CCS baseball: Paly nabs top seed, prompting debate

Ryan Sambel and his Serra teammates have been seeded No. 4 in the CCS playoffs.

Ryan Sambel and his Serra teammates have been seeded No. 4 in the CCS playoffs.

By John Murphy

The Central Coast Section baseball playoff seedings came out Sunday and at least one coach wasn’t that enthused by the process.

“I think the overall format needs to be adjusted,” said Craig Giannino whose Serra High team finished 24-5-1 and won a WCAL co-title and league playoff title but was only seeded fourth. “I think they have to look at teams not playing the toughest schedules being rewarded. Our team is excited to play (in the playoffs) but from the outside looking in, I don’t think anyone understands this system or gets it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Sequoia coach Corey Uhalde, whose team is seeded No. 7 in Division I, was more forgiving.

“It’s an objective way of looking at things and hopefully it will shake out the right way,” Uhalde said of the process. “I know the WCAL is a good level of play but they’re an A league like a lot of other leagues. In the Open Division you have 16 good teams and anyone can beat anyone else on a given day which we’ve seen in the past. I don’t want to say anyone is right or wrong (on the issue).”

No. 1 Open seed Palo Alto has its own problems. Yeah, it’s top dog as far as seedings, but must play a formidable team in Valley Christian of the WCAL in its opener. The Warriors are only the No. 16 seed.

In other opening-round Open games involving top seeds, No. 3 Santa Teresa will host No. 14 Terra Nova, No. 2 Palma will host No. 15 Archbishop Mitty and No. 5 St. Francis will host St. Francis CCC of Watsonville, the program that knocked off Mitty last season.
Giannino said he does not make up his schedule with seedings in mind.

“At the end of the day our kids know who played the best possible schedule and that it’s about competing year in and year out and not about points,” said Giannino, whose team beat St. Francis in two of three games this season and downed Palo Alto as well (though not in one of its final 22 games which are the games that are counted for seeding purposes).
In Division I, Leland is seeded No. 1 and will host No. 16 Oak Grove on Wednesday.
The D-II top seed is Carmel which will host No. 16 St. Lawrence, also on Wednesday.

All second-round games in all divisions are Saturday.


Games are at 4 p.m. Wednesday 

11 Bellarmine at 6 Westmont, 14 Terra Nova at 3 Santa Teresa, 10 Los Gatos at 7 San Benito, 15 Archbishop Mitty at 2 Palma, 12 St. Francis CCC at St. Francis, 13 San Lorenzo Valley at 4 Serra, 9 Carlmont at 8 North Salinas, 16 Valley Christiain at 1 Palo Alto.
11 Milpitas at 6 Christopher, 14 Gilroy at 3 Los Altos, 10 Leigh at 7 Sequoia, 15 Mountain View at 2 Willow Glen, 12 San Mateo at 18 Monta Vista, 13 Lincoln at 4 Wilcox, 9 Branham at 8 Woodside, 16. Oak Grove at 1 Leland.
11 Pacific Grove at 6 Sacred Heart Cathedral, 14 Soquel at 3 Menlo, 10 King’s Academy at 7 Burlingame, 15 Capuchino at 2 Aptos, 12 Soledad at 5 Hillsdale, 13 Monterey at 4 Sacred Heart Prep, 9 Monte Vista Christian at 8 Gunderson, 16 St. Lawrence at 1 Carmel.

Of Tomas Thompson and daughter, the Soquel ‘Psychos,’ Hadyn King and Eichhorn’s impressions



By John Murphy

Last week I profiled Jordan Thompson of The Harker School girls basketball. At last glance the junior was averaging 27 points per game.

It’s always kind of cool but sobering to realize I have covered both a current prep athlete and their parent. Back in the 1980s, as sports editor of the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, I covered Jordan’s father Tomas Thompson, the Harker coach, who starred at Soquel  back then.

Tomas Thompson was the son of Rolling Hills Middle School of Watsonville teacher/athletic director Tom Thompson whose gym now bears his name. Tomas was known for his high-arching, long-range shots in an era shortly after the 3-point shot was established. Soquel had a good team then and a large following of rowdy students who I dubbed the “Soquel Psychos” — this slightly upset Aptos coach Bill Warmerdam who thought I was waking a sleeping giant and its fans in the Knights, so to speak.

