Aptos High junior Matt Hood was named the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic Leauge Player of the Year by the coaches within the league. (Raul Ebio - The Pajaronian file photo)

Aptos High baseball team capped off on another historical run in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League this season by winning its third straight league crown with the help of a pair of key contributors.  

Junior Matt Hood—along with Santa Cruz High senior Oscar Knapp—was named the league’s co-player of the year, while senior Gabe Gaeckle was undoubtedly the best pitcher in the league in the 2023 season.

Hood and Gaeckle helped lead the Mariners (20-7) to back-to-back-to-back SCCAL titles following a 13-2 record in SCCAL play.

Hood batted a .346 average (28-for-81) with five doubles, 13 walks, seven RBIs, five steals and 26 runs scored to record a whooping on-base plus slugging percentage of .849., which was second best on the team.

He was also a key contributor on the mound, going 4-1 overall and owning a 0.59 ERA while racking up 49 strikeouts for the Mariners.  

Hood started for Aptos last year and made an immediate impact on the team. 

Aptos coach Jason Biancardi said Hood was already playing well back then but he really stepped it up this year both on the mound and at the plate. 

“His velocity went up and he pounded the strike zone,” Biancardi said. “He went from one of the top players on our team to one of the best in the league. Excited to see his senior season.”

Gaeckle—an MLB Draft prospect who will compete at the University of Arkansas—finished with an 8-0 record on the mound. He recorded a remarkable 0.59 earned run average and 117 strikeouts in 10 games started. 

Gaeckle never lost an SCCAL game as the starting pitcher for Aptos and his strikeout to walk ratio was one of the best in California, Biancardi said.

“Probably will go down as one of the top pitchers to come through the league,” Biancardi said.

Gaeckle led the Mariners in on-base plus slugging percentage (.997), batting a .292 average (21-for-72) with three home runs, eight doubles, 13 walks, 15 RBIs and 20 runs scored. 

“Very fun to watch him grow as a player and leader, and was a great kid to coach,” Biancardi said.

Aptos senior James Craig earned All-SCCAL First Team honors following a fantastic season at the plate. He batted a .342 average (25-of-73) with a pair of home runs, two doubles, 19 RBIs and 11 runs scored.  

Fellow teammate junior Isaiah Work earned all-league second team honors, while juniors Edward Peters and Jorden Espinoza both were honorable mention.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Aptos High baseball team won two consecutive Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League championships, which in incorrect. Aptos High has won the past three league titles from 2021-23.

All-SCCAL Baseball

Individual Awards

Co-Players of the Year: Matt Hood (Jr.), Aptos; Oscar Knapp (Sr.), Santa Cruz

Pitcher of the Year: Gabe Gaeckle (Sr.), Aptos

Coach of the Year: Joseph Allegri, Harbor

First Team

Langston Burkett (Sr.), Santa Cruz

Colin Melrose (Jr.), Scotts Valley 

Carlos Cruz (Jr.), Harbor

Nico Hilger (Sr.), Santa Cruz 

John Clinkenbeard (Jr.), San Lorenzo Valley 

Quinn Turowski (Jr.), Scotts Valley 

Dylan Bettencourt (Sr.), Harbor

Preston Pillsbury (Sr.), Santa Cruz 

James Craig (Sr.), Aptos 

Jake Abel (Jr.), Scotts Valley 

Jake Fiorenza (Jr.), Harbor 

Second Team

Colin Karwick (Jr.), Harbor 

Damian Aguilar (Sr.), SLV 

Julian Lopez (Sr.), Harbor 

Isaiah Work (Jr.), Aptos 

Jaden Shabry (So.), SLV 

Hudson Summerrill, (Fr.), Soquel 

Jake Escalante (Fr.), Soquel 

Jack Sanders (So.), Scotts Valley 

Gabe Virgallito (So.), Soquel 

Kaden Smith (Jr.), Santa Cruz 

Honorable Mention

Edward Peters (Jr.), Aptos 

Jorden Espinoza (Jr.), Aptos

Luke Hartel (Sr.), Harbor

Cole McCombs (So.), Harbor 

Blaine Mitchell (Sr.), SLV

Benji Stretch (Sr.), SLV

Damos Deworken, (Jr.), Santa Cruz 

Nick Bogomilsky, (Jr.), Santa Cruz 

Kaleb Wing (So.), Scotts Valley 

Clayton Pryor (So.), Scotts Valley 

Josh Fahrner (Sr.), Soquel

Nolan Nguyen (Jr.), Soquel 

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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