Warriors raked in the postseason HDN league awards with stellar senior class leading the way
When the baseball coaches from around the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 gathered to choose postseason awards, there was no consensus about who the best player was this season, but one thing was clear - whoever it was played for Del Norte.
The race for the league MVP was between Warrior senior catcher Josiah Johnson and his teammate, senior second-baseman Chris Bray. The Del Norte pair ended up splitting the vote and being named co-League MVPs.
"Their leadership qualities set them apart along with their love of the game," said Del Norte head coach Travis Johnson. "The coaches that voted for it felt that they were deserving based on the way they carried themselves on the field."
In addition to their leadership qualities, both Johnson and Bray produced at a high level this year. Johnson recorded a .353 batting average with 15 runs scored and 10 RBI this season. Bray added a .344 average along with 15 runs scored and 11 RBI throughout the season. Both Warriors were also stalwart defenders.
Johnson and Bray led a large and talented senior class that was able to match the teams win total from the previous three years in their final campaign. From 2011-13, the Del Note baseball program went 14-39 overall with a 6-30 record in the HDN. In 2014, a class of seven seniors led the Warriors to a 16-7 overall record with an 8-4 mark in league play, which was good enough to capture the school's first HDN baseball championship since 1998.
"The last couple years the program wasn't very good, and we exceeded expectations," said senior outfielder Dylan Pease.
Travis Johnson believes that this year's crew of seven seniors played a vital role in helping the team reach such heights this season.
"They have been a huge part of the team this year," Johnson said. "About three-quarters of our lineup was seniors this year. They provide experience for the younger kids. I have coached most of these kids since little league. I have coached them all through All-Stars and little league, they are going to be sorely missed next year, that is for sure."
In addition to Bray and Josiah Johnson, seniors Pease and Nathan Porter were also awarded White Stars. Junior Steven Maready was the Warriors' other White Star recipient.
Seniors Casey Nelson and Cole Bellatti both received honorable mention honors along with junior Jonathan Calderon and sophomore Austin Healy.
"They all deserved it," Travis Johnson said. "I wish I would have had a couple more White Stars. I think there were a couple more kids that deserved those."
The only senior that didn't receive a White Star or honorable mention was outfielder Caleb Wilson. Wilson joined the baseball team for the first time this season and only saw action in three games. Although he wasn't a star on the team, he still earned a postseason award.
"He got my most improved player award," Travis Johnson said. "Starting out the year he couldn't even catch the ball, but he ended up doing really well."
Warrior seniors age well
Coming into the season, the 2014 senior class had a lot of game experience with several three- and four-year varsity players. What the Warriors didn't have was experience winning games.
With just 14 wins in their first three seasons, the Del Norte seniors had a frustrating 1-5 record in games decided by two runs or less as juniors in 2013.
"Last year, the other teams would have a big inning and we didn't," Josiah Johnson said. "That one inning would cost us the game. This year they will have a big inning and we will come back with another big inning. That is the difference I think."
By all accounts, this year's senior class was a tight group both on and off the baseball field. Most of the senior class had been playing together or against each other for over 10 years, starting with tee-ball.
"Playing together from a young age helps," Pease said. "Getting comfortable with each other and being confident in the guy next to you and knowing that he will make the play is important."
Though the senior class was important to the team's success, the Warriors will have six players returning next season, including five that have starting experience. Those underclassmen were just as important to the team's success in 2014.
"Having a lot of seniors helps, but at the same time, the juniors were just as good and composed as any senior," Pease said. "I think we just did a better job of coming together as a group this year."
Nathan Porter Sr
Josiah Johnson Sr
Chris Bray Sr
Dylan Pease Sr
Steven Maready Jr
Honorable mention: Casey Nelson, Sr.; Cole Bellatti, Sr.; Jonathan Calderon., Jr.; Austin Healy, So.