Warmer would unpredictably get upset by weird stuff like that on occasion, such as when I previewed the Jefferson-Daly City High team before it played Aptos at Skyline College in a big playoff game and he thought I built up Jeff too much. I believe the Indians (as they were called then) had Tyreese Knox in their lineup. Jeff won that game, by the way. Warmerdam was a truly great coach, though, and probably the most unique guy I ever covered. His battles with Santa Cruz coach Pete Newell Jr. were epic. Newell was just as great of a coach in his own way and he managed one feat Warmer did not, won a state title.

There have been numerous father/son or father/daughter combos I have covered over the years and I’m reminded by it after seeing Jim Seimas’ tweet that Archbishop Mitty’s Hadyn King has committed to USF for baseball. I covered King’s father and uncle (who are twins) when they played at Aptos under coach Paul Barrington. Matt and Marc King were those Mariner stars but I cannot recall which one is Hadyn’s father and which is his uncle; seems like I’ve spoken to both of them at Mitty games.

Other father/son or father/daughter combos I’ve covered:

Mark Eichhorn (Watsonville baseball)/David Eichhorn (Aptos baseball).

Glenallen Hill (Santa Cruz multi-sports)/Heleyna Hill (Mitty girls basketball)

Blair Calhoun (Serra basketball)/Siobahn Calhoun (Half Moon Bay girls basketball and track and field).

Stan Claunch (North Monterey County football)/Troy Claunch (Vacaville football and baseball).

I didn’t cover pitcher Mark Eichhorn in high school, but I wrote the story for the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian when he got drafted out of Cabrillo College. I also was there for his Bay Area major league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays against the Oakland Athletics. Years later, after Eichhorn picked up a few World Series rings with the Jays, I covered his son David Eichhorn for the San Bernardino Sun in the Little League Western Regionals in San Bernardino (won by Aptos). Mark was an assistant coach on that team who used to keep the all-stars loose in the dugout by doing his vast array of comical impressions.

Ah, the memories. Good times.






Bel-Mateo Babe Ruth seeking players

By John Murphy 

Those interested in playing Bel-Mateo Babe Ruth baseball should be signed up by January 15 at, according to Steve Vega of Bel-Mateo.

Coastside players (those who live in and around Half Moon Bay and Pacifica) are eligible to play, said Vega, along with those from Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Daly City, El Granada, Foster City, Hillsborough, Millbrae, Moss Beach, Princeton, Redwood Shores, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Francisco, San Mateo and South San Francisco.

More information: Doug Snodgrass (415) 994-8448 or Nic Bojarski (650) 745-6229.

John Vallero the pick as Terra Nova baseball coach

Terra Nova baseball has a new leader for 2016.

Terra Nova baseball has a new leader for 2016.

By John Murphy 

John Vallero, the son of the late iconic coach Carl Vallero, has been chosen as the new Terra Nova baseball coach, John said.

The former Terra Nova player has coached the Tigers’ JV team the past few years.

“I’m excited and ready for the challenge,” said John, 67. “It’s going to be a lot more work than JV’s, but I’m ready for the challenge.”

John is from the glory-filled Bob McClure era of Pacifica baseball. Carl Vallero, who passed away in 2009, coached McClure and his son on the powerful Lou’s 66 teams of the late 1960s and early 70s. The 1970 team won the Joe D. state title.

Both Valleros and McClure were in uniform for the first Joe DiMaggio League baseball game ever played, at San Bruno Park. The great DiMaggio attended the game and signed autographs for youngsters. He even asked to meet a young San Bruno Pee Wee League player, Dan Voreyer, who made a circus catch in the outfield. Voreyer later became the San Bruno Fire Chief.

“I remember that day really well,” John Vallero said. “I still have pictures of it.”

Vallero, who is retired, will be an off-campus coach. He was formerly a courier for a title company.

The 67-year-old has never been a head varsity coach, but has coached lower levels at Terra Nova and Oceana high schools and an array of youth league levels. True to his Lou’s 66 roots, he favors a pitching-oriented, scratch-out-a-few-runs on offense style of play.

