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Undaunted, Mater Dei promptly dispatched No. 3 Bishop Gorman (Nev.), No. 6 Carroll (Texas) and un-ranked Sarasota (Fla.) in its first three games before clipping No. 2 Harvard-West Lake (Calif.), 3-2, for the championship. It proved to be a turning point for head coach Burt Call’s Monarchs.
“We did start out slow, but we knew that National High School Invitational had some quality teams … and our guys were really ready to accept that challenge,” Call said in a telephone conversation with PG last week. “We had a few frustrating games before that, but we were able to regroup and go after that tournament (championship). We just kind of continued that pace after we got home from the tournament and kept on playing extremely well.”
Mater Dei went 13-2 in its first 15 games after returning home and then lost in the semifinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. Today, the Monarchs open the season at No. 3 in the 2013 Perfect Game National High School Preseason Team Rankings.
This year’s Mater Dei team will have to make up for the loss of outfielder/right-hander Ty Moore, an alumnus of the 2011 PG National Showcase who was drafted in the 25th round of the 2012 MLB amateur draft by the Yankees but decided to head to UCLA instead. Moore and a handful of other graduated seniors will be difficult to replace.
“I think they reached every expectation I had for them last year,” Call said. “It was a special group last year; they were very determined and they went out and played very well throughout the season. A lot of their talent was showcased in the USA National High School Invitational tournament, and they did a great job in winning that tournament.
“It was a very tight-knit group led by Ty Moore, who was kind of our emotional leader,” he continued. “This year we’re going to have to have Jeremy (Martinez) or Ryan McMahon kind of fill that role.”
The 2013 Monarchs will be built around the return of those two Southern Cal signees: catcher Jeremy Martinez – a 2012 Perfect Game All-American – and third baseman Ryan McMahon. Martinez is No. 43 in PG’s class of 2013 national prospect rankings and McMahon is close behind at No. 48.
Martinez, a veteran of eight PG events including the All-American Classic and the 2012 PG National Showcase, will play his fourth varsity season for Call this spring. He is coming off a junior campaign in which he hit .388 (33-for-85) with 18 RBI and 20 runs scored, and threw out six of the 10 base-runners who attempted to steal on him.
“He’s someone we count on heavily, both offensively and defensively,” Call said. “We’ve built our offense around him and we look for great things from him this year. He’s very good defensively, just with receiving the pitches and also working with the pitchers. He’s very in tune with the pitch-calling and he’s able to recognize the different adjustments the batter is making. I think he’ll have a great year.”
McMahon batted .353 (36-for-102) with four home runs, 11 doubles and 23 RBI in 2012. He is ranked No. 4 nationally among third basemen in the 2013 class.
“Ryan McMahon, I think he’s going to continue on that pace,” Call said. “He had a great year last year and we look forward to him showing his senior leadership and having a great year (in 2013), as well.”
Seniors Davis Tominaga and Tyler Adkison are back after hitting better than .300 as juniors, and outfielder Austin Grebeck returns after hitting .262 with seven stolen bases. The departed Moore hit .406 with three home runs and 23 RBI last season, but Call thinks he has players who can plug the hole left by Moore’s graduation.
“These guys have been around the game and they’ve played in big games, and I think they’re going to do a great job,” he said. “I feel very confident that our returning starters will have great years and that new players will step in and do a good job.”
Moore was also the Monarchs’ top pitcher last spring (12-1, 0.83 ERA) and right-hander Chase Radan (33 1/3 innings, 0.84 ERA) also graduated, but senior right-hander Tominaga and junior righty Charlie Vorsheck got plenty of work.
Tominaga made 13 starts and finished 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA and Vorsheck made six starts (11 appearances) and finished 5-1 with a 4.76 ERA. Call will also rely on untested senior left-handers Jacob Erickson and Aaron Cross.
“Our pitching staff is a pretty close-knit group, and I think we have four or five kids that can really pitch,” he said. “We don’t have one dominant guy that can go out there and just shut everyone down every game, but we have a very balanced pitching staff with some unique arms. … They work and they compete and they know how to pitch.”
The Monarchs will return to Cary in late March for the 2nd annual National High School Invitational, and will be challenged repeatedly throughout their regular season. Call believes he has a squad that is capable of living up to its lofty preseason national ranking.
“This group has that potential,” he said. “They are very talented, and I think this year we have one of the toughest schedules that I’ve ever put together; they will be tested every game. But I do think they have the mental toughness and the ability to win a CIF title.”