Breaker baseball has experienced unprecedented success in recent years, with the last two teams posting the best records in team history. This year’s team looks to keep that momentum going. Head Coach Mike Bair has “high expectations” for his experienced squad, which includes 13 seniors and five juniors.
The Breakers are again loaded with live arms. As many as four quality starters and four more in the bullpen give Bair and third-year pitching coach Ben Julianel the enviable task of trying to get everyone enough innings to keep them sharp as the long season advances toward CIF playoffs.
Key returning players are seniors Robbie
McInerny (2B) and Blake Hester (DH, 1B, C), and juniors Steven Harrison (C, 3B) and Grant Wilhelm (P, CF). Each was selected first team all-Orange Coast league last season, with Wilhelm picking up pitcher of the year honors. Seniors Larry Stewart (P, 1B, OF) and Jackson Rees (P, RF), and junior Preston GrandPre (SS) earned second team honors.
Two key additions are Cole Millerd (P, 3B, OF), a senior transfer from La Quinta High School who went 7-2 with a 2.12 ERA in 56 innings over 10 starts. The other is junior Richie Nunis, who went 3-1 with a 2.96 ERA and was among the leaders in most every offensive category for last year’s JV squad.
Harrison’s .414 average and six homers led the team last year. Wilhelm (.394) had 37 hits and 24 RBI, both team highs. Hester’s (.402) 35 hits and 19 RBI were second to Wilhelm. McInerny (.359) matched Hester’s 19 RBI, and Stewart (.354, 23 hits, seven 2B) put up some big numbers despite missing several games with appendicitis.
Defending league champ Calvary and runner up Estancia will be the biggest obstacles for Laguna to overcome in their quest for only the second league title in program history.
Year two of the Scott Panaro era is underway. The second year coach, who took over for local legend Lance Stewart, and his team have all ready made some noise this season with an easy 3-1 win at home over Edison to open the season, followed by a 3-0 road thumping of Newport Harbor. It’s the first time Laguna has swept the Sailors on their court in more than 15 years.
Gone are last year’s co-captains, Orange Coast league MVP Jack Winn and first team all-league Austin Hillemann. Senior and second team all-league Grifan Fair steps into Winn’s role as setter. Fellow senior and first team all-league Weston Barnes, who led the team in kills last season, should get even more chances at the net with the departure of Hillemann.
Rounding out the starting rotation is senior and first team all league Maxx McCarter in the middle. He’ll share blocking duties with junior Noah Blanton. Junior Jake Hexberg moves into the Libero spot. Fellow junior JP Wollam will also see time at both setter and Libero.
Senior Jackson Pries, who was injured most of last season, will work the other side of the net at opposite, while junior Jack Wyett will backup McCarter on the outside. Another junior, Alec Wulff, who is fresh off a stellar hoops season, brings height and athleticism to a deep and talented group of outside hitters.
The Breakers look to cruise through their league schedule and collect an eighth straight title, with Calvary Chapel probably giving them their toughest competition. If the first two games of the season are any indication, the 2013 Breakers have a good chance to match or exceed last year’s CIF quarterfinal appearance.
Teague Hamilton and Morgan Lebby return for their senior seasons, hoping to lead the Breakers back to CIF quarterfinals and beyond. Hamilton and Lebby were both all-league last season, with the UC Santa Barbara-bound Hamilton also earning all-CIF honors.
The duo was a combined 9-0 in Laguna’s three CIF matches. “Our success as a team is pinned on these two players,” said Head Coach Don Davis. “Teague Hamilton is an elite tennis player and is someone to watch during CIF individuals.”
The Breakers return all their starters from last season, including first team all-league seniors Matt Meisberger, Jared Boetes, and Andrew Koumas. Second team all-league juniors Noah Radach and Alex Duong also return to action.
Hamilton and Lebby are the number one and two singles players. Senior Owen Weber, who returns to the squad after a year off, will join freshman Ryan Gee to form the number one doubles team. The rest of the starting lineup is still working itself out in competition.
The team’s brutal pre-league schedule has all ready seen them lose to San Clemente, Crean Lutheran and Corona del Mar. The next three against Mission Viejo, Mater Dei and Newport Harbor on March 5, 6 and 7 probably weren’t any easier.
Still, the Breakers have the depth to run the table in league competition, as they did last season, going 8-0 to win the title. How far Laguna goes in CIF remains to be seen.
The future, and maybe even the present, looks bright for the five sophomores one junior and one senior that make up a young Breakers golf team that will surely miss first team all-league Tim Peterson, a four-year varsity starter.
Returning to the starting lineup are senior Mitchell Wills, junior Tyler Metez and sophomore John Grayden. They are joined by sophomores Spencer Donovan, Troy Sullivan, Dylan Rouda, and Josh Pontius. “We have a strong group of tenth graders that bring a solid core to the team,” said Coach Scott Finn.
Laguna has had a rough go of it so far, dropping two matches to division one Tesoro of Rancho Santa Margarita to open the season, before losing a third to division one Dana Hills. Still, Finn hopes his young team can right the ship in time to compete with Estancia for a league title.
Photos by Robert Campbell