The Monte Vista Christian baseball team was promoted to the Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division for the 2024 season. (contributed)

Two years ago, the Monte Vista Christian baseball team captured the program’s first-ever Central Coast Section and CIF NorCal State championship titles in the same season. 

For third-year head coach Johnny Ramirez, the wait has been too long, and the Mustangs are looking to snatch back their titles in 2024. 

“We lost a few key players from last year’s team, but we also returned and added key players,” he said. “We got lots of talent and ready to compete.” 

It’ll be a tough road ahead as MVC (0-6) was promoted to the Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division following a Mission Division title run in 2023. They currently own an 0-3 record in league action, losing twice to Monterey (4-2, 2-1) and more recently a 7-5 defeat to Pacific Grove (1-3, 1-2) on March 12.  

A key returner for the Mustangs is all-league junior catcher Carter Wright, who is expected to be the main guy behind the plate. 

“Carter Wright, this guy is a stud. I’ve been coaching for 17 years and he is one of the best catchers I have seen in a long time,” Ramirez said.

In 2023, Wright batted a .512 average with 21 hits and three doubles to earn All-PCAL Mission Division Second Team honors. 

Wright believes competing in the highest tier within the league shouldn’t change the way they play the game and has high expectations for his team.

“We want to prove that we belong in the Gabilan Division,” Wright said. “We expect to get back to CCS and compete there, and work for another ring.”

The Mustangs finished with a 22-6 overall record and went 15-1 in league play. But they lost in the CCS DV semifinals to Hillsdale of San Mateo, crushing any hopes of back-to-back section titles.

MVC also lost standouts Cannon Silva, Luke Hollinsworth and the reigning Mission Division’s most valuable player JoJo Keldsen due to graduation. 

Ramirez’s group of “Young ‘Stangs” is made up of just one senior, five juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.

A key returner to watch out for is senior third baseman Anthony Loredo. He batted a .357 average with 25 hits, including two home runs. 

“This kid can play, he has been one of our main leaders since he has played for me,” Ramirez said. “He will continue to make a big impact for us”

Ramirez said the team’s culture has been strong since he took over the program. He’s also made a few tweaks to help lead the team to recent success.

“My gold standard since I’ve been here is we are always going to praise God, your teammates come first, and always come out to work hard,” Ramirez said. “Our mentality coming into every game is that we are not afraid of anybody, we don’t care if he is throwing 100 [miles per hour].”

Wright said the culture and his teammates makes the game fun and easy to process. 

“The team connection is strong. We have a couple of underclassmen that fit right in with our program,” he said. “Everyone is very coachable, which I think will help us be successful.”

Loredo added that although most of his teammates have been playing together for a while, he praised the coaching staff for taking time to understand them as players. 

“We have all been playing together since we were freshmen and sophomores so our chemistry is on point,” Loredo said. “Coach understands us all and gives us the freedom to be ourselves, but expects us to focus at practice.”

The Mustangs lost three of their main workhorses on the mound with the departure of Dylan Hawkins, Silva and Keldsen, which combined for 231 strikeouts in 2023.  

This year’s group is still equipped with a strong core of pitchers such as Dante Darnel and Bryce Brogan. Ramirez said they don’t have a No. 1 pitcher just yet, but he’s confident enough that anyone he puts on the field will contribute. 

“Coach Skip [Clinton] has been our pitching coach and works really well with our kids,” Ramirez said. “This season we are really excited, we got lots of arms that can really throw this season.”

A new Mustang to keep an eye out on is freshman pitcher Chris Bautista, who has recorded 12 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings pitched. 

“He has lots of talent, not going to rush him but he has lots of potential and can play,” Ramirez said.

MVC struggled to get on the field earlier in the season because of the rain storms. Ramirez refused to use it as an excuse and found ways to keep the players busy.

“We’ve been getting work in any way we can whether it’s in the gym, classroom, or field we are getting better,” Ramirez said. “We have to stay ready to play.” 

The Mustangs will continue PCAL Mission Division action at Pacific Grove on Thursday at 4pm.

MVC will continue PCAL Mission Division action with a two-game series against Carmel. The first game is at Carmel on March 19, followed by a home game in Watsonville on March 21. Both games are slated to begin at 4pm. 

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