Two Laguna Beach High School records fell last week; one had stood for 27 seasons and the other lasted a day short of a year
Grant Wilhelm pitched six shutout innings on the road last Thursday, May 8, against Godinez to help Laguna clinch its second straight Orange Coast league title and third in the last four seasons.
It was the 21st victory of Wilhelm’s three-year varsity career, one better than his former teammate Jackson Rees (’13), who beat Costa Mesa on May 9, 2013, for his 20th and final win.
And after soaring a personal best 20’2” to win the long jump on his home track at Orange Coast league finals, Mike Santana channeled his adrenaline to pull off a double win, sailing 43’9” in the triple jump to break Mark Hester’s 1987 school record by three inches.
Santana had missed the record by two inches on his first attempt, but he was confidant he would find the extra distance over his three remaining jumps. As he waited on the sidelines for his next turn in the rotation, teammate Sam Wogulis took a hard fall in the sand during his first jump, twisting his back in the process.
While paramedics worked to immobilize Wogulis’ neck and back, Santana jogged around the field, trying to stay loose and focused. Nearly an hour went by before Wogulis was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital, where he was later released.
Telling his teammates “this is for Sam now,” Santana promptly peeled off his warm ups and launched himself into the record books. “He had told me all year he was going to do it,” said boys head coach Scott Wittkop. “That’s pretty impressive that he could do it after all that wait.”
“I didn’t really want to end that season two inches short,” Santana said.
His double victory in the long and triple jumps accounted for 20 points in the team scoring and anchored a stellar day by all the jumpers that proved to be the difference in securing a 142-118 victory over a favored Godinez squad. “The whole jump team really came through for us,” said Wittkop.
Santana hopes to ride his recent surge all the way to CIF finals, May 24, at Cerritos College.
Meanwhile, Wilhelm said he was unaware of the significance of his record-breaking start against the Grizzlies until a parent told him before he took the mound. Even then, he didn’t let it affect his focus and determination. “I just went in with a normal mindset, like I usually do,” he said. “It worked out pretty well.”
Third year baseball coach Mike Bair doesn’t like to dwell on records while his team is preparing for the playoffs. “They’re fun to look back on,” he said. Still, Bair isn’t too surprised that Wilhelm was able to run off 10 straight wins to pass Rees. “[Wilhelm’s] a pretty dedicated player,” Bair said. “I’m really happy he got that record. He deserves it.”
Bair coached both pitchers through their historic runs, becoming only the second and third Laguna hurlers to win 10 games in a single season. Chris Paul (’11) was the first.
And while Rees’ fastball drew more attention from radar gun-toting pro scouts last year, Wilhelm’s demeanor on the mound this season has made him a dominant force. “Jackson had more electric stuff,” said Bair, but “Grant is more mentally tough.”
After a summer pitching against top college-bound hitters as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays scout team, Wilhelm’s fastball is beginning to measure up to Rees’ standards. He could only hit the low 80s as a sophomore, when he won eight games. Now he regularly tops 90. “He told me his freshman year he wanted to go 90 mph,” said Bair. “It’s fun to see a kid shoot for a big goal and then reach it.”
Wilhelm plans to attend junior college ball in the hopes of adding the two or three mph he needs to bring out the scouts.
Wilhelm needed to beat Costa Mesa on Thursday, May 15 at Skipper Carrillo Field in the Breakers’ regular season finale to win his 11th game and break the tie with Paul and Rees. If not, he has at least one more start before his high school pitching career is over. Wilhelm is slated to open post season play for Laguna on Thursday, May 22, at home in the first round of CIF against an opponent TBD.