No. 2 Harvard-Westlake Wolverines (Studio City, Calif.)
State Association/League: CIF Southern Section Division 2/Mission
Head Coach: Matt LaCour (5th season as head coach)
2011 Results: 23-8 overall record; Mission League Champion (10-2); lost in quarterfinals of CIF playoffs.
Key Losses: 2B Jason Garfinkel (Vassar College), OF Wes Peacock (Emory U.), RHP Connor Dillman (Emory U.)
Top Players: Sr. RHP Lucas Giolito (UCLA), Sr. LHP Max Fried (UCLA), Jr. OF/1B Joseph Corrigan (Southern Cal), Jr. C Arden Pabst (Georgia Tech).
Notable Matchups: Feb. 24-25, Feb. 28, March 1, March 3 @ Easton Tournament; March 6 vs. Alemany; March 9 @ Alemany; March 10, March 17, April 14 vs. Santa Barbara, Simi Valley, Westlake @ Chatsworth Tournament; March 28-31 vs. USA Baseball NHSI @ Cary, N.C.
This has all the ingredients to be an historical baseball season at Harvard-Westlake Upper School, a prestigious high school nestled into the San Fernando Valley in traditon- and talent-rich Southern California.
Harvard-Westlake has existed as a co-ed high school only since 1991. The Wolverines begin the 2012 season in the No. 2 position in Perfect Game’s Preseason National High School Rankings and they would make history by winning their first CIF Southern Section Division 2 Championship in school history this season.
A couple of days after that championship game is scheduled to be played, two Harvard-Westlake senior pitchers could make history of another kind. Right-hander Lucas Giolito and left-hander Max Fried could very possibly become the highest drafted pair of high school teammates in history when the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft starts its three-day run on June 4.
Chatsworth High School (Calif.) teammates shortstop Mike Moustakas and third baseman Matt Dominguez currently hold that distinction after Moustakas was taken with the No. 2 overall pick and Dominguez was selected No. 12 in the 2007 draft. Cy Falls High School (Texas) teammates Clint Everts and Scott Kazmir were taken with the fifth and 15th overall picks in 2002, making them the highest drafted pair of pitchers from the same high school team.
Giolito and Fried – who some Los Angeles-area baseball people have starting calling the high school version of the Dodgers’ 1960s righty-lefty tandem of Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax – are the talk of the high school baseball world right now. The possibilities do seem limitless, even if Wolverines head coach Matt LaCour doesn’t want to talk about it.
“That type of talk and that type of prognostication does not happen around our team and at our school,” LaCour said in a recent telephone interview with Perfect Game. “Within our team and within our school these are two normal kids that go about their business the same way as everybody else. I understand what everybody’s saying and I know the Moustakas and Dominguez (story) from Chatsworth history.
“But in terms of where we’re at as a program, we don’t talk about ‘draft,’ we don’t talk about ‘ranking’ – we talk about execution, we talk about getting better on a daily basis and we talk about being a teammate and playing for the team.”
But there’s no denying the presence of Giolito and Fried – who transferred in after his previous school, Van Nuys Montclair Prep, announced last summer that it was closing and immediately dropping its athletics programs – makes Harvard-Westlake a force to be reckoned with.
Throw in the return of six other starters from a team that a year ago captured the Mission League Championship and played fairly deep into the CIF Southern Section postseason, and there’s plenty of reason for optimism in Studio City.
“We had a team last year that took a big step forward from where this program has been in the past,” LaCour said. “When I got here five years ago they hadn’t won a league game in two years so for us last year winning our first-ever league title in school history and making the run we did in the playoffs was a definite momentum-builder for our program, without a doubt.”
Giolito, a 6-foot-6, 240-pounder who was the West Team starter in the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings, possesses a fastball that has reportedly reached 100 mph. Many observers – including PG director of scouting David Rawnsley – feel his best future pitch will be his curveball, a “knee-buckler” he’s been able to snap-off in the 84-87 range.
