Youthful Dragons grew into consistent winner, Alton, Daly, coach Lyons in all-star game
Sonoma’s Sean Daly raps out a single for the SCL all-stars during their one-run, nine-inning loss to the NBL stars in Sunday’s 14th annual Santa Rosa Kiwanis Club's High School Senior All-Star Baseball Game at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Cook Sypher Field.
Going into the season, the Sonoma Valley High School varsity baseball boys were, predominantly, young, and lacked varsity game-experience with only three returning starters – Kevin Deely, Sam Morgan and Chris Swanson – and right-handed pitching ace Sam Alton, back from the 2010 team that reached the postseason.
While it didn’t take long to show that the team’s strength was pitching, the youthful Dragons had their early struggles and inconsistencies, both defensively and offensively, that left them with a shaky 3-4 mark after seven games.
Then, suddenly, Sonoma seemed to mature, almost overnight, and it happened right before our eyes.
Actually, the reality jolt – or as Sonoma head coach Don Lyons put it, “The defining moment of our season,” – that was both stunning and transforming for the Dragons was the 17-1 shellacking they endured at the hands of North Coast Section Division-3 nonleague foe Acalanes in the fifth game of the season.
Instantly after the humiliating loss, a group of players, led by senior all-leaguers Alton and Deely, told Lyons and his coaching staff – Mario Alioto, Jody Ray, Joe Schiebold and Dave Studdert – that they didn’t like the feeling of being totally out-played in a rout and wanted to put the game behind them and move forward.
Taking a hardworking, back-to-the-basics, always-battling approach to their practices and games, the determined Dragons accumulated vital experience, confidence, and a winning attitude along the way, and defined the revitalization of their season by beating defending Sonoma County League champion Petaluma.
It was a key showdown that would impact their journey through the SCL and, as Alton came through “big-time” with a shutdown pitching effort in Sonoma’s 4-0 victory.
Alton was joined by junior right-hander Michael Hernandez and sophomore southpaw Brennan Cole to form a deep, talented and efficient pitching staff which delivered that crucial close-game edge, and the Dragons took the momentum from the Petaluma triumph for a first-place ride.
Despite falling just one-game short of earning a co-SCL title, Sonoma reached the postseason as a fourth-seed in the North Coast Section Division-3 playoffs and, impressively, advanced to the semifinals by posting NCS-opening and quarterfinal wins at 13th-seeded Eureka and over visiting 12th-seeded Novato, respectively.
In their NCS semifinal in Novato, the Dragons faced top-seeded San Marin – who they had earlier beaten in a nonleague game by rallying back from being no-hit – and ended up dropping a 5-3 decision, which stopped their spirited 14-5 run and resulted in an upbeat season-ending 17-9 record.
Comprising the Sonoma varsity baseball boys’ 2011 regular and postseason roster were seniors Alton, Deely, Sean Daly, Steven McGunagle and Alec Berthoud; juniors Hernandez, Colin Clyde, Sam Keechler, Chandler Kelley, Ryan Matteo, Sam Morgan, Will Murphy, Will Rose and Chris Swanson; sophomores Cole and Jonah Son; and freshman Dan Deely.
Receiving SCL all-league recognition for the Dragons were first-team honoree Alton; second-team selections Deely, Daly, Rose, Hernandez and Cole; and honorable-mention picks Morgan and Son.
On Sunday at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Cook Sypher Field, the Santa Rosa Kiwanis Club's 14th annual High School Senior All-Star Baseball Game between the Sonoma County League and North Bay League took place and the Dragons were represented by coach Don Lyons and players Sam Alton and Sean Daly. Kevin Deely was also invited, but couldn’t participate.
The NBL all-stars ended up nipping the SCL stars 3-2 in the nine-inning game, with Alton pitching two solid innings and Daly rapping out a single.