Central Valley’s Chris Garcia and Ceres High’s Ava Montesdeoca have been named the Ceres Courier’s Male and Female Newcomer Athletes of the Year for the spring sports campaign.
Montesdeoca (softball) and Garcia (baseball) both had productive first seasons with their respective varsity teams.
“Ava was a really good travel ball player prior to coming to us,” Bulldogs’ softball leader Mike Corsaut said. “She works hard. She can go as far as she wants to go in the sport. The sky’s the limit for her.”
“It’s one thing to be talented,” stated Derrick Goblirsch, Garcia’s head coach this past season. “It’s another to understand the game and control it at such a high level at that young of an age. His maturity on the mound is unbelievable. We’ve had seniors that are not as composed as him. I don’t know how to describe it at times.”
“I had confidence going into the season,” Garcia added. “The biggest thing for me is I don’t look at myself as being younger than everyone else. I’ve played a lot of travel ball. I’ve been pitching against older kids most of my life.”
Montesdeoca, a freshman second baseman, was selected to the Western Athletic Conference First Team.
She batted .587 from the plate with two homers, two triples, 10 doubles, 24 RBIs, 50 runs, 21 stolen bases and 10 walks as the Bulldogs compiled a 19-9 overall record, placed second in the WAC standings (12-2) and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs.
Montesdeoca had an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.435.
She ranked first on the team in batting average, hits, doubles and stolen bases, second in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage, and third in homers, triples, RBIs and walks.
She struck out just five times in 92 at-bats.
“I knew she was a pretty good ball player before the season started, but I didn’t think she’d be this good,” Corsaut said. “She has so much talent. She’s got speed. She can hit for power. She’s got a good glove and arm. She’s a five-tool player.”
Garcia was a Central California Conference honorable-mention selection.
The 6-foot-3 freshman southpaw pitcher posted a 5-5 record with a 1.35 ERA, 83 strikeouts, 15 walks, two complete games and one save as the Hawks finished in the top eight in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I playoffs, amassed a 14-14 overall record and placed fourth in the ultra-competitive CCC standings (6-6).
“We knew he was going to be good,” Goblirsch said. “But he exceeded our expectations. He was very confident on the mound. He wasn’t scared. His ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes was a huge reason behind his success. For as well as he pitched for us, he can still get better.”
“You try not to make your pitch sequence predictable,” Garcia said. “You have to mix it up. Sometimes, I’ll step off the mound to get their timing off. Hearing other people complain motivates me to do better. That’s part of baseball.”
Garcia helped 14th-seeded Central Valley upset third-seeded Elk Grove 3-2 in the opening round of the playoffs.
He picked up the save in relief of winning pitcher Gabrial Lopez.
Garcia gave up no runs and one hit with three strikeouts in two innings.
“I don’t know how many freshmen could go against a team like Elk Grove and shut them out,” Lopez said. “He gutted it out. He got the job done.”
Goblirsch refuses to put any limitations on Garcia’s development as a pitcher.
“There’s definitely room for growth but he’s setting such a high bar for himself,” Goblirsch said. “His numbers are absurd. His velocity will go up because he’ll get bigger and stronger. His off-speed pitches will get sharper.”
“I can always do better,” Garcia said. “That’s just me pushing myself.”