Watsonville High senior Brody Legions will play a big role on the Wildcatz baseball team this season. (Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian)

Baseball season is finally upon us. Besides the recent rain storms, it has been all smiles at Watsonville High as the baseball team works its way back.

The Wildcatz are led by second-year head coach Tige McSwain Sr. at the helm. In his first season with the program, the ‘Catz finished with a 9-11 overall record and placed fourth in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division in 2023.  

McSwain said he hopes to build from last year, but that every season is a new one and expects returners to step up and compete. 

“Players graduate and new players have to step in,” he said. “We are hoping to be competitive and have an opportunity to play for the postseason.”

Watsonville dropped its first two games of the season starting with a 3-1 loss to Pacheco High on Feb. 23, then a 10-7 defeat to Seaside High on Monday. 

The ‘Catz will attempt to bounce back at Soquel High on Tuesday at 3:30pm, followed by a home game against San Lorenzo Valley High on Friday at 5pm.

Watsonville lost a core of its leadership in Miguel Lopez, Zander Miller-Brown, Abraham Bonilla and Edgar Ramirez due to graduation.

However, the ‘Catz do have a key returner in senior slugger Brody Legions. In 2023, he was batting a team-best average of .406 (26-for-64) with two home runs, eight doubles, one triple, 19 runs scored and 15 RBIs, according to the Max Preps website. 

Legions also had 15 strikeouts in five appearances on the mound and finished with a 1-1 overall record.

“I just want to do whatever I can for the team,” he said. “I’ll pitch, play whatever position. Do the most I can and have fun for my last year.”

Legions will continue to be an offensive threat at the plate and defensively sound at third base. However, he also wants to see more time as a pitcher. 

“I’ve worked on my arm conditioning because it gets pretty sore, pretty quick,” he said. “I’m just a closer right now but I want to start some games, too.”

Other key returners include seniors Aiden Rodriguez and Josh Ybarra.

Rodriguez was behind Legions with 21 hits, including five doubles, one triple, 13 RBIs and 11 runs scored. 

Ybarra is one of the Wildcatz’s ace pitchers. He had 28 strikeouts in nine appearances in 2023.

Legions also likes what he sees from Nate Aguilar, Gabriel Lara and Mathew Silva. 

McSwain knows his team has a lot of potential but he also realizes it will take time to build. 

“We are trying to build a program that our school and community can be proud of and want to support,” McSwain said. “Baseball isn’t too big in Watsonville. We are trying to change that.”

Before taking over the program, McSwain was a coach in Oregon for 20 years, including eight seasons of head coaching experience prior to making his way to Watsonville. 

The ‘Catz will return to a loaded PCAL Mission Division with teams such as Alisal, Alvarez, Greenfield, King City, North Monterey County, North Salinas, Rancho San Juan, Soledad and Stevenson.   

“Our division is going to be a tough one, we are  hoping to play well enough to battle for a postseason berth,” McSwain said.

The last time Watsonville won a league crown was a co-championship with North Salinas High in 2015. Prior to that, the ‘Catz haven’t won a league title outright since 1991 when they were a part of the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League. 

A postseason drought also continues for Watsonville, which hasn’t made the playoffs since suffering an 11-1 loss to Christopher in 2017. 

With the recent storms, it’s been tough for players to get time on the field. But McSwain said the team is doing what they can, making the best of it and getting work done when and where they can.

With little time on the dirt, the players have been leaning on each other to get better. McSwain said it’s helped build character and elevate the team’s chemistry. 

“Every day the players get to practice together and are getting better… they are learning from each other and with each other” 

The ‘Catz begin PCAL Mission Division action with a series against North Monterey County on March 5 and 7. Watsonville will host the teams’ first meeting at 3:30pm and then travel to Castroville for the second game at 5pm. 

*Additional reporting by sports editor Juan Reyes

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