“I’m old-fashioned,” John said. “I like to put people in motion and bunt and hit and run. We’ll scratch and claw. I don’t normally look for the big inning unless I have the horses.”

John replaces Joey Gentile whose tenure ended with no explanation after last season. The Tigers went 17-12 last season.


Cambrian Park LL falls in opener, will play Tuesday

The Cambrian Park Little League team.

The Cambrian Park Little League team.

By John Murphy

The road to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. has gotten tougher for a San Jose team.. Cambrian Park LL of San Jose fell to Arizona 1-0 Sunday morning in the opener of the tourney.

The loss snapped Cambrian’s Park’s 14-game post-season winning streak.
Cambrian Park still has a chance to advance to Williamsport, but it must win the rest of its games to do so.
Early games are vital now, as compared to previous tourneys when there was pool play. Now teams go right into bracket play in their openers, with Utah and Nevada getting first-round byes. Lose two games in bracket play and you’re done.
Now the tournament lasts just six days, instead of nine or 10. The winner from both the West Region and Northwest Region tourneys will punch their tickets to Pennsylvania.
Now Cambrian Park will play the loser of the game between Nevada and the winner of Game 2 (Southern California vs. Hawaii) at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The San Jose team must win that to advance.
In Northwest Region action today, Oregon defeated Wyoming 12-3. In a later Northwest game, Washington is scheduled to meet Idaho. The late West Region game (7:30 p.m.) is Southern California vs. Hawaii.
Here is the schedule for both the West Region and Northwest Region:
Opening Round (Sunday, August 9):
Chandler National North (Arizona) 1, Cambrian Park (Northern California) 0
Game 2 – Sweetwater Valley (Southern California) versus Waipio (Hawaii) (7:30 p.m.)

Winner’s Bracket Semifinals (Monday, August 10):
Game 3 – Snow Canyon (Utah) versus Chandler National North (Arizona) (11:30 a.m.)
Game 4 – Paseo Verde (Nevada) versus Winner 2 (4:30 p.m.)

Elimination Bracket Quarterfinals (six teams remain) (Tuesday, August 11):
Game 5 – Cambrian Park (Northern California) versus Loser 4 (elim.) (11 a.m.)
Game 6 – Loser 2 versus Loser 3 (elim.) (4:30 p.m.)

Elimination Bracket Semifinal (four teams remain) (Wednesday, August 12):
Game 7 – Winner 5 versus Winner 6 (elim.) (7 p.m.)

Winner’s Bracket Final (Thursday, August 13):
Game 8 – Winner 3 versus Winner 4 (6 p.m.) (Winner advances to championship game)

Elimination Bracket Final (three teams remain) (Friday, August 14):
Game 9 – Loser 8 versus Winner 7 (elim.) (6 p.m.) (Winner advances to championship game)
Championship Game (Saturday, August 15)
Game 10 – Winner 8 versus Winner 9 (TITLE) (6 p.m.)
Opening Round (Sunday, August 9):
Wilshire/Riverside (Oregon) 12, Gillette (Wyoming) 3
Game 2 – Cascade (Washington) versus West Valley (Idaho) (4 p.m.)

Winner’s Bracket Semifinals (Monday, August 10):
Game 3 – Gastineau Channel (Alaska) versus Wilshire/Riverside (Oregon) (8:30 a.m.)
Game 4 – Boulder Arrowhead (Montana) versus Winner 2 (7 p.m.)

Elimination Bracket Quarterfinals (six teams remain) (Tuesday, August 11):
Game 5 – Gillette (Wyoming) versus Loser 4 (elim.) (8:30 a.m.)
Game 6 – Loser 2 versus Loser 3 (elim.) (7 p.m.)

Elimination Bracket Semifinal (four teams remain) (Wednesday, August 12):
Game 7 – Winner 5 versus Winner 6 (elim.) (4:30 p.m.)

