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.
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
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
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
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