In his 13 seasons as head coach at Southern California baseball power Mater Dei (Santa Ana), Burt Call has produced three California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section champions, and nearly 70 college players. His 2002 team provided nine players for D-1 schools.
As Call prepares for his 14th season, he fondly recalls his first 13. Though his 2010 squad won a CIF title, he looks back 10 years for his "most talented" squad.
"From an offensive standpoint, that 2002 team had no easy outs from one to nine," said Call, who has a winning percentage of .750 as the Monarchs' coach.
That team, which included Chicago White Sox closer Sergio Santos and Minnesota Twins pitcher Joel Zumaya, lost in the CIF semifinals, though.
"The 2002 team just came up short, the other three (champions) played very well in the second half," said Call, who has been at Mater Dei for 19 seasons, his first six as an assistant.
Mater Dei's baseball annals read like a who's who of professional baseball players with more than three dozen draft picks. Most notable alums for Call are Cory Hahn (Arizona State and CIF's 2010 Player of the Year) and Danny Espinosa (2005 Monarch), who plays for the Washington Nationals.
Though the 2002 squad came up short, the 2005 and 2010 Monarchs did win it all and expectations are high for another CIF title.
Call won't disagree, noting that this year's team might not have a weakness.
"We have seven returning starters with a lot of team chemistry and leadership. This team will be very good offensively," said Call, who has seen 13 of his former players wear professional uniforms. "If our replacements on the left side of the infield play at a high level we will be fine."
Even naysayers might have a difficult time finding a weakness in the team ranked fourth in the Preseason Xcellent 25 National Baseball Rankings.
Mater Dei has right- and left-handed pitching depth, a trio of power hitters and a lineup that could approach the Monarchs' school-record batting average of .364. They missed that mark by a couple hits a year ago.
Key returnees include Orange County Player of the Year Ty Moore
, who has chosen to play collegiately at UCLA and junior catcher Jeremy Martinez
, who has committed to USC and played for the gold medal-winning USA Junior National team.
As a junior, Moore was 10-2 as the Monarchs' ace. His hitting, however, was so impressive it overshadowed his mound presence. The power-hitting lefty averaged two hits per game en route to a .510 batting average. Add to that 37 RBIs, 39 runs scored, an eye-popping .581 on-base percentage and a .750 slugging percentage, and it's easy to understand why his pitching goes almost unnoticed.
Though best known for his defense, Martinez batted .388 with 32 RBIs and four home runs as the Monarchs went 24-6 in his sophomore season. He committed just one error in 30 games.
"On paper, this team compares to any we have developed at Mater Dei," said Call. Dating back 28 seasons, Mater Dei has garnered 21 Trinity League titles. And you have to go back to 1975 to find a losing season (10-11).
While Moore will head the pitching staff, look for Davis Tominaga
, newcomer Aaron Cross
and Brian Conley
to grab their share of headlines. Tominaga had the team's top ERA (1.12) and also batted .321 in 2011.
Senior Ryan Barr
will also pitch a little, but the recent University of Portland signee will likely do most of his damage from his power spot in the batting order. He played a key role for the Monarchs down the stretch in each of the last two seasons and finished at .317 in 2011.Austin Monte
(.373 and 36 runs scored) and Ryan McMahon
(.375) are two other returning starters who carry imposing bats.
"We're very deep in all aspects of the game and this pitching staff could be the deepest we've had here," said Call, who owns a 260-92 record as Mater Dei's head coach.
Though the Monarchs lost two key players as Blake Thomsen took his big bat and bigger SAT score (2,300 out 2,400) to Princeton and Ryan Teel is playing for the University of Nevada-Reno, Call said newcomers Brandon Perez
, Brian Soper
and Tyler Adkinson
are expected to fill the void.