APTOS—As soon as the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League Coast season began, the Aptos High baseball team hit the launch button and never looked back.
The Mariners (23-7, 14-1)—who sailed their way to regular season and tournament titles—were rewarded for a stellar season at this year’s annual coaches’ meeting.
Junior pitcher/infielder Gabe Gaeckle was named Player of the Year, senior pitcher/infielder Reed Moring earned Pitcher of the Year honors and Jason Biancardi was named the Coach of the Year for the sweep in all three top individual awards.
Biancardi said they knew Gaeckle, who committed to compete at UCLA, was on the path of becoming a lights-out pitcher. He was expected to be the ace or the No. 2 behind Moring.
Gaeckle finished with a 4-0 record in 11 appearances—five starts—on the mound. He had a 1.03 earned run average, giving up 13 runs—six earned—on 21 hits while compiling 92 strikeouts in 40 and 2/3 innings pitched this season.
Before the season started, Gaeckle went under the knife for surgery and jokingly told Biancardi he would strictly be a pitcher only, no hitting whatsoever.
All jokes aside, Gaeckle turned out to be one of the best hitters in the SCCAL.
He batted a .373 average (31-of-83) with a team-best five home runs, seven doubles, 24 RBI and scored 31 runs for the Mariners this season.
Biancardi, who also coached Gaeckle in Little League, knew he could swing the bat as a youngster. However, this was the first year in high school where Gaeckle came in as a true hitter, Biancardi said.
“[Gaeckle] started off a little slow in the beginning and I think he was just anxious, first time hitting in high school. He’s also one of the top pitchers in the league, he was probably pushing too hard,” Biancardi said.
Biancardi kept him in the three-hole in the batting lineup for most of the first half of the season and then all of a sudden it started clicking.
Gaeckle didn’t hit his first home run until about midway through the season in a 9-0 win over Santa Cruz on April 14. From then on he started hitting for average and for power, smashing three dingers in four games.
Aside from being a good pitcher and hitter, Gaeckle was really great on defense as a third baseman for the Mariners.
“When his hitting came around he was just an all-around player and we kind of knew he was going to be the MVP,” Biancardi said.
Moring was like a sniper on the mound, finishing with a 5-3 record in 12 appearances—seven starts—and two shutout wins.
The UC Santa Barbara commit had a 0.93 ERA, giving up 14 runs—seven earned—on 28 hits while compiling a team-best 101 strikeouts in 52 and 2/3 innings pitched this season.
Biancardi called Moring the ultimate team player, a great captain and he didn’t go into every game thinking he was the best on the field.
“He went in and he competed,” Biancardi said. “He didn’t compete just for himself but he competed for our team, which is awesome.”
Biancardi also coached Moring in Little League, where he showed signs of speed but still needed work on ball control.
Moring turned into a pitcher last season and this year he was the complete package.
“A lot of times you have a pitcher that either throws hard or he’s in the zone, and Reed was both those. You hardly see that in high school,” Biancardi said.
At the plate, Moring batted a .319 average (29-of-91) with four doubles, one home run, 15 RBI and scored 25 runs. He was also an aggressive base runner who finished with a team-best 11 stolen bases for the Mariners.
Senior pitcher Quin Holcom and senior infielder Jack Spinelli were named to the all-league first team.
Biancardi said the main focus for Holcom this season was pitching, especially because he easily be an ace on any other team in the league.
The Mariners were so deep in pitching this season that Hocom probably didn’t get as many innings as he wanted to see, Biancardi added.
Hocom finished with a 2-2 overall record in 11 appearances—four starts— for Aptos. He had a 1.22 ERA, giving up seven runs—five earned—on 15 hits in 28 and 2/3 innings this season.
“He was awesome, he really stepped it up especially in league [play],” Biancardi said. “We asked him to come in against some of the better teams and he really accepted his role as a pitcher.”
Spinelli, the SCCAL’s reigning most valuable player, was consistent at the plate once again.
