In 2018, the St. Mary’s baseball team lost the second round of playoffs to Davis Senior High School (who went on to play in the SEC championship). The goal had been to take that SEC title, but for the varsity high school team, the win-loss column didn’t play out in their favor.
However, the group, which included 13 seniors, may have pulled out an even bigger achievement. Eight of the players who graduated in 2018 went on to play college ball, a number Randy Ortega, the varsity team’s head coach at St. Mary’s, says is certainly more than average.
“It’s really rewarding to see kids… chase down their dream,” Randy says. “It’s very rewarding to see kids that are continuing to play.”
The team brought a lot of skill to the table at every position, but Randy says it was the group’s shared competitive spirit that made the difference. At every turn, they were motivated to win, so it’s no surprise that many members of the team said their favorite memory from high school baseball was a significant comeback that resulted in a walk-off win against Tracy High School.
“The program at St. Mary’s is bigger than baseball,” says Bobby Jackson, who plays college ball at California Lutheran University. “My time in the St. Mary’s baseball program developed me as a player allowing me to continue to play this game at the next level, but also taught me valuable lessons as a person that I will carry on for the rest of my life.”
His words echo the very coaching philosophy that Randy Ortega and the rest of the coaching staff at St. Mary’s believe in.
“We’re developing young men and using baseball as an avenue to do that,” Randy says.
The 2018 season was undoubtedly a memorable one for every player involved, and for Randy—it was his first year as head coach of the program—who continues to take the lessons he learned from that season forward, much as the boys do.
As for the players, those eight are still working hard at their craft, and they haven’t let their friendships slip either.
“As a whole, the group was very close knit and you can tell that they grew up playing together,” Randy says.
“We talk as a team in a group message every month,” says Tyler Lozano, who now plays catcher at University of Southern California.
Bobby adds, “Most of them are my best friends to this day.”