By School House Zach
Some news out of the ESPY Awards from Hollywood, which air Sunday on ESPN but are being taped this afternoon ... we've caught word that Shafter's Anna Jelmini was not named Gatorade National Girls Athlete of the Year.
Jelmini won the Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year last month (note the distinction) and so was one of six finalists for the overall award. It went to Skylar Diggins, a girls basketball player from South Bend (Ind.) Washington High School. Diggins is going to Notre Dame. I really thought Jelmini, who holds one national high school record in the discus and is second all-time on the shot put list, had a chance, but I suppose when you're down to just six athletes in the whole country, you can't really make a wrong choice. Anna did get to attend the ESPYs and walk the red carpet and all that, so good on her (again) anyway.
Garrett Gilbert, a quarterback at Austin, Texas, Lake Travis High School and a University of Texas commit, won the boys award. He beat, among a few others, Matt Hobgood, a Norco baseball player who was drafted fifth overall in last month's MLB draft.
One of the other top baseball prospects in California is one of the highlights of our next Year in Review segment.
2008-09 Kern County BASEBALL
Overview: Bad news for locals is that in the lower four divisions in the Central Section playoffs, Kern County failed to put a single team in a section championship game. Good news is that for the first time since the early 1950s — and let's face it, baseball is not even the same game as it was then — Bakersfield has a back-to-back big-school section baseball champion. Stockdale looked heads and shoulders above everyone else, suffered a couple of minor hiccups in the league season, then tight-roped its way to the Division I title game past Centennial and Fresno-Bullard. In the championship, the Mustangs left no question that they deserved to be there, dominating Clovis West 6-2 on the road. Philip Valos was the best pitcher in town, K.C. Hobson the best all-around player and the supporting cast the best of anyone also.
Liberty won the SEYL again, and if you're counting, that's seven for seven for the Patriots in that department. But they're also oh-for-seven in section titles in that time, this year beating Madera before losing to Clovis in the quarterfinals. Centennial put a scare in Stockdale in the quarters before losing. Frontier and North both had good seasons, but they were matched up early in the D-II playoffs, and after Frontier won, the Titans were eliminated by Fresno-Edison. Bakersfield Christian and Taft split the SSL title, but they weren't able to go beyond the Division V quarters and D-IV semis, respectively.
Best team: No questions here. High school teams normally only play two games a week, so when you faced Stockdale, you were either getting Valos — a dart-throwing, accurate righty with uncanny control and enough movement to fool hitters — or Hobson — a flame-throwing, effectively wild left with a plus arm and enough movement to scare hitters. Add to that a lineup that featured Hobson, a .490 hitter with a section-leading 15 homers, in the middle, plus Kyle Desimone and Scott Denesha at the top, both with an on-base percentage better than .500 and Isaiah Turner and Tyler Boren in the middle, and you had a team that wasn't going to lose a lot of games. Stockdale lost a doubleheader to Clovis early in the year (with both Valos and Hobson on strict pitch counts), dropped a couple of games at a competitive tournament in San Diego and then lost an SWYL game to North. But everything else was cruise control, all the way up until the Mustangs were champs again.
Honorable mention: Centennial, Liberty, Frontier, North, Taft, Bakersfield Christian
Best player: Funny thing with K.C. Hobson: Even if you'd never heard of him before, you could go watch a game and come away thinking he was by far the best player on the field. That's rare in a game like baseball, where failure is so common. But Hobson looked the part — he's a 6-foot-3, 225-pound man-child — and acted it. He carried himself with an, I don't know, regal air? He was patient at the plate, but if the pitcher made a mistake, he'd crush it. He was solid on the mound, even though that's not where his future lies (he hadn't even pitched before moving to Bako from New Hampshire), going 17-1 over the past two seasons. And he produced a winner. The fun part now will be watching where his career goes from here. He expected to be drafted in the first two or three rounds in June but fell to the Blue Jays in the sixth round. That would lead you to believe he'll go the college route — he's got a scholarship waiting at Texas A&M — but last I talked to him, Hobson said Toronto was willing to pay him like a second-round pick to get him into the system. The Jays and Hobson have until Aug. 17 to make that happen. In the meantime, he's working out with dad and former ML player and manager Butch Hobson's minor-league team in Maryland. Clock's ticking.
Honorable mention: Stockdale P Philip Valos, Liberty SS Chris Neal, Stockdale 3B Scott Denesha, Bakersfield Christian OF Riley Showers, Centennial OF Joe Riddle, East IF Perry Rogan
Best game: I like to think we're pretty thorough at School House Zach, and as evidence, I present to you the Game of the Year in Kern County high school baseball, 2009 edition. It happened when not many in the sports world at-large were paying attention: The weekend of the state wrestling tournament, the March Meet drag-racing extravaganza, the Central Section basketball championships in Fresno, the Condors in the middle of a playoff chase, yada, yada. High school baseball still was on the backburner. But when Stockdale and Liberty got together Thursday March 5, at Sam Lynn Ball Park as part of the Terrio Therapy tournament, it was a doozy. Liberty held a somewhat surprising 2-1 lead going into the seventh, when it padded the lead with four runs to make it 6-1. Insurmountable lead, early statement game for the Pats? Wrong. Stockdale stormed back in the bottom of the seventh, tied it on a Tyler Boren grand slam, then won it on Kyle Desimone's RBI single — his second at-bat of the inning. Here's the MaxPreps box score, though the home and visiting teams should be flip-flopped; it was a walk-off win for Stockdale.
Honorable mention: Stockdale 4, Fresno-Bullard 3, Division I semifinals; Stockdale 11, Centennial 8, Division I quarterfinals; Frontier 18, North 8, Division II quarterfinals
A look ahead: The fact that Stockdale stalwarts Hobson, Denesha and Valos have all graduated has to be a sweet truth for the rest of the city's and section's baseball teams, but don't count out the Mustangs for next year just yet. A trio of returning hitters — Boren, Desimone and Isaiah Turner — are going to make that team an offensive force right off the bat. To even have a shot at a three-peat, though, Stockdale has to answer the question of pitching. I saw Shane Kotz throw a couple of times this year and was impressed, but he's not yet a Hobson or Valos, and the question of a No. 2 starter has yet to be answered as well (it could end up being Turner or Boren, in fact).
That's going to open the window for other teams. Centennial, of course, has to be mentioned. The 2007 section champs will return two of their better pitchers, Tyler Painton and Grant Watson, plus outfielder Joe Riddle and infielder Tory Blair. Those Golden Hawks-Mustangs showdowns will be huge again. Frontier is going to be a baseball power, of that there's no doubt. Will it be as early as next year? And in the SEYL, Bakersfield has a nucleus returning that's going to give Liberty a run at that eighth consecutive title. Either of those teams have a playoff future beyond that? Believe when you see it at this point.
Among smaller schools, Taft loses stud pitcher Matt Davis but returns stud pitcher Clint Jorgensen, which will keep them a factor in the SSL. Bakersfield Christian split the league title with a young team in '09, so the Eagles will be back, too.
Year in Review Index
July 1: Football
July 2: Volleyball
July 3: Boys cross country
July 6: Girls cross country
July 7: Girls tennis
July 8: Girls golf
July 9: Boys basketball
July 10: Girls basketball
July 11: Wrestling
July 13: Boys soccer
July 14: Girls soccer