The senior is a two-time state qualifier in cross country.

Erica Schroeder is the defending CIF champion in the 800 meters.

Erica Schroeder is the defending CIF champion in the 800 meters.

Schroeder is coming off a strong cross country season, qualifying for the CIF Finals. “She has broken into the San Marcos record books this past season, and is looking to continue to improve,” says coach Marilyn Hantgin.

On the boys side, Garrett Paulson returns for his senior year after qualifying for CIF in the 100, 200 and relays. “He is looking great this pre-season and wants to continue his dominance in the short sprints in our league,” says Hantgin.

Junior Tyson Miller qualified for CIF in the 400 and 200 and both relay teams. He is the league champion in the 400.

Cate has a standout track athlete in Joel Serugo. He went 43-6 ¼ in the triple jump as a sophomore at the Russell Cup and won the long jump at the SB County Championships.

Dos Pueblos has experienced distance runners in Tatianna Schluep and Christina Rice on the girls team and Chris Wasjutin and Graham Wren on the boys squad. Schluep is the defending county 800-meter champion, while Wasjutin was county and Channel League runner-up in the 3200. Wren narrowly missed qualifying for the CIF Finals in the 800.

Some newcomers to watch include Blayke Harrison, the JV boys league champion in the 100 and 200, and Sophia Janotti, JV league champion in the girls 100, long jump, triple jump and 4×100 relay.

LACROSSE

Santa Barbara, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos make their debuts in lacrosse this spring.
San Marcos girls coach Kelly Boyle cited sophomore Amanda Gershoff and juniors Kellen Peddicord and Summer Bosse as players to watch in their first season.

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