Winner’s Bracket Final (Thursday, August 13):
Game 8 – Winner 3 versus Winner 4 (10 a.m.) (Winner advances to championship game)

Elimination Bracket Final (three teams remain) (Friday, August 14):
Game 9 – Loser 8 versus Winner 7 (elim.) (Noon) (Winner advances to championship game)
Championship Game (Saturday, August 15)
Game 10 – Winner 8 versus Winner 9 (TITLE) (Noon)

The Stick: A bowl-full of memories that’s all but gone

Candlestick Park ... or what was left of it when picture was taken.

Candlestick Park … or what was left of it when picture was taken.

By John Murphy 

Now and then someone posts a Candlestick Park demolition photo on social media and it makes me shudder.

Like so many in these parts, I grew up attending San Francisco Giants’ games at The Stick. My late father would get off his principal’s job in South San Francisco, bundle up my brother Jim and me and take us out to Candlestick Point to root, root, root for the home team.

Dad would park the Oldsmobile and we’d trudge up “Heart Attack Hill” to the ticket booth where he’d plunk down like $3.50 for a reserved seat behind home plate. For that pittance (perhaps a pretty good amount in the 1960s) we’d see the heroes of the day … Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Perry … all part of Giants’ royalty now.

A memorable game was against the Dodgers on a cold (weren’t they all?) Friday night. Juan Marichal vs. Don Drysdale on the hill. Bobby Bonds hit a two-run homer to give the Giants an early lead and pumped his fist in the air as the crowd roared. Unfortunately, the hated Dodgers came back and won. Boo.

Hot chocolate was a popular treat on those frigid nights, as were hot dogs if my dad ponied up for them. Sometimes we just munched on Ghirardelli Flicks, which were uniform pieces of chocolate that came in colored cylinders.

I saw some great and unusual games in that concrete bowl over the years … Mays colliding with Bobby Bonds in front of the fence in right-center while making a tremendous catch, Dave Kingman pitching Game 2 of a doubleheader, a twinbill followed by a Beach Boys’ concert, Game 3 of the 1989 World Series that was postponed by the Loma Prieta Earthquake. “Rock the A’s! we yelled after the massive shaker that had some fans sprinting for the exits.

We never saw the Giants win a World Series out there, but we saw a lot — not even counting all of the mischief in the stands and the parking lot, which is probably a story for another day.

Good-bye Stick. You served us well.

Homestead’s Blair retires; Bonvechio is new Mustang coach



By John Murphy 

Chuck Blair has retired as the Homestead baseball coach after 24 years of prep coaching, including five with the Mustangs. He also coached Santa Clara High for 11 years, Cupertino for four and Lincoln for four.

Overall, Blair’s teams won more than 300 games and captured two division co titles at Santa Clara.

“I was going to (retire) next year and I thought about it and it’s kind of a grind,” Blair said. “It’s a lot of time away from the family and I thought about it and figured ‘Why wait?'”



Former Homestead player Kyle Bonvechio, an assistant under Blair for those five years with the Mustangs, will replace Blair. Bonvechio is a teacher at Homestead.

“He’s a great young coach and he’s more than ready,” Blair said. “He’s a teacher on campus and he’s been my assistant and it’s kind of cool for him, like a dream job.”

Bonvechio played at Cal State Stanislaus and also played some Independent ball before going into coaching and teaching.

Blair is a motorcyclist who belongs to an organization, BACA (bikers against child abuse), which helps children who are the victims of abuse.

Two years ago he was riding his bike to, of all things, an event where he was to get his vehicle blessed by a priest when a 92-year old man ran a stop sign in front of Blair and he laid the bike down and slid 75 feet and broke his ankle, three ribs and his thumb. Despite the injuries, he coached that season.

“I didn’t get my bike blessed — that’s why I had the crash,” quipped Blair, a Mitty High grad who played football at Southern Oregon University. He did not play baseball or football in high school because of a misdiagnosed ailment (the doctors thought he had a congenital heart defect, which later proved false).

Blair said a coaching ighlight was 2005 when his Santa Clara team won the SCVAL-El Camino (a B division) and, as Division I’s No. 15 seed, beat  WCAL heavyweights Serra, Valley Christian and St. Francis in the CCS playoffs before losing the title game to Mitty.

“We lost to Mitty, my alma mater, which amuses my friends quite a bit,” Blair said. “But it was a great run. We were the only B division team to ever go that far.”

