Sobrato states its case to get promoted

Bulldogs junior Justin Rashid was instrumental in leading the team to a BVAL Santa Teresa Division title. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Before the season started, the Sobrato High baseball team had three goals: to win a league championship, advance to the Central Coast Section playoffs and move up from the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa Division to the Mount Hamilton, the A division. The Bulldogs accomplished the first two goals and are waiting for a decision on the third—more on that in a minute. 

Sobrato went 17-7 overall and 13-1 to win the Santa Teresa Division championship. The Bulldogs, who saw their season end in a 3-1 loss to Willow Glen in the opening round of the CCS Division II playoffs on May 15, had a stellar season that featured a team growing up and maturing with each passing game. 

“It was a really good season,” Bulldogs coach Mitch Martinez said. “The players on this team really got close, and there was a bond that was formed that is going to be there for a long time. They really came together in the last four to five weeks of the season.”

It showed. Sobrato entered the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak, which included an amazing 4-3, 14-inning victory over Gunderson High on April 30. Sobrato took control of the Santa Teresa Division with a two-game sweep of previous league leader Oak Grove in mid-April, and never looked back. Led by a tremendous pitching staff—Sobrato allowed just 24 runs in its final 12 games—the Bulldogs advanced to the postseason for the first time in 10 years. 

As expected, several players earned league-wide honors, including Cooper Callison (Most Valuable Player), Justin Rashid (Pitcher of the Year), William Conn (Sophomore of the Year) and Shane Callison (Freshman of the Year). Five other players earned all-league recognition, including Joshua Balderas (first team), Camden Redfield (first), Nick Ketner (first), Will Nikitas (second team), and Alex Percini (second). 

Rashid was huge down the stretch, providing the team with a reliable workhorse who was flat-out dominant at times. Even though Rashid took the loss to Willow Glen, he went the distance in another solid performance. Rashid’s play was vital, especially when Cooper Callison started to experience arm fatigue midway through the season and had to be shut down for several weeks. 

Cooper, along with his younger brother Shane, are projected to be one of the most prolific batteries in the BVAL next year. Shane plays catcher and Cooper—with an off-season to strengthen his arm—is expected to once again be an ace-type pitcher. Rashid and Cooper Callison both are two-way threats, able to shut down a lineup while producing clutch hits as part of the top hitters in the Sobrato lineup. 

Balderas had a number of terrific outings on the mound, Conn produced offensively and Redfield was absolutely sensational at times playing center field. The Bulldogs will graduate only one starter off this year’s team in Redfield, and they have an influx of talented players arriving from a junior varsity team that finished 20-3 overall and 13-1 in league. In other words, if there was ever a time to get promoted to the A division, it’s now. 

However, in the season-ending meeting on May 13, all of the Mount Hamilton Division coaches voted to turn down Martinez’s petition to move up, a decision that befuddled Martinez, who plans on appealing the decision. 

Martinez backed up his request with the fact that Sobrato will return basically its entire team next season and have additional talent arriving from the JV squad. The Bulldogs also beat Westmont—the last-place finisher in the Mount Hamilton at 1-13—by a 12-4 score.

“The decision upset the boys, but I’m going to appeal it,” Martinez said. “It’s kind of a broken system the way they vote on it. Basically all of the A league coaches voted against me and all of the B league coaches except one voted to move me up.”

From the coaches’ meeting, the proposal was brought to the league’s athletic directors, who voted to follow the recommendation of the baseball coaches. The BVAL Executive Committee will meet on Friday to vote on all of the spring sports realignment for the 2020 season. If the Executive Committee follows the recommendation of the athletic directors, Sobrato, should they wish to appeal, would need its principal’s permission to move forward and that would happen from May 27 to 31. Whatever happens, Martinez is extremely proud of his players. 

“I told my boys they did everything right,” he said. “They worked hard, took care of business on the field and now we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. But they feel like they’ve done everything to be a part of the A league.”

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