High School : : Rankings
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

No. 4 Gaels mining Nevada gold

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Nevada Preps

2018 High School Baseball Preview Content

No. 4 Bishop Gorman Gaels (Las Vegas, Nev.)

State Association/League:
Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) Class 4A Sunset-Southwest League

Head Coach: Gino DiMaria (5th season as head coach)

2017 Results: 30-7 overall; 17-1 Sunset-SWL champion; NIAA Class 4A state semifinals

Key Losses: SS Nick Israel (San Diego State); LHP Jarrod Billig (Seattle); 1B/C Nick Hernandez (Coll. Of Southern Nevada); C/1B Jordan Sadovia (Coll. of Southern Idaho); OF Braxton Wehrle, OF Jorel Hingada

Top Returning Players (preliminary): Sr. C/DH Austin Wells (Arizona); Sr. OF Ryan Sepede (Brigham Young); Jr. RHP/INF Dutch Landis (Arizona); Jr. 3B/RHP John Gaughan

Notable Matchups: Schedule TBA

                                                                                                 … … …

MOST HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL PROGRAMS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, regardless of the state in which it competes, would probably be satisfied after a season that featured a league championship, a spot in the state tournament semifinals and a 30-7 overall record. But the Bishop Gorman program isn’t like most others, at least not when it comes to expectations.

The Gaels did, in fact, enjoy a successful 2017 campaign, as the previous paragraph attests. Hanging a league championship banner on an outfield fence is always a memorable occasion, landing in the NIAA Class 4A (big-school) state semifinals is a great accomplishment and winning 30 games in a single season is a noteworthy benchmark.

But still, there was something missing, something that all of Bishop Gorman’s athletics programs – both boys’ and girls’ – covet: a state championship. And it marked the fourth time in the last five years the Gaels had failed to cart home the big gold trophy.

There’s a good chance that skein will be halted this spring, Bishop Gorman head coach Gino DiMaria told Perfect Game last week. Although a roster won’t be finalized until tryouts are held next month, DiMaria has a good idea of what he has coming back, and that talent pool should be more than enough to make up for the departure of at least six prominent 2017 graduates.

And Perfect Game has looked at what is expected to return to the program this spring, and the Gaels will open their 2018 season holding down the No. 4 position in the PG High School Preseason Top 50 Rankings.

“What I like about this group is that we have the weapons to win the whole thing; we do have that,” DiMaria said. “The thing that they’ve got to do is get mentally strong and continue to like playing with each other. When you come to a school like Gorman, it can be a hard job because you’re going to have to compete with someone who is just as good if not better than you.”

The cast is led by the return of senior catcher/designated hitter Austin Wells, a Perfect Game All-American ranked No. 59 nationally (No. 1 Nevada) in the class of 2018, and an Arizona signee. Wells played in all 37 of the Gaels’ games last season and hit .500 with team highs in hits (55), doubles (14), triples (5), home runs (8) and RBI (47), to go with 47 runs scored.

Senior outfielder Ryan Sepede (.333-6-30) and junior third baseman/right-hander John Gaughan (.393-5-36) are also expected back to provide punch to a lineup that hit a combined .363 with 48 home runs in its 37 games last year.

The Gaels graduated left-hander Jarrod Billig (now at the U. of Seattle), who went 5-1 with a 2.15 ERA, and struck out 59 in a team-high 55 1/3 innings. But this year’s pitching staff will be much deeper and much approved, according to DiMaria.

“The one thing we knew going into this year is that we’re going to have a lot more pitching than we did last year,” he said. “Last year, our downfall that kept us from winning state was that we really had only one arm … and in the end, that took a toll on us because we just didn’t have the arms.”

The ace will be junior right-hander Dutch Landis, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound Arizona commit who PG ranks Nos. 75/2 in the class of 2019; Landis boasts a low-90s fastball, low-80s changeup and high-70s curveball and slider.

Other pitchers who contributed valuable innings last year and are on this spring’s preliminary roster include senior right-handers Parker Aquino (6-1, 3.71 ERA, 28 1/3 IP, 33 Ks) and Jack Kirvin (3-0, 3.55 ERA, 23 2/3 IP, 16Ks).

“We’re pretty balanced,” DiMaria said of the group as a whole. “I believe that once we’re healthy and once (the) spring (season) starts, our one-through-nine batting order is going to be pretty good and our pitching should be pretty good. So, I’m looking at making another run, and we’re believing we have a chance to win (a state championship) again this

The Bishop Gorman program has won eight Nevada state championships since 2006, including seven straight from 2006-12; the Gaels’ most recent state title came in 2015. The 2012 Gorman team, which featured PG All-Americans Joey Gallo and Cadyn Grenier, finished 40-3 and No. 2 in the PG HS Final Top 50 Rankings. Those state championships are certainly noteworthy, according to DiMaria.

“Baseball, in the state of Nevada, is the toughest team sport to win (a state championship) in, because baseball in Nevada – especially in Vegas – is solid,” he said.

The reputation of Las Vegas-area baseball has been enhanced in recent years by guys like Gallo and National League MVPs Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper – all former PG All-Americans – moving up into the major leagues – and before them, Vegas native Greg Maddux. DiMaria doesn’t believe those young guys reached The Show by accident.

“I think a lot of it has to be attributed to the high school coaches; that’s what makes baseball so competitive in Vegas is the high school coaches,” he said. “There are good, quality coaches and everybody knows the game, and they’re very competitive and they teach the kids the right way.”

DiMaria has told his players that he honestly believes the only way they will lose ballgames is if they beat themselves. The talent level is high enough to compete on an equal footing with anyone in the nation, he said, a belief backed-up by the Gaels’ lofty ranking in PG’s Preseason Top 50.

“In the beginning we were kind of all over the place and we weren’t sure how everyone felt about each other,” he said. “And then, after just one day of practice, we had a sort of internal cleansing, and ever since then the kids have really enjoyed playing with each other. … I do believe that this is a team that when (the players) gel together, they’re dangerous.”

Most high school baseball programs from across the country wouldn’t be circling their wagons in defense of their national standing because they’ve only won one state championship in the last five years. But, as noted at the outset, the Bishop Gorman program isn’t like most of the others.

DiMaria will spend the next several weeks taking measure of this outfit, accentuating the positives while looking to eliminate any negatives.

The Bishop Gorman athletic department mission statement reads in part “(Our) student-athletes must be given the best opportunity possible to strive for the highest athletic standards through the best preparation, motivation and support.” DiMaria feels like this year’s team will be both prepared and motivated when it runs out onto the field for the first time this spring.

“What I like about this group … is that they’ve come together, they love playing with each other, and they believe,” he concluded. “They want more than anything to win this (state) title; they want to get it back to where we feel it belongs, at our school.”

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