The Gilroy High baseball program had just north of 20 individuals try out for the junior varsity and varsity teams this season. The number wasn’t high enough to field two squads, so the Mustangs decided to put everyone on the varsity squad. Despite its lack of numbers, Gilroy coach Dennis Castro sees something special brewing.
“I knew we had something special when we had a great game vs. Valley Christian (on April 15) and lost 2-1 in nine innings,” he said. “It was just an outstanding performance by these guys, and we hope to continue playing like that throughout the season.”
The Mustangs found a way to beat crosstown rival Christopher 5-2 on April 22 despite finishing with only five hits, all singles. They drew eight walks and reached base an additional four times after getting hit by pitches.
“They’re a bunch of grinders and do what they have to do to win the ballgame,” Castro said.
Gilroy scored four of its five runs in the top of the third inning, as David Seanez (single), Owen Straub (walk) and Jacob Godwin (walk) all reached to load the bases.
Quinn Larson was then hit by a pitch to make it 1-0, putting new meaning to the phrase taking one for the team. Jacob Parks followed with a run-scoring groundout and Ryan Villanueva stroked a two-run single to cap the mini outburst. Villanueva and Christopher’s Mateo Alcantar led their respective teams with two hits apiece.
Christopher scored single runs in the fifth and seventh, and loaded the bases and had the potential winning run at the plate with one out in the latter frame. But Jalen Hernandez induced a fielder’s choice and struck out the next batter to finish things off.
“I wish we could’ve got going (offensively) a little earlier, but we just couldn’t get in a groove,” Cougars coach Ryan Dequin said. “Early on, we were just trying to hit the ball out of the park too much and hitting a lot of flyballs. We got a little caught up in who we were playing and trying to do too much.”
In January, the Pacific Coast League Board of Managers decided to suspend all formal league schedules for the remainder of the school year, which put schools like Christopher and Gilroy in a bind trying to find opponents. That’s why Castro hopes to schedule Christopher as many times as possible this season. He sees the two schools playing each other as a benefit for everyone involved.
“The kids definitely get up for this game, and us coaches get up for this game,” Castro said. “We always want to beat them like they want to beat us. It’s a good rivalry filled with competitiveness, but in a friendly way. We go out there to win, but these guys see each other out in Gilroy and they’re friends. We still root for them when they’re playing somebody else, and I’d like to think they’re doing the same for us.”
Castro hopes the team’s hitting starts coming around. The Gilroy lineup struck out five times the first time through the order against Christopher before putting together more quality at-bats.
“Our main goal then was to make adjustments and that’s what we did,” Castro said. “We started seeing the ball better and weren’t swinging at bad pitches. Even though we’re not hitting like we want to, we’re still getting up there and making things happen, which is what I like about these guys.”
Castro highlighted Villanueva’s game as a prime example of what it means to make the key adjustments.
“His at-bat when he poked the ball to right field was impressive,” Castro said. “They kept on feeding us outside (pitches) and he just went with the pitch. And as a sophomore to be able to make that adjustment is pretty special.”
Gilroy received stellar defense from center fielder Jacob Godwin, who made a diving catch in the bottom of the third, while CHS first baseman Will Anderson dug up a couple of one-hoppers for putouts in the top of the inning.
Castro said the team has a strong core of pitchers with Valdez—who had a solid outing against a powerful Palo Alto squad—Hernandez, Larson and Parks, the latter two whom he refers to as the Twin Towers. Christopher also has some potential, though Dequin said the team is still developing and trying to find its identity.
Two years ago, the Cougars won the program’s first-ever CCS championship. But they graduated 14 seniors off that team and last year was supposed to serve as a valuable rebuilding year of experience for the newcomers until the pandemic cancelled the season.
“They missed out on that,” Dequin said. “A lot of these guys are young, both mentally young and baseball young. So we’re trying to get them caught up to speed real quick. We’re coming along and trying to figure out who we are.”
Dequin said he liked how the team stayed mentally in the game after falling behind 5-0 and slowly clawed its way back to put the potential winning run at the plate in the seventh inning. Jose Padilla, Nathan Weiler, Dylan Betancourt and Will Anderson have made an impact on the mound this season.
Some of the team’s top hitters so far include catcher Tyler Swan, Logan Stelling, Anderson and Cantu, who played second base, third base and pitched against Gilroy.