Left-handed pitchers Carlos Hernandez and David Berner paced the Bruins that year.

Blair and wife Robyn bought a 45-foot  RV and plan to do some traveling to fill Chuck’s new’s new-found free time. They hope to hit spring training in future years and the longtime coach plans to just stay close to the game in general.

“Maybe I can sit in the stands and criticize everyone else’s decisions,” Blair said with a laugh.

South wins CBCA finale; overall event a tie

North MVP Rogelio Reyes, overall MVP Dylan Carlson and South MVP Daniel Cope show off their hardware.

North MVP Rogelio Reyes, overall MVP Dylan Carlson and South MVP Daniel Cope show off their hardware.

By John Murphy 

The South wrapped up the CBCA North vs. South series with a 2-0 win against the North at Santa Clara University. Both teams won one game and tied another, so this year will go down as an overall tie, said North coach John Goulding.

“We each got a win and a tie so nobody was declared the winner,” Goulding said. “We don’t have a tie-breaker like runs scored or anything, it’s all about getting the innings in and getting the kids seen in front of the college guys and honoring the best juniors (rising seniors) in the state.

“Even the kids who just tried out (for the teams) got seen in front of people and it’s all free because it’s sponsored by Rawlings.”

The North won the opening game of the series on Saturday, 10-2 and the teams tied 1-1 in Saturday’s nightcap.

Carter-Rialto’s Isaiah Davis drove in the game-winning run Sunday for the South with a fourth-inning single. Daniel Cope of Mt. Carmel shined on the mound and was named the South MVP.

Elk Grove’s Dylan Carlson was a standout at the plate for the North throughout the series and was named the overall MVP of the event.

Logan pitcher Rogelio Reyes also excelled on the mound for the North and was named an MVP for the North.

Hundreds tried out for teams with just 20 players making each team. Wood bats were used in the event and both teams struggled to score runs after the North’s romp in Game 1 on Saturday.

Mitty/Bellarmine summer tourney continues today



By John Murphy 

The Mitty/Bellarmine Summer Elite Baseball Tournament continues today and Sunday with games at Mitty, Bellarmine, Valley Christian and Leland.

Some of the top teams from the CCS and beyond are involved with 46 games over three days (it began Friday). Mitty is playing Alemany at 8 a.m. today and Clayton Valley at 3:30 p.m.

Joked Mitty’s new coach Brian Yocke: “A special bonus is the boys get to shag balls and keep the fields nice for the other games being played on our fields today.”  ‪

Also, over at Santa Clara University the prestigious CBCA series begins today with games at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. The series finale is at 10 a.m. Sunday. The series is set in a North vs. South format, featuring many of the top rising seniors from California. NorCal has won the last two of these annual events.



Bells’ Garcia has mind right for CBCA series

Antonio Garcia shines in the field and at the plate for Bellarmine.

Antonio Garcia shines in the field and at the plate for Bellarmine.

By John Murphy 

Bellarmine College Prep is an all-boys school in a leafy neighborhood of San Jose. It’s located near the small College Park train station immortalized in Jack London’s 1903 novel, “Call of the Wild.”

Bellarmine until the mid-1980s had dorms and attracted, among others, the sons of Bing Crosby who traveled up from Los Angeles and former pro quarterback Dan Pastorini, who came from Sonora. It’s said Pastorini could throw a football 85 yards and once, on a dare, threw a baseball over a 10-story building at Santa Clara University, where he later attended.

At Bellarmine, Central Coast Section championships and scholars are about as plentiful as backpacks, with the average SAT score sitting at 1,889 and 95 percent of its students going on to four-year institutions.

But sometimes all that thinking isn’t good. Take baseball star Antonio Garcia, a talented, rising senior second baseman with a good bat and sure glove. He’s known for hitting line drives and tracking them down in the field — when he isn’t fretting over his performance and second-guessing himself.

“I love baseball because you can fail seven out of 10 times and still be successful,” Garcia said. “You just have to work hard to get where you want to be.”

This weekend the Bellarmine two-sport star — he’s also a football standout — will be at Santa Clara University’s Schott Stadium, playing for the North against the South in the prestigious California Baseball Coaches’ Association series for rising seniors. There are games at 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday.

