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High School | General | 2/2/2022

Battle Tested Buchanan Ready For Season

Blake Dowson     
Photo: Sam Tookoian (Perfect Game)
2022 High School Baseball Preview Index

The Buchanan High School (Calif.) baseball team decided in the offseason that it wanted to beef up.
 
Trenton Kemp, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, implemented a food plan. Kemp spent time in the Boston Red Sox organization, where he saw the importance of what athletes were putting into their bodies. So the Buchanan players log into an app each day, and document their food and water intake.
 
That, along with the weight program the team is on, has produced results on the field already.
 
“It’s made a big difference in terms of them being able to maintain a high level throughout our whole practice,” Head Coach Brad Fontes said. “I’ve noticed that we don’t drop off toward the end like we were before. The energy seems better. The lifts are getting better. Some of the guys who were a little bit behind velocity-wise are starting to catch up. I can’t say that it’s just the nutrition program or weight program or throwing program, it’s probably a combination of all of it. Right now it’s working pretty well for us.”
 
After winning its conference and section last year, Buchanan returns a good amount of its roster from a year ago and lands at No. 11 in Perfect Game's Preseason High School Top 50.
 
The seniors on the roster include right-hander Sam Tookoian (Ole Miss), third baseman Andrew Smith (Oregon), outfielder Evan Wallace (UC Irvine), shortstop Jett Ruby (Fresno State), outfielder Hunter Jansen (Pepperdine), right-hander Austin Watson (Utah Valley), and first baseman Max Bernal (Cal State Bakersfield).
 
Infielders JP Acosta and Colton O’Toole, both committed to Long Beach State, and righty Jayden Mandal, committed to Fresno State, will help out of the junior class as well.
 
The talent seems well spread out, too. Scan over that list of committed players, and there are three pitchers, two outfielders, two corner infielders, and a handful of middle infielders. Of course, there are more guys on the roster ready to make an impact as well.
 
“You’re not sure where everybody is going to fit in, how they’re going to contribute,” Fontes said. “We’ve had plenty of guys who were not committed to Division-I schools who played a huge part in the success of our program…You never know how it will translate. These guys are a very blue collar group. They really work and go about their business pretty consistently the right way.”
 
Tookoian, who stands at 6-foot-5, will be the ace on the mound for Buchanan. The big righty really put himself on the national map at Perfect Game’s National Showcase last summer, and his outing in Jupiter later last fall solidified his future.
 




Heading into the WWBA World Championship uncommitted, Tookoian dealt a three-inning, six-strikeout performance on amateur baseball’s biggest stage, featuring a low-90s sinking fastball and a curveball that paired well with it.
 
Soon after, the commitment to Ole Miss came. Now, more refinement of his craft comes.
 
“He’s trying to put it all together and figure out how to pitch, not just throw hard,” Fontes said of Tookoian. “He’s really been working hard to put it together and polish it all. I think as the season goes on he’ll just get better and stronger and really be a big part of our staff.”
 
Tookoian will be a leader of the team, but he won’t be alone. That’s the great thing about this group, Fontes said.
 
This senior group has been together four years now, been battle tested, thrown into the fire as sophomores, and have one more opportunity to make a deep run in the playoffs.
 
Last year’s seniors were the same way, and the team really worked toward the same goal. It takes everyone on the same page if Buchanan wants to repeat as section champions and move its way through a regional bracket this spring.
 
“It will be about how well this team comes together,” Fontes said. “Last year they really came together as a team. In today’s age with social media and all the individual accolades, nobody really cared who got the credit. It was a different guy on a nightly basis. If this team can take on that mentality and all pull the rope in the same direction, we’ll have a very successful year. Regardless of wins or losses, that would be a big success for us.”
 
It’s about that time when rubber meets road, as Buchanan had its first scrimmage on Tuesday night for the first time this spring against an outside opponent.
 
The season officially starts 10 days from today on Feb. 12 with a doubleheader against West Ranch.
 
The offseason program has shown its benefits in practice thus far, now comes the real test.
 
“They’re getting after it and doing a good job,” Fontes said. “We’re a long way away, but the effort and the intensity have been good…We’re headed in the right direction.”
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