By Kyle Foster
Twitter: @NapaKyle @NapaSportsLive
It was a tale of two seasons last year for Napa Valley College baseball team.
At the beginning of the season the Storm was one of the worst teams in the state record wise, but in the second half of the season NVC was winning most of their three-game series in Bay Valley Conference play. When all was said, and done Napa Valley ended the year with a record of 15-25 overall, with a 13-8 record in BVC. When all was said and done NVC was one game shy from marking the CCCAA playoffs.
Last season the Storm’s subpar start was mostly due to the fact last years winter was one of the worst in recent history. For the-non league part of the schedule NVC’s home field was flooded, and they had to have many of their practices in the gym.
The Storm will return a good amount of players from last years team — 14 of them to be exact. The returners are: pitcher/catcher and Napa High class of 2016 graduate Jacob Ray, outfielder Aaron Reardon, catcher Josh Abraham, pitcher/utility Spencer Lee, pitcher Andrew Benns, first baseman Carter Nott, outfielder Joey Kassis, first baseman Justin Banks, outfielder Brooks Green, pitcher Ben Aguigui, infielder Sam Dienerman, infielder D’Angelo Greene, and pitcher Alex Horne.
Napa Valley has 13 players that are new to the team to go along with their returners. Three local products are new to the team. All-Napa County player of the year in 2017, and class of 2017 Napa High graduate Felipe Gonzalez will join the pitching staff, as well as play a utility role, Nathan Kauffman, and Addison Holzkamp-Hadsell both 2017 Justin-Siena graduates will also join the team. Kauffman will also join the pitching staff, and can play first base Holzkamp-Hadsell will be an off the bench outfielder. Other newcomers are: pitcher Alex Nelson, infielder Hunter Levitt, infielder Louis Hall, infielder Trent Davis, infielder Andruw Shaw, pitcher/ first baseman Carter Pennington, catcher Clayton Espino, infielder Ryan Tolley, pitcher/outfielder Nick Adair, and pitcher Garrison Gandy.
“I think all of them will have significant roles,” Napa Valley coach Dan Parker said of the roles of the locals on the team. “I think we did a good job of getting some of the top talent in our area, Nathan of Justin-Siena, Addison of Justin-Siena, getting Felipe from Napa, we have Jacob Ray from Napa, and then also getting guy on the (interstate) 80 like Alex Nelson, so yeah all those guys will play significant roles, and depending on how they do the more they’ll take on.”
Last spring due to all the rain NVC had a hard time getting a lot of their early season games. That led Parker to the decision to schedule most of the non-conference game out of town, and in Southern California. Napa Valley will begin the season Friday with a short two-game series at Santa Barbara City College. The Storm will also face West Hills-Coalinga, Diablo Valley-Pleasant Hill, Lassen-Susanville, Modesto, City College of San Francisco, Barstow-San Bernardino County, San Bernardino Valley, and Cuesta-San Luis Obispo.
“I think Santa Barbara kinda takes the spot of Ohlone, obviously it being our first games of the year,” Parker explained of the season-opening series, and going to SoCal for the non-league portion of the schedule. “There’s a few different things one is it gives our kids the opportunity to play in Southern California which some of these kids haven’t done, it makes it exciting for them, it kinda brings the team together, it gets us out of the rain, and just kinda puts us in an atmosphere that they won’t be in during the rest of the year, so for me there’s more exposure for these kids and again a big part of this process is for them to leave here, enjoy the time they had here, and be able to go elsewhere when they’re done and play baseball.”
The Storm is scheduled to open Bay Valley play on March 6th at home against Contra Costa-San Pablo. The BVC is expected to be very competitive this season.
“It’s tough, I mean Bay Valley is tough,” Parker added on how the BVC is shaping up this season. “I think us competing at a high level, along with Mendo (Ukiah) competing at a high level, Mendo was the team last year that started off as hot as we ended. Marin’s (Kentfield) always good, LMC (Pittsburg) is always good, Solano (Fairfield) is always that rival that makes the games tough, Contra Costa always has great athletes, Yuba’s (Marysville) always big and strong, so it’s just like anything else it’s a two-year school, so you never really know where everyone sits until you go out and you play the games, so our goal is to go into every series knowing who we are and knowing that any team could beat anybody at any time, so you just gotta be ready to go, so I guess the answer is everybody.”