Garcia knows that area between his ears sometimes operates on overdrive, prompting the attention of both Bellarmine assistant coach Nate Sutton and head coach Mike Rodriguez.

“Coach Nate played for Bellarmine and at UCSB and in the Angels’ organization and he helps me get my mindset where it needs to be,” said Garcia, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound infielder. “He tries to get me out of my own head. He feels like if I’m into my head too much it will affect my play.”

Not that Garcia’s play is bad or anything. He hit .273 as a junior while playing the majority of his of his games in the stellar West Catholic Athletic League. And to make the CBCA all-star series, he had to shine among the some-300 players trying out at St. Mary’s-Stockton High.

But Garcia and his coaches know he can do better.

“What I really like most about Antonio is his passion and effort for the game,” Rodriguez said. “He is obviously not the biggest or the fastest, but he plays with confidence, passion and tremendous effort. He possesses many good baseball qualities like good speed, arm strength, and bat speed.

“I think he has a high ceiling in the game of baseball, but like everyone there are areas he can improve upon. For me the two things that we work on are controlling the controllable. When you play with that kind of passion and the game does not reward you it can be easy to get down or discouraged. But understanding that you are playing a game of failure can go a long way in minimizing the valleys and hopefully staying more on an upward trend.”

Rodiguez also wants Garcia to improve a few non-thinking parts of the game, his lateral foot speed and his release.

“(That) will allow him to really grow as a middle infielder,” he said.

Garcia’s uncle, Ryan VanAmburg, played at rival St. Francis High as well as Pepperdine University and also competed in the CBCA series. His dad, Eddie, played baseball for the Lancers as well. The Bell star considered enrolling at the Mountain View private school, but was lured to Bellarmine by the school’s gridiron success.

“I went to Bellarmine mainly because of football, but the whole experience has been great,” Garcia said.

In the fall Garcia was in Bellarmine’s offensive backfield rotation and scored eight touchdowns, while also shining as a defensive back on a 10-3 team that made the CCS Open title game. He knows baseball is his future, though.

“I like baseball,” Garcia said. “I’ve come to the realization that with my size football is not a good path for me. I hope that I can play college baseball on the Division I level.”

Given Garcia’s nearly-3.0 grade point average and the promise he shows on the diamond, that Division I dream could become a reality — if only he can stop thinking so darn much.



Jimmy Lemberger, Gilroy, P; Cole Tucker, Stockdale, INF; Antonio Garcia, Bellarmine, INF; Carter Aldrete, Monterey, INF; Dylan Carlson, Elk Grove, 1B;

Cameron Eden, Yuba City, INF; Nick Sheehan, Bullard, OF; Conner Roberts, De La Salle; P, Daniel Harrington, Pacific Grove, P; Matthew Frazier, Clovis North, OF,

Jared Pereira, Clovis, P; Dawson Bacho, San Marin, C; Colton Evans, Pitman, OF, Erek Bolton; Elk Grove, C; Schyler Sicoli, Monte Vista Christian, OF;

Joel Bustos, Sunnyside, P; Ryan Jensen, Salinas, P; Angelo Bortolin, Serra, INF; Rogelio Reyes, Logan, P; Nick Sparks De La Salle P.


Daniel Cope, Mt. Carmel, C; Adrian Damla, Crescenta Valley, 1B; Kenny Brawner, Moorpark, P; Cole Henderson, Valhalla, 3B; Daniel Martinez, Ramona Riverside, INF; Zachary Sherman, Ramona San Diego P/3B;

Matthew Ornelia, Vista, OF; Russell Grant, Oceanside, P; Zach Weller, Coronado, INF; Brandon Stewart, Great Oak, OF; Isaiah Davis, Carter, OF;

Parker Brahms, Calabasas, P; Dylan Spacke, Ramona San Diego, P; Bryson Spagnuolo, Fallbrook, P; Tyler Pritchard, Temescal Canyon, INF; Zach Noll, Great Oak, P;

Daniel Gutierrez, St. Augustine, C; Cal Hodgins, Simi Valley, OF; Christian Koss, North, INF; Grant Nechak, Calabasas, P/1B.