Baseball: Foothill has made a dramatic turnaround – The Mercury News

The Foothill baseball team began this week undefeated and ranked No. 1 by this publication, impressive under any circumstances but even more so when you consider where these guys finished last season.

From 6-18 last spring to 14-0-1 at the start of play this week.

What in the heck has happened at the Pleasanton school where the Giants’ Brandon Crawford once starred?

For one, the team is healthy, something it couldn’t say a year ago.

Two, the young group of sophomores is now a polished collection of juniors.

That tried-and-true formula — health and experience — has sent Foothill soaring to the top of the North Coast Section’s most competitive baseball league.

“Last year our big lefty broke his kneecap and was basically out for the whole year, and one of our best players, who is a senior now, tore his ACL, so that hurt,” coach Angelo Scavone said Monday. “And we started six sophomores last year. We had a few growing pains, and they’re kind of coming into their own right now.”

The season has been almost storybook to this point. Take Friday, for instance. Griffin Chinn, the player who suffered the torn anterior cruciate ligament last year, slugged a two-run homer in a three-run sixth as Foothill overcame a 4-1 deficit against Dougherty Valley and won 5-4.

“That’s our only home run in a year and a half,” Scavone said. “Good time to do it.”

Brett Hansen, the 6-foot-3 left-hander who fractured his kneecap last season, is having some bounce-back campaign.

Through the start of this week, all the junior who has committed to Stanford had done is go 5-0 with a 0.78 ERA, 45 strikeouts and only seven walks.

He also is hitting .312 with a team-leading 18 RBIs.

Catcher Jeremy Lea and shortstop Sam Novitske, along with Hansen, are the guys who have put the team on their backs, according to the coach.

“Absolute grinders,” Scavone calls them.

Novitske is hitting .463 and has driven in 14 runs.

Lea has a .395 batting average and “is one of the best players I’ve ever been around,” said Scavone, who has coached the program since 1994. “He handles the pitching staff to just about perfection. He just gets it. His arm … he’s just got a bazooka.

“He’s quick. He’s fast. He bats third in our lineup. He is really good.”

Scavone speaks glowingly of his entire core group.

Center fielder Justin Lavell “runs like a deer, just takes charge,” the coach said.

The pitching staff is strong and deep as 6-8 senior Logan Caton and junior Dylan Pottgieser have provided quality arms behind Hansen and Anthony Steller Harter.

Caton throws the ball north of 85 mph, Scavone said, and Pottgieser grew four to six inches and got stronger while playing water polo.

The league season is about to get challenging. Foothill visits San Ramon Valley on Wednesday, plays host to Monte Vista on Friday and travels to De La Salle next week.

“We’re really going to see what we’re made of in the next two weeks,” Scavone said.

If the season continues to unfold at it has, Foothill just might win its first league title since 1988 and perhaps its first North Coast Section title ever.

For more on high school sports, go here. For scores and schedules, go here.


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