Saddleback baseball’s playoff passage

First baseman Jacob Hudson greets designated hitter Matthew Deutsch after a two run-homerun that propelled the Bobcats to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Courtesy of JPWestmedia

The vitality of the regular season is coming to terms with its own mortality. For the Saddleback Bobcats, this ascension is only the beginning as the unwavering concentration of the baseball club lies in playoff hopes.

The previous 2023 season for the Bobcats produced a noble record of 38-13, making it to the 3C2A State Tournament, falling to Santa Ana in the end. The season, which would be checked off as a glaring success in any other program, was simply perceived as a shortcoming for Saddleback. Standards for postseason success reside so highly due to the talent and mental construct towards producing the best product come playoffs.

Saddleback’s starting pitcher Damon Wolf provides an insight into this devotion to a championship by sharing the team motto of “Play in May.”

“I think a big component to the team gearing up towards playoffs is not making the games bigger than they already are,” Wolf says. “I would say our mentality this entire year hasn’t changed, it’s always been that we are a good team and that we expect to win games; we believe that when we play as a team that we are pretty difficult to beat.”

The Bobcat’s have put themself in a fortunate position as the tournament awaits around the corner. Wrapping up the regular season with a 24-15 record, there is a significant benefit in carrying the momentum from that 24 win season into May.

“Once in the playoffs it’s not always the most talented team wins, it’s sometimes the hottest teams,” head coach Sommer McCartney explained. “I think we can play and beat anyone but we have to play our A game.”

The “A game” mindset coach McCartney advocates for is something the team has been addressing at practice.

The only issue is practice can only be advantageous when properly executed; the ultimatum of the playoff run will come down to more consistency in execution. A demanding task for such a young team. The fortified disposition that the team propagates is exactly what keeps them in every game.

The same resiliency that was shown when they came back down 2-8 against Santa Ana on April 1st and down 2-8 against Cuesta on February 16th. First baseman Bobby Gray calls this unyielding ability a direct result of preparation.

“During practices, we mainly work on minor things we could get better in whether it comes to defense or situational hitting so when it comes up during games we have already done it enough to be comfortable with it,” Gray says, “Because of this we are able to consistently put our best foot forward going into games and are able to grind out wins even when it might not seem likely.”

The opportunities and advantages are in possession of Saddleback. Accomplishing any playoff success will not only reward the clubhouse for the 2024 efforts, it will also set the table for the team going forward. Benefitting the young talent and reinforcing Saddleback as an upper-echelon baseball program.