pitcher throws a ball
AJ Minyard has been the workhorse for the Los Gatos High baseball team, leading the team in innings pitched and a 1.95 ERA, best among the starters. He's 5-2 as the team enters the final two league games against Palo Alto. (File photo)

It’s hard to believe the Los Gatos High baseball team started the season 2-4. That’s because the Wildcats are resembling a squad that seemingly has everything it takes to win a Central Coast Section Division I championship. 

After an impressive two-game sweep of Los Altos last week, Los Gatos clinched an outright Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division title. It was an emphatic statement, as the Wildcats outscored the Eagles 24-3 over the two contests to improve to 19-6 overall and a perfect 12-0 in a league that in most years is the second best behind the West Catholic Athletic League.

Los Gatos finishes out the regular season with a home-and-home set with Palo Alto before it will likely be slotted into the top Division I playoff bracket. Even though the Wildcats have already won the league championship, they still have plenty to play for, according to coach Mike Minkel.

“We’re trying to put ourselves in the best situation possible and make the strongest case for us where we’re one of the top four [seeds] and can host a [CCS playoff] game,” he said. “We don’t want to put any doubt in the committee’s mind that we’re not one of the top four teams in the section.”

Yes, despite the CCS having a points system, there is still a subjective element in the seeding committee putting together the brackets. However, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Wildcats wouldn’t be slotted as one of the top four seeds in the Division I field.

Their resume includes a dominating run through the De Anza Division and plenty of quality non-league wins against A-league teams. The Wildcats went 1-3 vs. WCAL teams, though the three losses were by a combined three runs.

With two games remaining against an always tough Palo Alto team, Minkel said the focus is on taking care of business, one game at a time.

“We’re not looking forward to CCS just yet,” he said. “We’re trying to keep that laser focus and right now that’s Wednesday against Palo Alto.”

There’s no question the Wildcats have one of the most potent lineups in the section. They scored 24 runs in the two victories over Los Altos, no surprise given their hitting prowess.

Equally or even more impactful, the team’s pitching has really stood out down the stretch.

The return of Massimo Richiuso a little over a month ago bolstered the starting rotation, which already included AJ Minyard.

“Both of them have done a tremendous job for us,” Minkel said. “We look at them as kind of a 1A and 1B. As we start getting into next week and set things up for the playoffs, we’ll see who matches up better with who and go from there.”

Richiuso struck out five in four shutout innings in a 3-2 win over Homestead on April 28, the only league game that Los Gatos didn’t win by four runs or more. 

“Massimo has been doing a great job and brings a great work ethic to the mound,” Minkel said. “He commands the strike zone, he can throw a couple of different pitches for strikes any time in count, he’s got good stuff and goes right after you. He’s pretty fearless in his approach and that’s something we obviously like and get behind. Our hope is to lean on him here as we get toward the end of league season and onto CCS.”

Minyard allowed two earned runs in five innings in the first Los Altos game on May 3, but it was the scoreless relief inning he threw—striking out the side—in a 7-4 win over Hollister on April 10 that really got Minkel’s juices flowing. 

“One thing AJ showed us as we threw him at the end of the Hollister game was he knew he was going to be out there for one inning and he really attacked the zone and opened some eyes for us, understanding we can use him in some high leverage situations, too,” Minkel said. “It’s going to be fun to see how all this unfolds.”

In the second Los Altos game, a 12-0 win on May 5, the Wildcats finished with 17 hits including a season-high seven doubles. Carter Johnstone and Brayden Smith had monster games, finishing with identical stat lines: 3-for-3 with two runs scored, three doubles and three RBI. 

Donovan Freed went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs, while Richiuso was fabulous again on the bump, tossing five shutout innings. The Los Gatos roster is deep, talented and versatile, perhaps as good as any in the section.

“We’ve got a bunch of different options,” Minkel said. “The great part of our roster is we’ve got great depth. We’ve got a bunch of guys who come off the bench and can run, pinch hit, go lefty on lefty, we’re pretty flexible with a lot of interchangeable parts.”

Previous articleO’Connor reportedly being offered 17-year sentence by judge to plead
Next articleLos Gatos considers updates to traffic-related fees for developers
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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here