At times during the season, it seemed like the Watsonville High baseball team just wasn’t able to get out of a rut.
It got off to a rocky start in the preseason that included postponed games due to the series of rainstorms and a handful of players sitting out due to injury.
Yet, it never fazed senior Miguel Lopez who managed to keep the Wildcatz afloat while they cleaned up some things during the season.
“Proud of my teammates for stepping up after forgetting all that preseason stuff,” he said.
After losing twice to Monte Vista Christian in a doubleheader in Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division action on March 25, Lopez was determined to win every game from there on out.
“I want to go out on my final days with a bang,” he said.
The ‘Catz closed out the regular season by winning two out of three games including a dominating 11-0 league win over North Salinas High on May 8.
The ‘Catz finished with a 9-11 overall record and they went 8-8 in league play.
Lopez batted 1-for-1 with an RBI and scored a pair of runs, while fellow teammate and senior Abraham Bonilla tossed a complete game shutout.
Bonilla recorded four strikeouts and allowed seven hits in five innings of work. He finished with a 2-3 overall record on the mound, recording 27 strikeouts with a 4.59 ERA.
Bonilla was also busy at the plate, batting 1-for-1 with two walks, one RBI and also scored a pair of runs. He finished the season batting a .262 average (11-of-42) with two triples, two doubles, 11 RBIs and 11 runs scored.
Junior Brody Legions continued to be stalwart for the ‘Catz, batting 3-for-4 with one home run, one triple, two RBIs and three runs scored. He finished batting a .406 average (26-of-64) with two home runs, one triple, eight doubles, 15 RBIs and 19 runs scored in 20 games played this season.
Watsonville senior Zander Miller-Brown batted 3-for-4 with one triple and one run scored against North Salinas. He was also a key contributor this season, batting .345 (19-of-55) with one triple, two doubles, six RBIs and 13 runs scored.
The ‘Catz also had junior Aiden Rodriguez, who was hitting .323 (21-of-65) with one triple, five doubles, 13 RBIs and 14 runs scored.
Lopez mentioned they had some key players missing from the lineup at the beginning of the season, which prevented them from practicing as a full team. However, things started to quickly change once the roster was a full unit yet again.
“We started getting all the stuff taken care of and taking care of business,” Lopez said.
Watsonville coach Tige McSwain said Lopez along with senior catcher Edgar Ramirez both brought leadership as the seniors on the team.
“Edgar is a solid leader, where Miguel [is] sort of the rah-rah kind of guy, and when we need to be pumped up, that’s what [Lopez] tries to do for us,” McSwain said.
McSwain—originally from Portland—attended Santa Clara University but he left once the football program was disbanded. He found his way to Cabrillo where he played football for two seasons and baseball for one.
He returned to Oregon and then made his way back to Santa Cruz County in August 2021 to teach before taking the job as the baseball skipper for Watsonville.
McSwain was impressed with the players who are passionate about the game because those are the ones he had the most fun with.
“They’re like sponges, they want to soak it up,” he said.
McSwain does his best to stay away from telling old stories unless he absolutely has to make a fair point. Instead, he focuses on helping the players become better at what they do on the field.
It took some time for the kids to buy into McSwain’s philosophy, especially because he was a first-year coach coming into the program.
The energy began to shift and once the players started believing in themselves, that’s when they began to see the fruits of their labor.
McSwain said players began to string together base hits and he noticed the defensive errors came down to a minimum, allowing them to stay in most of their games this season.
“I’m having fun,” he said. “This is a great group of kids to coach. They enjoy the game and they’re passionate about it.”