Excitement is the buzzword right now among the Malibu High School baseball team in the hours leading up to Opening Day. But when the first pitch is caught on Saturday night, excitement will be quickly replaced by expectation for this year’s Sharks squad.
Malibu begins the 2013 season playing at Maranatha High School in Pasadena at 5 p.m. as part of the Southern California Invitational. The Sharks are the defending blue division champions.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” said junior pitcher Noah Simon, projected to be the team’s No. 1 starter. “Last year’s team I thought we were good but this year I am way more confident. We have a closer relationship and better chemistry.”
Coming off a 2012 campaign where Malibu went 15-9 and made the CIF playoffs, the bar has been raised by fourth-year Coach Ari Jacobs for this season. Jacobs won seven games in his first season, eight in his second and 15 last year.
With Malibu being moved out of the Tri-Valley League and into the Frontier League, Jacobs feels this season could be a championship one. His team of a dozen players will have every opportunity to win the program’s first league title since 2005 and possibly go further in the postseason than a year ago, when MHS lost in the first round.
“One of our on field goals is that every single year we will be improving and getting better. We want to have more than 15 wins and win a league title as well,” Jacobs said. “With 12 guys on the roster, everybody is going to have to contribute on a lot of different fronts all year. It’s going to be a fun year because everybody is going to get a lot of playing time.”
Last year’s team featured the “Malibu Six,” a group of six seniors who had played together since little league. This year’s team might be dubbed the “Dedicated Dozen.” Malibu participated in 20 games during the summer and 16 more during this winter as part of the Gold Coast Development League.
Competing against St. Bonaventure, Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, Buena, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos has prepared the Sharks for a tough nonleague schedule that includes the So Cal Invitational, the San Diego Lions Tournament and a doubleheader against Santa Monica.
Junior shortstop Chase Lambert, a first-team Tri-Valley League selection in 2012, said he’s expecting big things.
“We have a lot of talent around us,” Lambert said. “If we play well together, we will have a really good squad. There is a lot more commitment on this team than other years.”
Lambert spent the better part of the summer playing against top-notch competition from California, Arizona and Colorado. He will also function as the team’s closer, firing 85 mph fast balls at the opponent.
“I get really excited when I come in,” Lambert said. “I get to throw my hardest for two innings and shut them down. I like being that dominant closer. It makes me feel really good.”
Simon, Lambert, sophomore Andre Simeneau and senior Riley McMillin form a quartet of pitchers who will serve as the backbone of the team.
“Our four main pitchers are all really good and they will keep us in every game we play this year,” Jacobs said.
Simeneau went the entire winter not allowing an earned run. Simon and Simeneau form a strong one-two punch on the mound.
“Our pitching is dynamite this year. We are really confident,” commented Lambert.
Captains Alvi Avarado and Frank Thomas along with juniors Chris Falk and Nick Anthony, sophomores Bronson Bard and Austin George, and freshmen Ezra Allen and Dylan Ross fill out a roster that Jacobs will count on for hustle, intensity and discipline.
“Expect a high-energy, high-aggressive team that knows how to pitch, play defense and score runs when they need to,” said Jacobs, a former assistant coach at Pepperdine.
As two of only three seniors on the team, Avarado (centerfielder) and Thomas (first baseman) want their senior year to be a memorable one.
“I really take pride in my hard work. I want to help this team out because I love them,” Avarado said. “We are going to have a good season and let’s hope for the best.”
“We have aspirations to win league, go deep into the playoffs if not win CIF,” Thomas added. “I’m excited to get the season started. It’s going to be a good year. We are going to do special things.”