When looking at just about any 2012 rankings, the numeral 1 seems to pop up at all times when referencing Giolito, a UCLA signee. Perfect Game ranks him the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect and No. 1 right-hander in the 2012 high school graduating class, and also the No. 1 overall prospect in the upcoming draft. No right-handed high school pitcher has ever been selected with the first overall pick in the history of the draft, dating back to 1965.
Giolito was 9-1 with a 1.00 ERA for Harvard-Westlake as a junior, and struck out 78 and walked 26 in 70 1/3 innings.
“Watching the development of Lucas over the past three-and-a-half years has been fun,” LaCour said. “He’s gone from a kid who came into school with good velocity but very little coordination to anything that he did, to (become) a very polished, mature pitcher that is able to withstand the grind of a season and now work his way out of big jams in a game.”
LaCour said Giolito’s development in the way he approaches the game mentally has been “just as impressive” as his physical development.
Fried (6-4, 170) has also signed with UCLA, and whips off a fastball that consistently sits at 91-92 mph and has touched 94. Like Giolito, many observers feel his best pitch is his curveball. Ranked the nation’s No. 10 overall prospect in his class (the No. 16 overall draft prospect), Fried was also a 2011 Perfect Game All-American after a junior season at Montclair Prep in which he went 7-3 with a 1.31 ERA while striking out 100 and walking 38 in 69 2/3 innings.
“I found out that my school had shut down all its athletic programs over the summer, so we were scrambling for a new school for me and my younger brother,” Fried told mlb.com in a mid-February interview. “It took a lot longer than I thought to pick a school, but knowing Lucas (is) such a competitor – being one of the best pitchers in the country and being able to be a part of that team – was really a blessing.”
LaCour said Fried’s assimilation into the program has been seamless.
“We’ve always known Max … and he was obviously a very high-level pitcher long before he came here,” LaCour said. “The development of the relationship between Max and the coaches and Max and his teammates has happened a lot easier than I thought it would. But you’re also talking about a very intelligent kid that knows how to converse with people and who isn’t afraid to explain what he’s doing.”
As LaCour is quick to remind anyone who will listen, he espouses a “team first” philosophy and no one within the program puts Giolito and Fried on any sort of pedestal. It would be foolish to do so.
Junior catcher Arden Pabst, a Georgia Tech commit ranked 146th nationally, hit a team-high .430 (37-for-86) in 2011, with a .514 OBP, 14 extra base hits, a team-high 30 RBI and 20 runs scored last season.
Junior left-fielder/first baseman Joseph Corrigan, a Southern Cal commit, enters the season as the nation’s 106th-ranked top prospect in the class of 2013. Corrigan hit .355 (33-for-93) with a .427 OBP, nine extra base rips, 17 RBI, 20 runs scored and a team-high 14 stolen bases as a sophomore.
Right-hander/third baseman Jack Flaherty was sensational as a freshman starter last season. He hit .355 (27-for-46) with a .459 OBP, 18 RBI, 21 runs and 13 stolen bases, and was the Wolverines’ No. 2 starter, going 6-2 with a 2.51 ERA.
Other returning starters include junior second baseman Alex Horowitz, junior center-fielder Casey Rosenfeld and sophomore shortstop Brian Ginsberg.
LaCour hopes he can use all that returning experience to the Wolverines’ advantage.
“There’s no doubt about it that having guys who understand our expectations on the field, that have been in tough games and that have had success is a good thing going forward,” LaCour said. “The majority of our lineup from last year returns and those guys have played the best competition in Southern California and have shown they can handle the pressure that goes along with that, and succeed when it matters the most.”
The table is set; so are the expectations. Led by Giolito (3.4 GPA) and Fried (3.8 GPA) LaCour feels like he has the right people in place up and down the lineup to make a little history this season before sending his seniors off to the rest of their lives.
“We’re a highly academic school and we attract highly academic kids, and our school forces kids to be responsible,” LaCour said. “My biggest goal is to make sure when these kids leave this school they’re as prepared as possible to do whatever they choose to do.
“I want them to be in the best possible situation – whether they choose to go into the draft and go play professional baseball or if they choose to go to school – to have success right now.”