At this time last year, the young La Jolla High School Vikings varsity baseball team was 5-10. The season ended 6-22. It was not good.
But this season, the slightly older Vikings are taking that experience and learning from it. As of this week, they’ve literally flipped the script and are now 10-5. And on April 12, the Vikings will play against the Patrick Henry High School Patriots at Petco Park (home of the San Diego Padres).
As Coach Gary Frank explained: “We are young team, but experienced, because a lot of our young guys were here as even younger guys last year. We only have three seniors this year. Last season was a little bit of a baptism by fire in that they struggled as freshman and sophomores. They saw that they can struggle and are still here. They’re still having fun. They’re able to learn from their failures, make an adjustment and have confidence that the world isn’t going to end if they strike out or lose a game. They can still come back and win the next one.
“They have the confidence in their teammates that comes with spending a few years together. This helps because they don’t put as much pressure on themselves thinking they have to do everything. They still want to — everyone wants to be the hero — but they’re working together.”
A particular strength is pitching and defense. Specifically, Gavin Graff and Koa Scott, who are the two main starting pitchers, both have experience from last year. “They pitched as freshmen and sophomores and maybe combined, took one win,” Frank said. “This year, they’ve started in seven of our 10 wins. The confidence they have exudes to the other players. All of our infielders were on the team last year, so they, too, have that confidence now.”
Other players of note include Noah Brown, credited as one of the leading hitters, and Cooper McNally, who helps lead because he was on the team last year.
The hitting has been “a little less consistent,” Frank said, but is on the way up.
“Our hitting is coming around,” said junior outfielder Johnny Meyerott. “But the strong suit, honestly, is the fact that we are closely bonded. Last year we didn’t have that as much. A lot of us have played together since we were kids, so now it’s not like you are on a varsity team, it feels like just playing with our friends. We’re a talented team and I see a team that can win a League title easily.”
Meyerott said he hopes to participate in the game at Petco Park, but since he is recovering from a hand injury, he said: “At the very least, I’ll run the bases if not hit for my team.”
Beyond that, the team has a few titles in their sights. “Through the first four games of League (play) we tied for first place, so we’re hoping to stay competitive and fight for a League title and get back into the playoffs; we missed them last year,” Coach Frank said. “We want to let these guys feel that success and that reward for all the hard work they put into this season. They are very resilient and that is a key to our success.”
—The Vikings compete against the Patriots, 7 p.m. Friday April 12 at Petco Park, 100 Park Blvd., downtown. Tickets are $15 and include a free admission to a Padres game vs. the Cincinnati Reds on April 19. They can be purchased from a LJHS baseball player or Coach Frank through firstname.lastname@example.org