BASEBALL: La Jolla Country Day comes off a league title, restocked

La Jolla Country Day School senior Matt Yandel delivers against visiting Vista in an Aztec-Foothiller Tournament game. Ed Piper
La Jolla Country Day School senior Matt Yandel delivers against visiting Vista in an Aztec-Foothiller Tournament game. Ed Piper

By Ed Piper

La Jolla Country Day School baseball has a lot of one family — the Weisz triplets who play shortstop, catcher and centerfield. As their mom Kimberly, telephoto in hand, said with a smile, “I have the middle of the diamond.” The triplets were born tightly bunched, at 8:30, 8:32, and 8:33 p.m. Under LJCD coach John Edman, they’ll play cohesive, aggressive baseball.

Keaton, who starts at short and has made an early commitment to Arizona, said of the Torreys, “We have great team chemistry, and I think as long as we work hard, it will be a great season.” His siblings are Zachary, an outfielder, and Chandler, who catches.

Country Day is coming off a season in which the team zipped through the Coastal League last year with a 7-1 record, 24-7 overall. So expectations are pretty high this year.

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La Jolla Country Day School senior Matt Yandel delivers against visiting Vista in an Aztec-Foothiller Tournament game. Ed Piper

Said Edman, who coaches many of the LJCD players on a travel team: “If our pitching and defense compete like we think they will, this year could be a pleasant surprise (even though we graduated seven key players last year).”

The Torreys hosted Vista in the Aztec-Foothiller Tournament March 12, taking their lumps, 5-3, giving up all five runs in the first two innings. Starter Matt Yandel showed a good curve at times in his first outing, but the visiting Panthers weren’t fooled by his mix of off-speed pitches.

After giving up two flyball outs in the top of the first inning, Yandel yielded a double by Josh Cuppett over Zach Weisz’s head that hit the fence in centerfield, driving in a run.

Then Matt Ornelia drove in another run with a solid single to center. Jared Daniels followed with a fly to right off a check swing that rightfielder Alfonso Rivas gloved as he dove for the ball. The ball bounced off the palm of his glove, and the score was 3-0.

Pitching coach Dan Padgett called out to Yandel on the mound, “Deep breaths. Relax. Don’t overthrow.”

J.J. Arnold, a junior who stands 6-foot-5, came in to throw four scoreless innings, and fellow junior Chris Bee pitched an inning without giving up a run. Arnold drove in a run with a single, as did Rivas, an early commit like Keaton Weisz to Arizona. Zach Weisz scored on a pickoff attempt that went astray. Jalen King had a pinch-hit double.

Rivas, a lefthander, is the ace of the pitching staff. Named Pitcher of the Year in the league last year, he was 4-2 with a 2.50 ERA, with 41 strikeouts in 36 innings. At the plate as a sophomore, he blistered the ball at a .439 pace, driving in 30 runs with eight stolen bases. Nick Lavin, a righthander, is new to LJCD. He went 3-0 last year, with a 3.28 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 21 innings.

Among other position players, senior Brandon Wachs, a catcher/first baseman, hit .346 last year, with two homers and 12 RBI.

Of Travis Wilkie, a senior catcher, who transferred from St. Augustine, Edman said: “Travis is an incredibly intelligent catcher who blocks and receives as well as any catcher I have had.”

Said Wilkie of why he chose catching years ago: “When I was younger, trying to truly figure out what position I wanted to devote all my time to, a former coach of mine said that home plate points directly at the most important player on the field.”

   
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