La Jolla High baseball: The benefit of another spring
by ED PIPER
Published - 05/17/19 - 11:30 AM | 843 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
La Jolla High baseball players are introduced before their game at Petco Park against Patrick Henry. / ED PIPER / VILLAGE NEWS
La Jolla High baseball players are introduced before their game at Petco Park against Patrick Henry. / ED PIPER / VILLAGE NEWS
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La Jolla High baseball coach Gary Frank descended into the pit, which is the home dugout at Muirlands Middle School, wearing a grin from ear to ear.

His left-fielder, Calvin Hyytinen, had just “laid out”--as the players term it--to chase down a flyball in short left-center, and Frank spontaneously beamed.

This season, Frank’s 16th at the helm, breaking Bob Allen’s school record of 15, has been a reverse of a year of bumps and bruises in 2017 with young players who were pressed into action to get their feet wet. Every position has either seen its primary occupant improve with a year of seasoning, or provide an upgrade over last year’s position player.

Besides Hyytinen’s blossoming in left, two diamonds in the rough that are showing more of their sheen are two juniors: Cooper McNally, who switched from shortstop to third base and carried a .323 batting average at this writing, and right-hander Koa Scott, sporting a strong 1.74 ERA. Scott has pitched two shutouts, as well.

“Cooper has begun to make the adjustments to his swing that we have been working on,” said Frank in reference to McNally’s overcoming a slow start at the plate this season. McNally (.429 OBP, .369 slugging, .798 OPS), who entered his sophomore season largely as an unknown, is no longer under opponents’ radar. “Opposing teams have adjusted their pitching tactics,” says Frank. Thus the need for ongoing adjustments.

Scott started fast this spring by winning four of his first five decisions and spinning four complete games. “We have not provided him with enough run support to win a bunch of close games” more recently, says his coach.

Noah Brown, a junior whose arm has regained strength after a strain last year, pilots the infield at shortstop. Carrying a .355 batting average, he leads regulars with a .488 on-base percentage (OBP). “In the field, Noah has great instincts and good hands. He has really come into his own offensively and defensively this season. Most importantly is his strength of character,” says his coach.

Gavin Graff, a sophomore righty, quickly became the Vikings’ alternate starter to Scott and holds a respectable 3.78 ERA, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 26-to-10, in 37 innings. “On the hill, he isn’t overpowering,” says Frank, “but he has great command of his fastball and curveball.”

At the plate, the 6-feet 3-inches tall Graff leads the team with a .368 mark, 15 RBIs, and a .455 slugging percentage. His OPS is second only to Noah Brown’s, .877 to Brown’s .891.

Frank, who surpassed the school record for wins during the City League schedule, breaking Allen’s total of 228, has also received key contributions from fleet senior center fielder Blaise Gimber (.669 OPS); junior right fielder Devin Brown (.275, .678 OPS); sophomore Jake Klimkiewicz, a returning starter now at second base (.281, .394 OBP, five doubles); freshman first baseman Luke Brunette (10 RBIs); Spence Carswell, a freshman called up to catch when junior Jack Liebesman went down with an injury; and junior right-hander Julian Zuniga (eight appearances).

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