A glance at Saddleback’s 2023/24 baseball team dynamics

Saddleback baseball team member, Sophomore Andrew Nykoluk, is up at bat during one of this season’s games. Other players watch as he prepares to swing the bat. Armand Sicat/Lariat

For sports enthusiasts, spring doesn’t just mean pulling out your umbrella, it’s the start of baseball season. Bring out the crackerjacks.

Head baseball coach Sommer McCartney explains that this semester’s team is full of new, mostly younger, faces. 

“Last year we had seventeen, eighteen players move on, transfer to four-year schools. This year we have a younger team.” McCartney said.

The new freshman members are already more than just acquainted.

“I was a redshirt last year and got to be a part of the team.” Freshman infielder Jake Tyler said. 

High school students get to experience being a team member by becoming a redshirt.

“I traveled with the team, kind of experienced the environment of the team, got to experience the state championships, get acclimated with everything,” he said, “It was awesome, it was an amazing experience. I gained so many friends.” 

For those freshmen who weren’t redshirts last year, they still got to get into the groove over the fall. 

“The fall is pre-season for us, we’ll play pre-season games. That’s really time to showcase who you are,” Tyler said.

Though anyone can try and be a part of the team, not everyone makes it to the regular season.

“It’s all an evaluation, every day, every practice,” sophomore J.C. Allen, infielder said. 

Players aren’t just being evaluated on their baseball skills either. 

“You can be a good player but if you’re not a good teammate we really don’t want you here. We don’t want that part of our culture,” Allen said.

McCartney explains that having so many new players at once does pose some challenges. 

“The fall has been a lot of work, and just trying to get them used to how we do things here. And we’re still doing it; we’re still working on it too,” he said.

So far, out of the 13 games played this spring eight have been wins.

“We want to win, like last year we came second in state. It’s big for us. It’s competitive as it gets,” Tyler said.

“We’re off to an ok start, we didn’t jump off as hot as last year,” Allen said. However, he also expressed that the new players are doing well. “I think a lot of our players are growing and like getting used to the game a lot faster than I think most freshmen.” 

 He gave the example of Robert Gray, a freshman four inner, one of many new faces on the team.

“He didn’t play that much in the fall due to injury [but] we have him here in the spring and he’s been doing really well,” Allen said. 

“We try to take it day by day and not think about the past but work on what we can do to fix the future and what we can do for our next games coming up.” sophomore Makani Tanaka, outfielder said. “A lot of it is coming in when you’re not mandatory to come in,” he said. “I guess you could say it’s fully dedication but if you enjoy doing it it’s not really a work type of thing.” 

McCartney speaks positively of the team’s ethics. “They’re working hard,” he said.

“All three years I’ve been here the players have been very close, infielders, outfielders, so we’re a tight team,” Allen said, putting the team’s dynamics into words.

“We’re confident in each other,” Tanaka said, surely expressing the thoughts of many. “So far I’ve loved every day of it, I can’t complain.”