He batted a .385 average (35-of-91) with a team-best nine doubles, one triple, 29 RBI and scored 20 runs for the Mariners this season.
“He just loves baseball,” Biancardi said. “I think after last year and how good he did, I think he used that as a motivator coming in this year as a senior.”
Biancardi, who finished his seventh year as the team’s skipper, said that Spinelli is one the top-3 hitters he’s ever had on a roster.
“He doesn’t hit home runs but he hits line drives, he hits for power and he hits for average,” Biancardi said. “To hit that high for average, two years in a row, that’s pretty awesome.”
Senior outfielder Sam Chitwood was named to the all-league second team, while fellow senior teammates Owen Dueck and Chase Aiken both earned honorable mention accolades.
Aptos had a bye-round before beating Harbor (16-12, 7-8) in the tournament semifinals, followed by a win over Scotts Valley (12-17-1, 7-8) in the championship.
Santa Cruz (16-14, 10-5) placed second, followed by Scotts Valley in third, Harbor finished fourth and Soquel (3-20, 2-13) placed fifth.
The Mariners, Cardinals, Pirates and Falcons all earned berths to the Central Coast Section playoffs.
Aptos earned the No. 7 seed in the Division I field and lost to No. 2 Valley Christian in the opening round.
It was the sixth trip to the CCS playoffs for Biancardi, who currently sits with 106 career wins at Aptos. He earned win No. 100 when the Mariners beat Soquel High on April 29.
This year was the first time he earned coach of the year accolades.
“It’s cool to get recognized by not just a couple of my peers but every single one of them,” he said. “We go around the circle and they’re all voting and to hear my name by each one of them, it’s just kind of a sign of respect.”
The 39-year old coach is on pace to break Paul Barrington’s (1973-86) all-time mark of 127 wins at Aptos.
Biancardi said he doesn’t plan on leaving the helm anytime soon. But there’s no way he could get the job done without the help of his assistant coaches: Dave Anderson, Scott Simms and Robert Medina.
“I’m very lucky to have a coaching staff that I have and I think they allowed for us to win league and they allowed for me to get coach of the year,” he said. “It took a whole team of us to kind of do what we did this year.”
All-SCCAL teams and individual awards
Player of the Year: Gabe Gaeckle, Jr., Aptos
Pitcher of the Year: Reed Moring, Sr., Aptos
Coach of the Year: Jason Biancardi, Aptos
- Matt Morrison, Sr., Scotts Valley
- Oscar Knapp, Jr., Santa Cruz
- Quinn Hocom, Sr., Aptos
- Carlos Cruz, So., Harbor
- Jack Spinelli, Sr., Aptos
- Brady Spencer, Sr., Soquel
- Rowan Zeszut, Sr., Santa Cruz
- Ben Castro, Sr., Harbor
- Nic Erickson, Sr., Scotts Valley
- Johann Brooks, Sr., Santa Cruz
- Langston Burkett, Jr., Santa Cruz
- Mason Clark, Sr., Harbor
- Max Perko, Sr., Scotts Valley
- Blaine Mitchell, Jr., San Lorenzo Valley
- Jack Abel, So., Scotts Valley
- Luke Hartel, Jr., Harbor
- Nico Hilger, Jr., Santa Cruz
- Matt Blanke, Sr., Soquel
- Sam Chitwood, Sr., Aptos
- Nate Lapioli, Jr., SLV
- Josh Fahrner, Jr., Soquel
- Owen Dueck, Sr.
- Chase Aiken, Sr.
- Gerardo Barrientos, Sr.
- Cyrus Sek, Jr.
- Myles Reber, Jr.
- Nick Bogomilsky, So.
- Cody Houston, So.
- Damien Aguilar, Jr.
- Quinn Turowski, So.
- Brock Siechen, Sr.
- Sean Barnes, Sr.
- Nick DeBernardo, Sr.