The 2013/14 school year has come and gone and with that the spring Baseball season is over for the Southwestern League, selected by Maxpreps earlier this year as the toughest, most competitive league in the nation.
Indeed, three of the six teams ended up ranking in the top ten in the state: Temecula Valley (24-8) was #2; Great Oak (23-7) was #5; and Vista Murrieta (20-8) was #9. The three teams were ranked 1-2-3, respectively in CIF Southern Section Division 2.
The Temecula Valley Golden Bears, the CIF Southern Section Division 2 Champions, finished the season ranked #5 in the nation. Great Oak, formerly ranked in the top five in the nation – ranked #1 in the third week of May — ended up #18. Vista Murrieta is ranked in the top 50 at #46 and to put it all into perspective, there are almost 15,000 high school baseball teams (NFHS) in the nation.
Murrieta Valley (16-12, 8-7), the #4 team in the league, had wins against all three teams, beating Vista Murrieta (9-3), Great Oak twice (6-3 and 5-4 in a doubleheader), and Temecula Valley (9-0). Even the fifth place finisher in the Southwestern League, Chaparral (12-14, 5-10), beat Great Oak twice (3-1 and 6-5) and Vista Murrieta once (4-2). Four teams went on to CIF-SS playoffs.
In addition, three Valley players were selected in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft. Kevin Padlo, a pitcher/infielder from Murrieta Valley was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the fifth round (143). The Baltimore Orioles selected Brandon Koch, a right-handed pitcher from Temecula Valley, in the 33rd round (991). Chandler Wagoner, a catcher/third baseman from Great Oak, was selected in the 36th round (1068) by the Chicago White Sox.
The Southwestern League had solid hitters this year. Chaparral boasted two of the top hitters in the Division: #9 Justin Toerner (.458 BA) and #26 Gavin Johns (.422 BA). Temecula Valley’s Kyle Plantier was #30 with a .412 BA, including eight doubles and three home runs. Great Oak’s Mitch Hayes hit .407 with five home runs; Vista Murrieta’s Hunter Tidwell ended the season at .391. Vista Murrieta’s Coltin Gerhart was tenth in the Division 2 with a slugging percentage og .695, ten doubles, three triples, and five home runs. Hayes was #24 at .616. Temecula Valley’s David Maldonado was #27 at .610 with 15 doubles, three triples and two homers. Toerner (28) and Plantier (29) were next with .610 numbers. Plantier was #2 in the division with 31 RBI’s. Gerhart (9) had 26. Hayes and JT McLellan (Vista Murrieta) each had 24 putting them in #12 and #13. Chaparral’s Marc Sauceda (21) had 23. AJ Sawyer from Temecula Valley ranked #29 with 21 RBI’s.
Kevin Padlo was the league’s best base runner with fifteen stolen bases, ranking him #13 in Division 2.
The league also featured tough pitching. Temecula Valley’s Brandon Koch pitched 63.2 innings with an ERA of 0.88, ranking him #6 in the division. Murrieta valley’s Ben Mora had a 1.24 ERA; teammate Nicko Cottone finished with a 1.60 ERA. McLellan from Vista Murrieta was at 1.63. USC-bound Brad Wegman (Great Oak) finished with a 1.72 while sophomore teammate Zach Noll recorded a 1.83. Noll also led the league in strikeouts with 55; Wegman had 45. Temecula Valley’s Koch had 52; teammate Burke Mitchell had 44. Noll was #2 in the CIF-SS Division 2 with a 10-0 record; Wegman was #6 with a 10-3 record. Koch ranked #8 at 9-1. McLellan finished 7-2 for Vista Murrieta.
Temecula Valley loses sixteen of their 23-man roster to graduation. Great Oak graduated nine seniors, but has eight juniors and five sophomores with varsity playoff experience. Vista Murrieta graduated eight seniors and will rebuild around ten juniors and four sophomores with varsity experience. Murrieta Valley loses eight seniors, and will rely on eight juniors and five sophomores to compete next year. Chaparral also graduated nine seniors; eight juniors and four sophomores will carry next year’s load. The young Murrieta Mesa team had only two seniors and will build next year’s program around the seven juniors and nine sophomores who played varsity ball this year.
The Southwestern League, coming off of an extremely competitive season, looks to be tough again next year.
Congratulations to all the teams and players in the Southwestern League!
(Note: Statistics and rankings from Maxpreps.com)