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July 3, 2022

Despite CCS loss, Los Gatos High baseball team sees bright future

It was a year of growing pains for the Los Gatos High baseball team after it graduated 17 seniors from last year’s squad. 

That meant there were a lot of new faces across the board playing together in a competitive schedule. 

But this group of young feisty Wildcats continued to push through, clawing their way to earn the top seed in the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs. 

That run came to an end May 25 after a tough 9-3 loss to No. 4 seed Monterey High in the semifinals at Sollecito Ballpark in Monterey. Los Gatos skipper Justin Oliver said they started playing their best ball toward the end of the season but things just didn’t go their way.

“It was growing pains, we’d make mistakes, we’d show glimpses of being really good, then we’d kind of take a step back,” Oliver said. “It was tough. A lot of inexperience, but these guys really came together at the end and pushed us to the semifinals.” 

The Wildcats, who finished the season 14-17, will lose seven seniors with at least five of them moving on to play junior college baseball next year.  

But there’s a lot to look forward to for Oliver, especially with the return of several starters including Jake Boyd.

The junior standout utility player had a great season on the mound and at the plate, helping Los Gatos to a fourth place finish in the competitive Santa Clara Valley Athletic League’s De Anza Division.

Boyd said this year’s team was young and they struggled at the beginning to build a bond. Yet they managed to overcome a lot of adversity.

“With having such little seniors, throughout the season we did a really good job of becoming brothers, becoming close with each other,” Boyd said. “And I know it didn’t end in a great way but it really helped get to where we are and hopefully succeed in the future.”

Boyd was the starting pitcher in the semifinals. Monterey got to him early after Goose Garrett drove in Nate Wedderburn for a 1-0 lead in the opening frame. 

The Wildcats answered right back when sophomore Carter Johnstone scored on a double by senior Nick Temple, tying the score at 1-all.

Boyd bounced back with two solid innings on the mound, retiring the Toreadors’ side without giving up a hit in the second and third innings. 

Los Gatos took its first lead of the evening, 2-1, when Temple hit a single that drove in Drew Dillehay, who started the third inning with a lead-off ground rule double.

The ‘Cats added one more run in the fifth when Johnstone hit a crushing solo home run over the right-center field wall, putting them ahead, 3-2.   

The Toreadors wouldn’t go away that easy, though. They tallied seven runs in the decisive sixth inning using patience at the plate—two runs on three walks—and on a pair of clutch hits.

Wedderburn smacked a two-run single, followed by an RBI triple by Patrick Adams that gave Monterey back the lead, 9-3, for good. 

“My coach, at first base, challenged me to hit it over the second baseman’s head,” Wedderburn said. “Just hit the ball and get it in play, make something happen.”

Boyd said they’ve been consistently great with the quick starts, but then the energy begins to fade away as the game progresses, which is what happened against Monterey. 

“For the future, it’s really important for us to stay together throughout the entire game,” he said. “I think we kind of just let go a little bit and that’s when the door opened up.”

Oliver said that giving up nine free bases on walks and the one crucial base hit by Wedderburn dropped any confidence that was left in the dugout.

The Wildcats went through the same pain in last year’s D-I semifinals after they gave up three runs in the seventh inning in a 7-6 loss to Mitty High.

“I just think at the end of the day if we’re going to compete we gotta throw strikes and we didn’t do that,” Oliver said.

Still, the future’s looking bright in the hills of Los Gatos and the program will have plenty to build on for next season. Plus, the junior varsity team won a league championship, usually a harbinger of success for the varsity program. 

“There’s going to be a lot of jobs on the line, people are going to be battling for it,” Oliver said. “Los Gatos is in good hands.” 

Boyd said it’s thrilling to see the next three years will be loaded with tons of great talent in sight.

“It’ll be exciting to see what we can get together and pull through,” Boyd said.

Los Gatos simply ran into a buzzsaw in Monterey. Wedderburn also got it done on the mound, retiring Los Gatos’ side in the sixth and closing it out in the seventh.

“We were a little down but we just had to pick ourselves up, and just keep moving on and push,” Wedderburn said. “We were all hitting the ball well.”

Monterey, which placed third in the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s top Gabilan Division, was riding a seven-game win streak going into the game.

During that stretch, the Toreadors beat San Benito, Pacific Grove, Gilroy, Palma and Christopher in league play.   

“I think our energy and just how connected we all are pushed us to this and hopefully we go win a ring on Friday,” Wedderburn said.

Carter Johnstone and Nick Temple touch helmets during the Wildcats’ CCS playoff semifinal. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Jake Boyd will be one of the key returners for Los Gatos High next season. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.