In the last couple of years, the Gilroy High baseball team has had some heavy hitters in the lineup, players who were a threat to hit a home run on any pitch. That won’t be the case this season, and yet the Mustangs aim to be a more consistent and productive group in 2019.
“You look at our team and we don’t have those big swingers, so it goes back to the kids buying into what we as coaches are talking about,” said Cole Mauter, who along with Dennis Castro are in their first season together as co-coaches. “They’ve responded not with, ‘Oh, I don’t get to hit bombs now,’ but with a buy in of understanding the process.”
Last season, Gilroy finished 11-7 in the Gabilan Division, good enough for sole possession of second place. The Mustangs also were limited to 3 runs or fewer in a game seven times a year ago, a number they want to reduce dramatically this season.
“It’s just a different brand of baseball than last year,” Mauter said after the team’s 5-3 win over Live Oak last Saturday. “We’re a little more of that small ball, a little more taking advantage of a situation for example when you have to bunt. There’s not many teams that will bunt the 3 hole (hitter), but we did that today. There are not too many guys that will bunt their 4 hole (player), but I also think we did that one time. If we can’t hit the ball over the fence, we’ll have to find a way to manufacture runs and the evidence is we’re dong it and that’s what we’re happy about as coaches.”
Early on at least, Gilroy has had no problems scoring runs. The Mustangs were 3-2 through their first five games, having scored 38 runs in that span. Instead of relying on the long ball, Gilroy will be station-to-station, moving runners over and producing hits to every part of the field. There are several players who hit well, including sophomore Matt Mendosa.
“He has incredible speed,” Mauter said.
No kidding. Mendosa had 10 of the team’s 13 stolen bases after five games, and has done a standup job at the leadoff spot, as he’s only struck out once and walked three times with a .688 on-base percentage. Mendosa also leads the team in hits (8) and runs scored (9). Christopher High-transfer Connor Villaneuva leads the starters with a .583 average, Junior Chris Colyer is hitting .385 and senior David Martinez has a team-high six RBIs. Gilroy will have to get things done offensively with a balanced approach where one through nine everyone is doing something positive.
“I can’t point to one guy that’s my superstar because that guy doesn’t exist this year,” Mauter said. “But that’s OK because one through nine I have faith in these guys they’ll get the job done. They love the game, they have a great energy and they have a buy-in to the good qualities of what makes good baseball players.”
Ace Sergio Sanchez, who is coming off a terrific junior season, pitched five innings of one-run ball against Live Oak. The senior right-hander, who has a three-quarters arm delivery, has an arsenal of off-speed pitches and locates well.
“He’s a horse,” Mauter said. “He’s a great competitor and that’s exactly what you look for.”
Mauter was referring to when Sanchez was told he would be pulled after the fifth inning in the Live Oak game as Sanchez’s pitch count reached at or near the limit for this early in the season. Juniors Tanner Boykin and Zach Miranda pitched the sixth and seventh innings, respectively. Look for all three pitchers—along with Bobby Baxter—to have a significant impact going forward.
“There are a lot of options Dennis and I have,” Mauter said. “Zach has a lot of movement on his fastball and breaking ball, and a live arm. Bobby is much more of your standard four-seam fastball pitcher with a curveball, but he throws a lot of strikes and is never a guy you have to worry about with pitch count. And Tanner has been an absolute weapon out of the bullpen for us.”
Villanueva plays catcher and pitches, and has the tools to potentially become the team’s closer. Owen Straub, who was No. 7 in the lineup against Live Oak, delivered a crucial hit, a two-run single as part of Gilroy’s four-run, third inning that gave the Mustangs the cushion they would need to eventually win the game.