Aaron Valdez has pitched well this year coming off a season in which he helped lead the Mustangs to a Central Coast Section Division V championship. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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The Gilroy High baseball team was just 2-7 entering the 2021 Central Coast Section Division V playoffs. But the Mustangs got hot at the right time, winning three, white-knuckle contests en route to the championship victory. 

While it might be asking too much for Gilroy to repeat that feat this season, Mustangs coach Dennis Castro at the minimum wants to see improvement from his players as the season progresses. His motto?

“Every ‘L’ isn’t a loss, it’s a learn,” he said after the team’s 8-1 loss to San Benito High on March 9. “Let’s learn from every game we play so we’re prepared to build ourselves to be the team that we ended up being last year.”

Gilroy enters Wednesday’s game against crosstown rival Christopher High at 1-4-1 overall and 0-2 in Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division play. After a tie with Alisal High on March 1, the Mustangs lost four consecutive games by a combined margin of 31-1. 

“It’s been really tough, but I keep pushing to the guys it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish a season,” Castro said. 

Gilroy has co-aces in Quinn Larson and Aaron Valdez, who both have quality stuff. Castro said Larson has topped out at 94 mph and sits at 91-92. Valdez, meanwhile, changes speeds and locates well. When Valdez isn’t on the mound, he’s usually playing center field.

He showed off his howitzer of an arm when he threw out a runner at home plate in the first San Benito game, the ball reaching the catcher on the fly. Larson and Valdez are also potent hitters and returning starters along with leadoff man Bryan Walters, Ryan Villanueva and Jacob Godwin. 

Castro said there’s a lot of inexperienced arms after his two starting rotation standouts, and is hopeful players like Sam Guerrero, Michael Henrickson and Jacob Harden can emerge because they have the potential to pitch well. 

Ultimately, though, it’s up to the returning starters to carry the load because they’re the ones who gained valuable playoff experience and were on the field performing in clutch situations. Walters, Villanueva, Valdez, Larson and Godwin all had shining moments during the postseason run last year. 

“We expect a lot out of them and they know that,” Castro said. “They know they’ve got to contribute as much as possible to help this team to get where we want to go.”

Godwin is doing an excellent job at catcher and Castro was optimistic his offense would follow. 

“That kid is a straight-up athlete,” Castro said. “I put him in center field last year and he owned it like he’s been there his whole life. And I put him basically in the same exact situation this year, but behind the plate and he’s doing a great job. And now we just got to get him comfortable hitting again like he’s capable of doing.”

Larson had a home run and single in the first league game against San Benito. He also delivered six quality innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out seven. In the second league contest with the Haybalers on March 11, Valdez pitched the full six innings on the road and yielded just two earned runs with five strikeouts in the loss. 

In both defeats, the Mustangs had errors that led to San Benito runs. 

“We competed and would’ve been right there right with them if we eliminate the mistakes, so that tells me we’re moving in the right direction,” Castro said. 

Jacob Godwin has made a seamless transition going from center field to catcher this season. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Shortstop Bryan Walters is one of five returning starters for the Mustangs. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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