MHS Baseball Season Preview: Swinging For the Fences

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Left to right: Senior captains Chase Lambert, Noah Simon, Chris Falk.

Sometimes the toughest of losses can prove to be the most beneficial.

As the 2014 baseball season begins this week, the Malibu High School Sharks plan to keep that in mind as they embark on a journey to defend their Frontier League championship and pursue the dreams of a CIF title.

In order to achieve both goals, the Sharks are looking back at May 21, 2013 for their motivation and sense of purpose. That’s when, after setting a school record with 24 wins, Malibu stumbled in the second round of the CIF Division VI playoffs in a 10-6 loss at Calvary Chapel in Downey.

Leading 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Sharks were six outs away from advancing to the CIF quarterfinals for the first time in school history.

In the blink of an eye, Calvary Chapel exploded for six runs and ran away with the victory. Nearly 10 months later, the loss resonates in the minds of this year’s 2014 squad.

“Obviously, it was a hard loss for us. But we’ve become a stronger team,” said senior Noah Simon, the reigning Frontier League Pitcher of the Year. “It made us work harder over the summer. We are now the team that people are coming after instead of us being the underdogs, which is a good feeling. We want to win CIF but we will take it game by game and go for league first.”

When Simon says, people follow. Now a senior and one of three captains on the team along with Chase Lambert and Chris Falk, Simon’s leadership will be invaluable to a team that is expected to contend for a second consecutive league title.

Simon earned first-team honors in 2013 after posting a 10-2 record with a 1.83 earned run average, 65 strikeouts and only six walks. He will be the ace of the pitching staff and play centerfield on days he doesn’t pitch.

Lambert was named the Most Valuable Player of the Frontier League after hitting a team-best .454 batting average with 44 hits, 31 runs, 19 RBIs and 13 doubles. On the mound, Lambert went 3-0 with a 0.79 era, eight saves, 50 strikeouts, eight walks and allowed only eight hits in 26 2/3 innings pitched.

He has made a steady return from a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. He will serve as the team’s designated hitter with hopes of returning to the infield at second base in another four to six weeks.

“We’ve got to keep the pedal down,” said Lambert. “We have to keep going and not think we have the game won. We were thinking ahead to the next game last year instead of thinking about the game we were playing that day. We won’t forget that.”

Falk returns as Simon’s battery mate at catcher and will play a significant role in developing the pitching staff that includes Andre Simoneau (4-3, 2.88 era), Ezra Allen, Miles Tade and Declan Sheridan.

“I have to be able to give them confidence so they can pitch at their very best,” Falk said.

Third baseman Austin George (.390 average) suffered a season-ending knee injury playing football. The devastating blow to the team was mitigated somewhat when Mesa State-commit Kris Keach transferred to MHS. He will replace George in the lineup.

The Sharks also return first baseman Bronson Bard (.322 avg., team-leading 23 RBIs), second baseman Dylan Ross (.311 avg.) and outfielder Nick Anthony.

Allen has become the everyday shortstop for the Sharks and will be the team’s closer on the hill.

“We just have to work a little harder and not get too cocky,” Allen said. “Last year we got caught up in the moment and didn’t work as hard as we should have worked. But I am really excited to hopefully win league again and winning a CIF championship.”

Malibu begins its season this week as part of the Southern California Invitational Tournament. Then the Sharks will battle Burroughs of Burbank (March 15) and Santa Monica (March 21) in doubleheaders as preparation for defending their league championship.

“We’ve worked all year for this. The guys are super excited to get the season started,” Malibu coach Ari Jacobs said. “We are ready to get rolling. They are ready to repeat and have another monster year.”