Christopher poised for strong season

Cougars senior Andrew Kachel will play a pivotal role for the team this season.

If the Christopher High baseball team intends on contending for a Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division championship, it will need to pitch like it did in the first four games of the season—all victories. When the Cougars opened up league play against Monterey on March 11, the Toreadores ripped off 15 hits en route to a 12-6 win. The Cougars graduated ace-stuff starters Jonathan Newman and Sean Straub, and they’ll need everyone—literally—on the roster to contribute on the mound this season. 

Jacob Ornellas, Brenden Lodge and Matt Peters are in line to make up the three-man starting rotation; however, there are several other players who will pitch and potentially see a lot of innings depending on their production. 

“Obviously those two guys (Newman and Straub) were workhorses last year, so I’m looking for them (Ornellas, Lodge and Peters) to step up and help us get back to where we were last year,” Cougars coach Ryan Dequin said. “Jake is a hard-throwing righty with some good potential, Brenden is a righty who has good stuff that will keep guys off-balance and Matt goes from the left side and has good stuff and keeps the ball down. He’s a good kid and very coachable and will be a pivotal piece for us. We need those guys to step up and give us three to four good innings to start, and basically any position player after that covering the back end of their starts.”

Indeed, a look at the Christopher High roster shows six players listed as pitchers but another five as utility, meaning some in the latter category have the ability to eat up some innings as well. One of those players include standout shortstop Andrew Kachel, whom Dequin said has “dirty stuff,” or pitches that are downright nasty. 

Kachel came up huge in the team’s first league win against Palma last Friday. Kachel delivered 2 2/3 shutout innings of relief to seal a 5-3 victory, critical since Christopher was coming off two straight losses to start Gabilan Division play. Nate Correa, Zach McMahon, Justin Garrido, and Cooper Ahola will log some innings, too. 

“Everybody that can throw will throw,” Dequin said. 

Offensively, the team should be strong for the duration of the season. Center fielder Jack Tomlinson drove in both of the team’s runs in the first loss to Monterey, courtesy of a home run. He also walked once in that contest and drew three walks in the second game against Monterey on March 13, which shows his ability to get on base, make the pitcher work and hone in on the pitches he wants to hit. 

The University of California at San Diego-bound Tomlinson is one of three players who are signed on to play at four-year schools, including Kachel (Fresno State) and Garret Santos (Fresno Pacific). Dequin said a fourth player, catcher Zach Griffin, is receiving extensive looks from four-year colleges and has the chance to play at the next level in 2020, while Ornellas talked with Cal Poly two weeks ago. 

“We have a bunch of individual talent that is very potent when it comes together,” Dequin said. “They have to learn to pick each other up, and the message I relayed to them is they are going to win together and going to lose together. Everyone has to figure out their role on the team and prepare to compete in every single game. The expectation is set and they understand they know they have a good opportunity in front of them. Most of the kids have been playing ball together for 8, 9, 10 years now.”

Senior leadoff hitter Travis Romero knows his role well. A sparkplug who understands the game and possesses plenty of intangibles like grit and picking up his teammates, Romero understands game situations and leads by example with his words and actions. Kachel, Tomlinson and Griffin comprise the middle of the team’s lineup, and the trio should produce in a variety of situations. 

“They’re all very talented and will be propelling us to win games,” Dequin said. “They’ve got good leadership qualities and have the potential to hit the long ball. They know how to execute in key situations and they always have the potential to do something good and start a rally.”

Tomlinson has really elevated his game in the last couple of years, and he shows no signs of letting up after he signed with UCSD. In fact, Tomlinson might be working harder than he ever has knowing what he’ll be facing in college. He and Romero had two hits each in the win over Palma. 

“Jack wants to work out more and put in more time and effort,” Dequin said. “He’s working out, lifting weights and he understands his job is not done just because he’s committed to play at the next level. He’s making everyone around him better.”

Tomlinson covers a lot of ground in center field, and plays the position about as well as anyone in the league. The same can be said for Romero at second base. With Dequin carrying a 14-player roster, he’s looking for everyone to contribute in some shape or form. Karson Mazotti, a senior utility player, had a run-scoring single against Palma.

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