While it will be fun if the Santa Barbara High Dons make it to Dodger Stadium—they were one game away heading into this week’s CIF Division 2 baseball semifinals—it would be hard to top the excitement they generated in their last home game at Eddie Mathews Field on Friday, May 27. It was a quarterfinal game between the Dons and a formidable opponent, the Harvard Westlake Wolverines. Spectators filled the bleachers, crowded around the burger grill, lined the sidewalk on Canon Perdido, and parked themselves behind the outfield fences. They saw a real doozy.
The Dons won 7-2 behind the gritty pitching of Danny Zandona, solid hitting that produced three home runs, and clutch defensive plays from start to finish. The visitors banged three straight hits in the top of the first but failed to score because a peg from centerfielder Collin Dewell to cutoff man Pepe Gil to catcher Colin Eaton nailed a runner at the plate. Second-baseman Spencer Fraker stymied a Harvard Westlake rally in the seventh by corralling a tricky high hopper to get a key out at first. One out later, the Dons were storming the field in triumph.
Fred Warrecker’s leathered face broke out into a grin. This is his 38th year as head coach of the Dons, and for the third time, they made it to the CIF semifinals. The 2002 club lost by a run to eventual champion Villa Park. Two years earlier, a young Dons squad played in the championship game at Dodger Stadium, and nerves got to them as they committed seven errors in an 8-0 loss to California High. If they get back to this year’s final, it will be played Thursday, June 2, at 7:30 p.m.
“This is one of our most mature teams,” Warrecker said of the current group, which has seven senior starters and fashioned a 23-6 record heading into this week. Nevertheless, he said, “It’s been a very difficult season. We could have a so-so record and still be a good team because of the quality of our competition.”
Warrecker has retired as a classroom teacher, but he exercises his pedagogic chops by dispensing lessons from history and literature to his players. He’ll tell stories from Plutarch and Herodotus. He’ll recreate an exhortation from Alexander the Great.
Next week, Warrecker is going to dive into his own family history. He is flying to northern Spain where his son Donnie, the youngest of six, has been living. “I’m half Basque,” Warrecker said. “I’ll be able to see where my grandparents came from.”
And no doubt he’ll learn a few expressions to use on the Dons in the future.
DP DOMINATOR: Junior pitcher Hannah Harris kept Dos Pueblos High in contention for the CIF D-4 softball title. She hurled three straight shutouts—including a 1-0 victory over Ocean View in 11 innings—to lead the Chargers into the semis. The finals are in Irvine this weekend.
END OF AN ERA: In 1983, Bob Brontsema was an all-conference second-baseman on a UCSB team that fell one victory short of reaching the College World Series in Omaha. That was as close as Brontsema would get to college baseball’s promised land in 30 often frustrating years as a Gaucho player and coach. After the Gauchos ended the 2011 season last Sunday with a 26-26 record, Brontsema (career winning percentage: .503) was removed from the head coaching position he held for 18 years. He fielded several classy teams that produced four current major leaguers—Skip Schumacher, Ryan Spilborghs, Michael Young, and Barry Zito—but they made just two appearances in NCAA regionals, the last in 2001. In announcing a search for a new coach, UCSB athletics director Mark Massari said he wanted a program that could “make a run on Omaha each year,” like Big West rivals Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine. Brontsema will remain employed in UCSB’s athletic administration.
FORESTERS’ OPENER: If it’s June, it must be time for Santa Barbara Foresters baseball. One of the country’s best summer league clubs—tied for third in the NBC World Series last year—will open a new season with a three-game series against the San Diego Waves, Friday at 4:30 p.m. at UCSB’s Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. While they await the arrival of players from several NCAA playoff teams, including Texas and Rice, the Foresters may feature a local battery of Chris Joyce (SBCC pitcher) and Riley Moore (San Marcos catcher).
BREAKERS’ CLOSER: The Santa Barbara Breakers reclaimed the championship of the West Coast Pro Basketball League by winning two games at Santa Barbara High last Saturday, 130-108 over the Venice Beach Ninjas and 110-107 over the West L.A. Advantage. Playing a huge role in their success was 7’3” center Keith Closs, who had 25 rebounds and 13 blocked shots against the Ninjas. Slick guard Tim Taylor scored 31 points in the title game.