Whether on the mound or at the plate, the Summerville Bears varsity baseball team could depend on senior Joey Brocchini.
"He was our spark plug," said Summerville head coach Larry Gold. "He kept us going with his bat and when we threw him on the mound we were expecting to win. We threw him out there knowing he wanted the ball and he gave us a great effort each time. There's no doubt in my mind we wouldn't have made it as far this season without him."
The most impressive display of Brocchini's ability to lead his team to victory on both offense and defense this season was a 6-5 home win against the Calaveras Redskins onApril 3.
In that victory, Brocchini pitched all seven innings and drove in the game-winning run for the Bears in the sixth. He then struck out two batters and picked off a runner at first to seal the victory in the seventh.
"We were down in the latter part of that game knowing we had to take two out of three games with Calaveras this season and he came through with a clutch base hit that put us ahead and helped us win that game and eventually go on to take second place in the league," Gold said.
"He always wanted the bat in his hands to show what he could do," Gold added, "and in that game he stepped up and delivered the goods for us."
Brocchini, who started on varsity as a sophomore, finished with a 5-1 Mother Lode League record as Summerville's ace pitcher. He also powered his way to a .383 batting average with 23 hits, nine RBIs and nine runs scored in 20 games played.
Brocchini, sophomore Bryce Farrell and seniors Colton Ebbers, Logen Foster and Connor Morningstar, all joined the baseball team after missing several games because they were members of the school's varsity basketball team that won the Section championship in March.
"We started off losing a few games but my team supported me," Brocchini said. "They helped boost my confidence and then we started winning. We never stopped fighting and I was happy with the way it turned out."
For his ability to be a double threat, dedication to improvement and leadership that helped guide the Bears to another successful season, Joey Brocchini isThe Union Democrat's2013 All-Area Baseball Most Valuable Player.
"That's really exciting," Brocchini said after being told of his selection. "I just played my game and played for my teammates. I wanted to be a top player but also wanted to do what was best for the team. I knew my team had my back and I had theirs."
"Baseball's in his blood," Gold said. "Joey did anything you asked him to do and he's also a great role model and leader. I'm pleased as all get out that he's been selected as the All-Area MVP."
Ebbers, whom Brocchini plated to win theApril 3game against Calaveras, said he wasn't surprised to hear that his Summerville teammate had been named MVP.
"He was down a couple of times this season but his batting pulled his pitching up and toward the end he became unstoppable," Ebbers said.
Brocchini, who has been swinging a bat since tee-ball, plans to play for Butte College next year as a pitcher and at third base so he can continue hitting as well.
"Joey's such a great competitor that he probably wants that next level just to show what he can do," Gold said.
Ebbers was one of three Bears to make the All-Area First Team. He was both a strong outfielder and a powerful hitter for the Bears, amassing 20 hits, 12 RBIs and 19 runs scored with a .317 batting average.
He blasted a grand slam in the fourth inning against Calaveras onMay 3that gave the Bears their first lead of the game on their way to 8-7 victory. The win clinched a playoff berth and second place in the MLL for Summerville.
"I was batting with more confidence this season and looking for base hits rather than doubles or triples," he said.
Ebbers will attend the University of Hawaii in the fall and plans to take a year off of sports to focus on his studies.
Foster started the season playing solely at third base for the Bears, but as the season progressed, he began starting on the mound and had several strong outings. He was also selected to the All-Area First Team.
"He just did phenomenal for us and gives 100 percent all the time," Gold said. "He's a great competitor, loves to go out there and play and just did whatever we asked of him."
The third Bear named to the First Team, Bryce Farrell, was only a freshman when he started on varsity last year. He ended this season with a .394 batting average that included 28 hits, six RBIs and 15 runs scored. Farrell also made the All-Area First Team as a frosh.
"He's definitely going to be a threat. Actually, he already is a threat. So over the next two years he's gonna become an even bigger threat," Brocchini said of Farrell.
Calaveras was the other area team to advance to the postseason and the only team that earned a victory after defeating Lindhurst in the outbracket round. It finished third in the MLL with a 9-6 record.
Redskin senior Anthony Flores and juniors Mike Seawell, Wyatt Durham and Derek Rittenhouse were all named to the First Team.
Flores transferred this year from Chavez High in Stockton and proved to be valuable at backstop and at the plate, driving in 28 runs on the season.
"He's just a natural player who hits the ball very hard and has a great arm," said Calaveras head coach Tom DeLappe. "He did a great job behind the plate and was a our leading RBI guy.
"Wyatt Durham was 125 pounds of nothing but heart. He learned to pitch with the stuff he had, accepted it and threw well. Anytime he went on the mound, I think our team felt we had a chance to win that game," DeLappe said.
Gold called the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Rittenhouse a "man amongst boys" at third base.
"We were afraid to throw to him and it surprised the heck out of me how mobile he was at third base," Gold said.
DeLappe called Seawell "one of the fastest kids in the league" and his 21 stolen bases on the season is good evidence for that claim. He ended the year with a .367 average and played solid defense at shortstop.
"His job was to get on base and he did," DeLappe said. "He walked a fair amount of the time and when he got on the bag he could get around quickly. He's also a good shortstop with some good range."
Cross-county rival Bret Harte had a tough season in the MLL, however, Bullfrog ace Mike McCullough battled through adversity to end the year with a 2.77 ERA.
McCullough picked up win early in the season against Ben Holt College Prep Academy and threw several complete games.
"He's definitely performed well," said Bret Harte head coach Zack Abernathy. "You couldn't tell whether he was winning or losing because he always kept the same demeanor and that's really important for a pitcher to have. We weren't really a competitive team this year, but he kept games close and did a really good job for us all year long."
McCullough plans to play baseball next year at Ohlone College in Fremont.
The Sonora Wildcats also had two players named to the First Team, despite finding wins difficult in the Valley Oak League.
During the preseason, the Wildcats defeated Summerville 7-1 onMarch 12and Calaveras 4-2 onMarch 15.
Sonora ace, and 2012 All-Area MVP, Ryan Stevenson earned First Team honors after compiling a 7-3 record and finishing with an intimidating 1.59 ERA and 120 strikeouts. He also drove in 13 runs on 30 total hits this season.
"It's fun to watch him get out there," Gold said of Stevenson. "I think he had us for 10-plus strikeouts when we faced him and he deserved every one of them. He pin-pointed his pitches and could blow the ball right by us when he wanted to."
Sonora infielder Justin Payne was the other Wildcat selected to the First Team after finishing the season with a .325 batting average, including 25 hits, 11 RBIs and 14 runs scored.
"When he stepped on the field it was all business," Gold said of Payne. "You don't want to have to pitch around anybody, but you knew you put anything down there he was going to be able to laser tag it.
"He's also a good team player and they all seem to look up to him for advice. It's good to know there's still those guys out there who have baseball in their blood and just live or die out on that field."